1957 would turn out to be one last hurrah for Universal (for the time being at least) as they produced a number of movies that year. Some were better than others and I would name The Incredible Shrinking Man as one of their more successful outlets, looking back at it for the Surgeons of Horror retrospectives.
Part of this appeal, I believe, is down to the penmanship of Richard Matheson, who would go on to write I Am Legend; A Stir of Echoes; and Hell House, to name but a few. TISM would be his first venture into screenwriting duties, and as such, would share the screenplay credits with Richard Alan Simmons; a gun for hire at the time.
Jack Arnold would once again take on directing duties, being called upon to repeat his scifi horror genre flicks success bearing the Universal name: It Came From Outer Space; Creature From The Black Lagoon; Revenge of the Creature; This Island Earth; and Tarantula!
The latter would prove to have its merits as once again our protagonist would come up against a giant from which to defed himself.
Our protagonist in question is Scott (Grant Williams) who is coated one day in a mysterious mist; a macguffin for the film and serves as the agent of Scott’s mysterious shrinking. At first, it’s the small things, such as his waist size, and losing a few inches of height which he notices when standing next to his wife, Louise (Randy Stuart). Over time things get steadily worse, and Scott becomes smaller and smaller, at one stage living in a doll house and fighting off the house cat, before being swept away down the basement and presumed to be dead.
The smarts behind this feature come from the psychological trauma that this has on Scott and to some degree Louise. Scott battles constantly trying to deal with his bizarre affliction, even straying away from Louise at one point when he meets a ‘circus freak’, Clarice (April Kent), who has dwarfism, seeking solace in someone who may understand him. His ailment continues however and he must once again face up to his torment and try to make peace with his woes. It is this rather gloomy aspect to the film that would hang heavy on cinema goers at the time, but one that smacks of a realistic portrayal of the ‘what ifs?’ Scenario that is presented. I am often drawn to movies that leave you feeling disconnected and a star reminder of how small we are in the grand scheme of things, and TISM is the epitome of this example and why I believe it ironically stands head and shoulders above its equivalent features of the late 50s.
It certainly heralds an impact worthy enough to hold discussions about a potential remake. John Landis himself had one in production which unfortunately didn’t manage to see the light of day.
Its resonance is still strongly felt though in the genre community and I wouldn’t be surprised to see something of similar ilk come about eventually.
Unlike Scott, the film is unlikely to disappear into uncertainty, especially among film scholars and science fiction lovers.
- Saul Muerte