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Blu-ray: The Incredible Shrinking Man | reviews, news & interviews

Blu-ray: The Incredible Shrinking Man

Blu-ray: The Incredible Shrinking Man

Surreal sci-fi: Jack Arnold’s 1957 B-movie takes its diminishing subject a long way

'An iconic battle with the family cat remains exciting'

The Incredible Shrinking Man starts innocently with a young couple bantering on a small boat off the California coast. Before what looks like an atomic mushroom cloud wafts towards the unfortunate Scott Carey, lightly coating him in glittery fallout. Six months later, Carey seems to be getting smaller. Initially it’s little more than an irritation.

Shirts and trousers don’t seem to fit any more, but a chirpy doctor refuses to believe his baffled patient. Soon, this unwanted diminution is undeniable, and medical tests – cue ominous shots of phials, test tubes and syringes – confirm that a combination of radioactive mist and insecticide have prompted his cells to shrink (“this is a most unusual aberration”). What began as mildly diverting then becomes quietly moving; post-diagnosis, Carey’s wife Louise (Randy Stuart) assures him that she’ll love him “as long as you’ve got that wedding ring on your finger”, only for said ring to slip off at that exact point. Carey’s plight brings with it a nasty case of “Small Man Syndrome”, and he becomes understandably grumpy and petulant.

The Incredible Shrinking ManJack Arnold’s 1957 B-movie, based on a popular novel by Richard Matheson (I Am Legend, The Martian Chronicles), remains incredibly affecting, a smart sideways look at masculinity and power. Grant Williams excels as the beleaguered Scott: even as he becomes a domestic tyrant, trying the patience of the saintly Louise, he retains our sympathies. Poor Scott tries to remain positive while he and his wife are hounded by the press. Further emasculation comes when he loses both his job and the ability to drive, the humiliation complete when he’s (literally) reduced to living in a doll’s house. The film’s visual effects, initially achieved with little more than oversized furniture, still impress. And an iconic battle with the family cat remains exciting.

Ironically, Carey becomes braver, smarter and more resourceful the smaller he gets. Most memorable is the film’s coda. Having dispatched a spider, Carey comes to terms with his fate while intoning a cheesy but poetic soliloquy, its mysticism looking forward to the closing scenes of Kubrick’s 2001. All this in little over 80 minutes.

Arrow’s remastered print looks and sounds pristine and there are some appealing extras, including the documentary Auteur on the Campus: Jack Arnold at Universal which traces the enterprising Arnold’s career as a versatile director for hire (he also made Creature from the Black Lagoon and It Came from Outer Space). There's also There Is No Zero: Writing The Shrinking Man – a conversation with Richard Matheson's son about the creation of the original novel, as well as a miniaturised Super 8 version of the film, crudely subtitled and cut down to barely 10 minutes. Kim Newman’s booklet essay is an enjoyable read, describing Williams’ Carey as “Robinson Crusoe in his own basement”.

The film’s visual effects, initially achieved with little more than oversized furniture, still impress

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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