Tuesday, March 19, 2013
321. The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
Running Time: 80 minutes
Directed By: Jack Arnold
Written By: Richard Matheson, Richard Alan Simmons, from the novel The Shrinking Man by Richard Matheson
Main Cast: Grant Williams, Randy Stuart, April Kent, Paul Langton, Billy Curtis
Click here to view the trailer
I was a little uneasy about watching "The Incredible Shrinking Man", despite being a fan of Richard Matheson's writing and having already read the book version - "The Shrinking Man". I had a hunch that it'd be goofy and it's a sci-fi film, a genre that I'm usually not too keen on. Well folks, my hunch was incredibly wrong.
When the film begins Scott Carey (Williams) and his wife Louise (Stuart) are relaxing on a boat, enjoying their vacation. They're a happy couple, they joke with one another, are childless and seem to get along swimmingly. When Louise goes down to the galley to get a couple of beers, a mysterious mist appears (THERE'S SOMETHING IN THE MIST!!), sweeping over Scott. He doesn't think much of it and the couple return home. Over the next few days, Scott begins to notice that his clothes are too big on him and that he's losing weight. This worries him, but when he goes to the doctor, he's assured that he CAN'T be shrinking, because human beings simply don't shrink. He doesn't really accept that answer, but returns to his life and continues to notice a rapid weight loss. Before he and we know it, Scott has shrunken to the size of a child! He goes to a specialist and finds out that the mist must've been radioactive and this, combined with accidentally getting sprayed with a tree fertilizer has caused the cells in his body to reverse, causing him to shrink (or some fancy medical jargon along those lines). Act I plays out as a sort of domestic tension piece, couple with a medical phenomena. The second act is where the film earns it's "must see" status, as Scott shrinks to the size of a pea (to put it into perspective, he's so small that he makes a matchbox his new home!) and is accidentally knocked into the basement, during a fight for his life with the family cat.
I'm pretty sure that there are only three instances of an adapted 1001 movie being something that I'd previously read. I'd read this before, I'd read "The Shining" and I've read "Carrie". I read the book version of "The Incredible Shrinking Man" YEARS ago, so I can't remember well enough to say which is better, but let's put it this way: Had I been sitting in a chair watching this, I'd have been so close to the edge of my seat, that I'd have been sitting on air. It started out a LITTLE slow, but I thought they did a fine job establishing the couple (Scott and Louise) and making them likeable characters from the get go - characters that we'd actually care about when it came down to nut cuttin' time. Then we get into Scott's predicament, to put it mildly and it's a little slow going, as he squabbles with Louise and it's a little silly seeing this child size man yelling at his wife from the balcony of his picturesque dollhouse! But there's nothing too terribly offensive and any nitpicking that I could do is totally redeemed from the cat fight on. Once Scott is in the basement, the story kind of plays a little like "Cast Away", a lone man fighting for survival, with little to no dialogue, save for Scott's narration (which, I didn't really get the narration, because wasn't the narration supposed to be words from Scott's book and obviously if he was so tiny that he could fit inside a matchbox, he didn't finish writing his book). Anyway, despite being a big fan of good dialogue, I loved that it played without words, because it only made it that much more riveting. When things got a little too quiet, Scott's narration would pop in and make a little noise and then we'd be wordless again.
Anyway, in case you can't tell by now, I loved this movie!! Call it being surprised by something I expected to be disappointed by or just call it a fantastic night at the movies, but this was great! The film was only eighty minutes long and that was fine, but had they wanted to, they totally could've added a third act and allowed us to follow Scott outside and continue the adventure. "The Incredible Shrinking Man" plays out like an extra-long episode of one of my all-time favorite television shows - The Twilight Zone; and I'm talking about the good Twilight Zone, the 1950s version with Rod Serling puffing away on his cigarettes and trying to creep us out. Oh and speaking of Richard Matheson and The Twilight Zone, fans of the show may recall an episode which featured a young William Shatner entitled "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" which was written by none other than Richard Matheson. And again, speaking of Richard Matheson, THE BOOK should've had sense enough to include another favorite of mine, the underrated first feature of Steven Spielberg "Duel", also written by Matheson. Of course, if we're going to talk about RM, I have to mention "I Am Legend", a good story that produced ONE OF the worst movies I've ever seen, starring Will Smith...but let's all agree to never mention that movie again on this blog, shall we?
The only other thing I want to mention, on the negative side of things, is the ending, which I didn't care for. It was left neither happy, nor sad. I'd rather them have either killed Scott or had Louise find him, than have him wandering outside and giving some philosophical speech about how "to God he will always be something and to God there is no zero". The whole wandering outside thing only made me yearn to have the story continue and see what kind of nightmares awaited Scott on the outside world: a lawnmower! a bird! the running of children through grass!! The possibilities are endless and now that I think of it, they probably could've turned this whole premise of "The Incredible Shrinking Man" into a weekly television show in it's own right, with Scott getting into a jam each week. Hell, right within this movie you have three or four good episodes: Scott vs. the cat, Scott vs. the spider, Scott vs. the leaking water heater, Scott vs. hunger.
RATING: 8.5/10 Man, I really needed this. I've had a string of stinkers in the past week or so and this totally revived me and set me back on my path with hope and excitement. HUGE thumbs up!
MOVIES WATCHED: 638
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 363
March 19, 2013 8:08pm
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