The Incredible Shrinking Man

The Incredible Shrinking Man - poster

On my list of Top 10 Science-Fiction/Fantasy films, I failed to include one film that SHOULD have been on the list: The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957). Novel and screenplay by Richard Matheson, directed by Jack Arnold and starring Grant Williams as Scott Carey, the incredible shrinking man. Filmed in black and white and running 80 minutes, it is an amazing survival story in the spirit of another great film, Alien. It’s a worthy addition and one that I regret not including in my original post.

The film chronicles an extraordinary journey of transformation and discovery that begins when Scott is exposed to a strange mist while vacationing on a boating trip. He then begins to shrink, inch by inch, without explanation. Scott’s narration of his rapidly changing world is remarkable as he becomes so small that he is forced to live in a doll house. This is where the real story of his survival begins, as he is threatened by his cat, almost eaten, and winds up trapped in the basement of his house, too small to climb the steps to alert his wife that he is still alive. He is abandoned there, when she finally leaves, thinking he is dead. He is on his own, and his continued existence depends on his ability to find food, shelter, while avoiding that ONE predator, so feared that you would almost hear the pounding of his heart as he so eloquently narrates his upcoming fight, strategy and ultimate outcome of this life-or-death struggle.

TISM - felmstripHis main rival, a spider, pursues him as prey as he is forced to face his uncertain future and prepare for the final battle of his life using his ingenuity – an empty matchbox for shelter – and a sewing needle as his only weapon to fight this terrifying creature.

The special effects are astounding for that – or any – era, but it is Williams’ acting and narration (as Scott) that proved to be a landmark achievement. It is vivid, real and passionate, as he meticulously prepares the needle, shares with the audience his despair, especially of being abandoned in a world that no one has ever experienced before, with no possibility of help, and being totally unprepared for staying alive. As he describes his fears, he realizes his survival rests squarely on the insight that he must aggressively go on the offensive. It’s a compelling and visceral story, cutting away all barriers of society, culture, education, knowledge and stripping him down to bare instincts and ingenuity.

The final battle with the spider and his victory gives Scott the strength to overcome his greatest fears and self-doubts, accept his reality and adapt to whatever he may face as he continues to shrink, so small that he is now able to climb through the window screen and go forth into an unknown world, confident and secure that his existence is just as important now as it was before his transformation began.

references: The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957 or 2008)