The Incredible Shrinking Man

Year: 1957

Production: Universal

Director: Jack Arnold

Starring: Grant Williams, Randy Stuart, April Kent

Screenwriter: Richard Matheson

Based on The Shrinking Man (1956) by Richard Matheson

81 minutes; B/W

This is one of the few truly classic sf films of the 1950s. The basic premise is unscientific, but that does not detract from the power of this story about a man (Williams) who becomes contaminated by a radioactive cloud and starts to shrink. What were once safe and comforting to him become increasingly threatening as he continues to diminish. There is severe sexual anxiety as his wife (Stuart) looms ever larger above him (and patronize him). In due course his cat becomes a monster and the prosaic confines of his own basement, into which he escapes, become a surrealist jungle. Eventually he disappears completely as the wind blows through autumn leaves and the stars glitter above in a curiously joyful epiphany. Matheson's mature script is intelligently handled by Arnold. Clifford Stine's special effects are a paradigm for how these things should be done.

A supposedly comic partial remake starring Lily Tomlin, The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981), directed by Joel Schumacher, purports to be a satire on the consumer society.

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

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