I’m going to be upfront with the readers of Slime House TV, this is a classic piece of cinema. When I first watched this at the recommendation of fellow writer, Stephen Leigh, I’ll ashamedly admit that I came into it with a few laughs. The B-Movie title, the seemingly simple premise, and the older style of filmmaking were enough for me to dismiss it before giving it a chance.
I was wrong, clearly, and I knew as much by the time the film ended. The film humbled my immature outlook on it, and it did it by leaping over all the hurdles mentioned above, or rather, shrinking under them!
Made in 1957 at the height of the baby boomer era in America, the film was written for the screen by Richard Matheson, based on his acclaimed novel. With Matheson on writing duties and Jack Arnold fresh off his success on “The Creature From The Black Lagoon” the film leapt into production with a budget of $750,000. That’s just under $7 Million by today’s standards; a sum that likely went largely on the films pioneering special effects. I’m getting ahead of myself…
The Incredible Shrinking Man tells the story of Scott Carey (Grant Williams) – a successful businessman with a loving wife and his whole future ahead of him. Whilst on a weekend boating trip with his wife Louise, Scott is caught in a glittery mist of insecticide, and that’s it, five minutes in and we’ve had the catalyst that sees Scott begin on his unwanted shrinking odyssey. No mucking about, nothing complex, just simple and to the point. The film is beautifully brisk in fact at an hour and twenty minutes.
By way of being able to fund the search for a cure, Scott sells his story to the media, becoming a social outcast in the process. It’s moments like this and a notably dark moment of suicidal contemplation early on whilst writing his tell-all book account of his shrinking that showcases this as a film unafraid to touch on subjects still relevant today, all whilst telling an adventure sci-fi.
The Incredible Shrinking Man has had an ironically large influence in cinema with it’s DNA clear to be seen in films such as Inner Space, Honey I Shrunk The Kids, and even Ant-Man. The effects are noticeable for sure, but I defy anyone not to forget about them the more they plot progresses. The central performances and set design is such that you get dragged into Scott’s world. A fun bit of trivia to be had here too, in order to create the illusion of large drops of water dripping from Carey’s water tank, condoms filled with water were dropped. Try watching that scene in the same light now…
Anywho, I think what still amazes me about The Incredible Shrinking Man is it’s inventive approach to it’s set pieces. The film takes something as simple as a box and makes it feel like a cavern to be escaped from or a once loved family pet becomes a snarling epic beast!
The once domestic world feels dangerous and unpredictable and I love that. Don’t get me wrong, this may not be for everyone though. Some might find the telling and not showing techniques of some of Carey’s voice-over based thoughts off-putting. I found that when looked at with the context of Scott journaling his extraordinary experience, it makes sense, and doesn’t detract too much from the film, even if it is at odds with more modern sensibilities. To say more of the plot and it’s end game would be to spoil I think but I’ll say this, The Incredible Shrinking Man begs to be seen. I watched it again as if it was new again, lovingly up-scaled for its Arrow Films release on Blu-Ray. Once again they have pulled out all the stops with a gaggle of great features, including a fantastic Super-8 edition of the film and brilliantly informative (and exclusive) documentaries on the early work of director Jack Arnold and the writing of the superlative Richard Matheson. The former of which gives a wonderful insight into the studio system of yesteryear and if you’re anything like me you’ll be itching to delve into the audio commentary included in this edition as well.
As is standard with Arrow releases you’ll also be treated to reversible sleeves for the case, this time with fantastic commissioned artwork courtesy of Sara Deck. If you’re lucky to get a first pressing of the film, you’ll be treated with a collectors’ booklet with new writing from esteemed film critic Kim Newman too. Don’t be like me when I first watched this and underestimate it. Honestly, the film alone is well worth your time and attention but what wowed me as always were the great additional features for those film fans that love absorbing every morsel of information about any film they watch. The kind of fan who heads straight to IMDb trivia when the credits roll. You know who you are, have no fear, Arrow has your back on this one.
The Incredible Shrinking Man is out today! CLICK HERE to buy it now from Arrow Films.
RRP: £24.99 Blu Ray Region: B Rating: PG Genre: Sci-FiDuration: 80 minutes Language: English
Subtitles: English SDH Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Black and White Discs: 1
Words by Robert Trott