Incredible Shrinking Man, The (Universal International 1957)
Anything but the corny romp that its title suggests, The Incredible Shrinking Man is a darkly disturbing, tragic descent into a horrific, lonely inner space which shifts uneasily between claustrophobic and agoraphobic worlds in a heartbeat.
With incredibly strong performances from heartthrob Grant Williams as the stricken Scott Carey, and Randy Stuart as his loyal-to-the-death wife Louise, Jack Arnold’s pacy, hands-on direction takes us along front-seat on the miserable journey into horror and obscurity.
Suntanned, windblown, irradiated… after this brief sojourn with the present Mrs Carey (Randy Stuart), young Scott (Grant Williams) must face ever decreasing circumstances in The Incredible Shrinking Man (Universal International 1957)
The Incredible Shrinking Man’s greatest strength is its palpable despondency as it jettisons us, almost vicariously via some groundbreaking camera work and effects for 1957, into Carey’s increasingly expanding and terrifying world. His battles for life against a vociferous carnivore of a house cat and a coursing tarantula are breathtaking moments of cinema which age has not wearied, and the ultimate crash into an existence totally devoid of human contact can still leave the viewer desolate and disquieted.
Carey’s all too brief respite, when the radioactive effects are paused by treatment, plunges him into a new environment which is at first abhorrent, but which he comes to accept as his new lot. His detachment from a previously blissful life and his devoted spouse for the more fitting attentions of sideshow midget Clarice (April Kent) make for uncomfortable viewing, but even this make-do deliverance is only temporary, as the vicious debilitation takes hold once again.
Scott Carey (Grant Williams) is forced to use whatever he can to survive in The Incredible Shrinking Man (Universal International 1957)
Ultimately spiritually redemptive in its message, The Incredible Shrinking Man ends on a bittersweet high, with Carey stoically accepting his fate and embracing the fact that “to God, there is no zero”; however small he becomes, he is always of abiding interest to somebody.
Too easily dismissed as typical fifties drive-in sci-fi fodder, The Incredible Shrinking Man deserves more serious appraisal as a stark contender in apocalyptic storytelling. Its timeless performances, effortless pacing and slick execution position it as a masterpiece of twentieth century cinema, and one of the handful that stand out from a decade of dirge.