Wednesday, 9 October 2013

IT!...Came Frome the 50s #4 : The Incredible Shrinking man (1957)

The Incredible Shrinking Man is a 1957 science fiction film. Directed by Jack Arnold (The Creature From the Black Lagoon, It Came from Outer Space!) starring Grant Williams and Randy Stuart. The film is an adaptation of the novel "The Shrinking Man" by famous sci-fi author Richard Matheson (I Am Legend) and the screenplay was written by the man himself.

The film opens with the titular man Scott Carey (Williams), and his wife Louise (Stuart), enjoying a leisurely afternoon on his brothers boat when the couple encounter a mysterious mist on the open sea. Carey is later told that the mist was a radioactive cloud, and coupled with exposure to pesticides, this cloud starts to take serious effects on Carey shrinking him initially to the size of a dwarf and later to the size of a toy soldier. This causes particular problems when Carey becomes trapped in his own basement and is presumed dead by the outside world. Carey is forced into a fight for survival in a usually safe domestic environment as he faces the perils of his gigantic basement.

The Incredible Shrinking Man features some absolutely groundbreaking special effects for the time in the form of front projection and, of course, oversized household objects. This may sound silly and primitive now, but you really do get sucked into the larger than life world by the clever utilisation of a bowl-sized teacup here and a javelin sized pin there. It's exactly the same effect that I was fascinated by in Honey I Shrunk the Kids (1989) when I was a kid and you can really see what an influence The Incredible Shrinking Man (as well as many other 50s sci-fi movies) must have had on that film.

However, far from the madcap antics of Rick Moranis and his pint sized family, The Incredible Shrinking Man takes a far more earnest approach and existential tone in it's plot, presumably from the source material. The film asks profound questions around the existence, and significance, of mankind as well as the nature of masculinity and it's easy to imagine both themes striking a poignant chord with audiences of the 1950s. Like most 50s sci-fi films the film also makes a cautious statement against the perils of science and radioactivity, and seems to mix in religious belief as a competing ideology echoed in the final moments of the stunning closing monologue "to God there is no zero, I still exist!"

The Incredible Shrinking Man is one of the more restrained and subtle science fiction movies of the 1950s but undoubtedly one of the strongest. Like Gojira (1954) before it, the film places maximum emphasis on the message treating the matter as deadly serious allegory of science and progress. Essential viewing for fans of science fiction and the profound works of Richard Matheson.

**** 4 Stars

Have you seen The Incredible Shrinking Man? What do you think of the film's message?


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