Wednesday, September 7, 2016

I Was In The Pool, or Thoughts on The Incredible Shrinking Man

Based on the 1956 novel The Shrinking Man by Richard Matheson, the author of I Am Legend (1954) which in turn produced the movies The Last Man on Earth (1964), The Omega Man (1971) and I Am Legend (2007), The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) stars Grant Williams as Scott Carey, a square-jawed American on vacation with his wife Louise, as played by Randy Stuart, when a sparkly mist rolls in from the across the seas.  The fog is not explicitly radioactive, but this movie was made at the height of the Cold War and the same year Sputnik was launched, so this is obviously a radioactive cloud and naturally, Scott begins to shrink.
Scott’s mysterious ailment continues until he has to live in a dollhouse and fight off his cat and later, a giant spider in the basement.  If we extend the Cold War analogy the movie becomes about the threat of Communism, and Scott, like all Americans, will be ultimately diminished and overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of the Russians and the Chinese. 
The shrinking is portrayed with clever analog tricks similar to the ones Peter Jackson employed in Lord of The Rings, including camera angles, oversized clothes and surrounding actors standing on orange crates, before finally switching to giant props and split screens.  The effects are seamless for the time, and hold up impressively from a contemporary perspective.
There’s no explanation or theory offered to the audience, it’s almost a tale of magical realism but for that sparkly cloud, and the surreal and cosmic ending only adds to the greater mystery of the film.  But if radiation could create a giant Tokyo-stomping lizard with Godzilla (1954), there’s no reason it couldn’t shrink a man into Ant Man (2015) proportions.  Ironically, Scott’s condition is a curse that ruins his life, as opposed to Peter Parker’s radioactive spider bite, Bruce Banner’s gamma ray accident or Hank Pym’s ant suit.
Director Jack Arnold was most famous for Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954) and sadly Scott Carey and Randy Stuart did not go on to any movies of critical or popular acclaim.  The cat who attacks him however, billed as “Orangey”, would go on to star with Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961, and one of my favorite movies if not for Mickey Rooney’s regrettable performance as Mr. Yunioshi).


my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).