Film Review - The Incredible Shrinking Man - 1957
S P Oldham
I just watched another of the films listed in Wednesday Lee Friday’s ’15 Black and White Horror Movies That Are Scary as Hell,’ posted on ScreenRant on 2oth August 2016. Find it here: https://screenrant.com/scariest-black-and-white-horror-movies-ever-all-time/
The penultimate film (for me, since I watched them out of order so to speak) is ‘The Incredible Shrinking Man,’ released in 1957 and starring Grant Williams, Randy Stuart and April Kent.
Throughout the film, the principle character acts also as narrator, giving voice to his inner thoughts. It is another film, like one or two others on the list, which gets its inspiration from the very real fear of nuclear and chemical attack at the time, understandably so.
This film goes to great lengths from the outset to explain the reason behind Scott Carey’s shrinking. In order to justify it presumably, so the story can move on with all that troublesome explaining out of the way. Scott undergoes a barrage of scientific and medical tests, all of which were probably ground-breaking at the time, which prove he is indeed becoming smaller, though they can’t find any reason for it.
The blame is eventually laid on a mysterious fog which washed over Scott whilst holidaying with his wife, Louise. This is in fact how the film begins. The couple have been sunbathing out at sea on a small boat. Louise goes down to the cabin to get a cold beer, but Scott takes the full force of this strange and sudden fog, which leaves moisture on his bare chest, before quickly passing over them with no other obvious effect. Note that, once the fog has been deemed the likely culprit, there is no further reference to it and not even any pretence at finding out what caused it.
Definitely a few references in this film that they wouldn’t get away with today. There is a fairground scene where a man introduces ‘curiosities’ to the watching public. He refers to these people as ‘exhibits’ and ‘unusual apparitions consigned by a tricky Mother Nature,’ and makes remarks people would be up in arms about today, such as comments about an obese woman and how she wobbles as she sits, and referring to a woman who has dwarfism as ‘Tiny Tina.’ There is also a bearded lady and an extremely tall man on stage. Scott, who has ventured out of his home for the first time in weeks, without Louise’s knowledge, is looking on and, unable to bear it, runs away. It should be remembered that it is not so long ago that such people would indeed have been paraded as entertainment to the public and, as I have said ad nauseum whilst writing these reviews, it is of its time. Pointless taking offence to it now, however much we might dislike the terms used. It was what it was, so to speak.
Anyway, on with the plot. Whilst out, Scott meets a woman named Clarice, one of the midgets (their word, not mine) from the show. Through her, he feels he has a new lease of life. He completes the book he is writing about his experiences and is beginning to feel better when he suddenly realises he has begun to shrink again. He is now shorter than Clarice.
His problems really start when he is so small he has to live in a doll’s house in the living room, and his wife accidentally lets the cat in to the house…
This is where the adventures really begin. And adventures they are. Of all the films that do not deserve to be on a list of ‘horror’ films, this one is tops. I vaguely remember watching this as a kid and thinking it was thrilling. Kids today of course, wouldn’t be too impressed with the special effects, which were undoubtedly good at the time. They certainly wouldn’t be thrilled. I won’t bore you with what form these adventures take. Suffice to say it includes spiders, a mousetrap, climbing a box and almost being washed down a drain.
The ending has the most blatant and obvious allusions to the fear of nuclear war at the time, and man’s role in the world and the greater universe. It is perhaps the most serious and ‘grown-up’ part of the whole film.
So is The Incredible Shrinking Man scary? No, not even remotely. Slightly ridiculous if anything, but I suppose if you think about it, a whole host of modern horror could be deemed ridiculous, too.
I deliberately put this one off until now as I knew it would be my least favourite, and I was right. Saved the best until last though. I recall (vaguely) watching Psycho years ago. It is the last film on the list and I will be watching and reviewing it sometime very soon. Watch this space…
S P Oldham