The Incredible Shrinking Man - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Incredible Shrinking Man Reviews

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Super Reviewer
August 12, 2015
Not to be confused with the 1981 movie 'The Incredible Shrinking Woman' which was a spin on the original novel 'The Shrinking Man' by Richard Matheson. Or the horror movie 'The Incredible Melting Man' (1977), which is completely different and umm...sounds kinda the same, never mind.

Jack Arnold does it again with his fourth classic fantasy movie, this guy was like the Spielberg of the 50's...kinda. Now the plot here may sound ridiculous, like some corny TV series, hell look at that title. And to a degree you'd be right, this is a totally daft premise, who in their right mind would watch a movie about some guy becoming the size of a small insect, like...say an ant...oh wait.

Whilst out sailing on the seas with his wife, Scott Carey (Grant Williams) is unfortunately hit in the face by a mysterious white cloud that leaves his body covered in some shiny substance. Naturally this cloud and substance was radioactive being a 1950's American sci-fi movie, but we never find out where it came from and what caused it. To make matters worse, the seriously unlucky Carey also gets accidentally covered in insecticide months later which apparently sets of a reaction in his body (with the radiation) where by his molecular structure is rearranged causing his cells to shrink his body? Beats the snot outta me but its sounds scientific doesn't it, in other words he starts to shrink and it can't be stopped.

At first we spend a lot of time following Carey around as he gets tested by a typical professor type in a white lab coat. There is a lot of dialog and discussion between the characters about what's going on, what may happen and how they can try to stop it, sounds dull but its quite interesting and all very charming. The fun starts as we slowly start to see Carey get smaller bit by bit. This is where the brilliant use of oversized props is used to give the illusion Carey is actually getting smaller.

Now this being a black and white movie from the 50's you could be forgiven for thinking this movie would be extremely hokey. But guess what? this movie isn't hokey at all, well...not as bad as you would think, its still cheesy of course. First up the effects, the movie is of course all about the effects, and they look fantastic. Arnold and co use all the old tricks in the book with the use of rear projection, props, split screen and models. The striking thing is the oversized props for everyday common objects (large and small) are fabulously recreated. Initial things like a chair, phone, sofa, even windows, skirting boards and sockets, everything has been resized to give the illusion Carey is around the height of a small child (3ft-ish). Funny thing is, this simple illusion really works and its actually hard to visualise the character as a fully grown man, the resized props really sell the trick.

As Carey gets smaller things become even more exciting, I found myself really looking forward to what might happen next, what we will see and how small he gets. Of course when he starts living out of a dolls house, well that's when the hokey looking rear projection pops up, the cat attacks him, people walking past him, the spider in the basement, water etc...Speaking of the spider, that has to be the biggest and most eagerly awaited fear, I've never seen this movie before, but I just knew there would be a spider confrontation in the basement, what else would there be? Strangely enough it turns out to be a tarantula again, where exactly in America do these people live that tarantulas are commonly found in and around the house? Of course its obviously because tarantulas can be relatively easily controlled, probably much harder or nigh on impossible with an actual house spider (or black widow as in the original novel, bit dangerous probably).

Once Carey is trapped within the basement (after fleeing the cat), the movie virtually becomes a silent picture. As there is no one for Carey to communicate with, there is no dialog, apart from the odd bit of narration. What you see is the eternal struggle for survival by a regular human being, as if he was lost in the wilderness or a distant barren planet. Arnold conveys this idea perfectly through simple visuals, simple (but wonderfully detailed) props, and mundane simple tasks for the main character (acted out very well by Williams I might add). Basically he needs to eat, drink and sleep, so he finds an old matchbox to sleep in, he drinks from drips of water coming from the water heater, and he finds food from a mouse trap and an old piece of cake (I think it was). He's only in his own basement, but to Carey, at his size, its an inhospitable and dangerous world.

This movie was extremely ambitious for its day and it shows in almost every scene with an effect. Even by today's high levels of special effects this movie still stands up well, incredibly well. The models are all purely awesome in every way, I was stunned at how good they all looked, especially the large mousetrap and scissors. The optical illusions to make Williams look shorter are simple yet highly effective even today, the large props work so perfectly. Yet despite the outlandish nature of the plot the film never seems dumb, sure its cheesy and hokey but that's down to the era the movie was made in. The whole thing comes across in an intelligent and pleasant manner whilst dealing with themes like exploitation, gender role reversal and morality (loved the sombre yet intriguing ending).

Technical limitations of the day? you wouldn't think it, a fantastic piece of science fiction fantasy that has every element to engage you from start to finish. A classy B-movie adventure of epic proportions.

'All this vast majesty of creation, it had to mean something. And then I meant something, too. Yes, smaller than the smallest, I meant something, too. To God, there is no zero. I still exist!'
Super Reviewer
October 23, 2011
The rare sci-fi that is able to overcome its B-movie sensibilities and become an engaging drama and a study of everything from sexism and sexual frustration to a view of an American family during the Cold War years to finally end up pondering over the meaning of the universe. Heavy stuff for such a small protagonist.
Super Reviewer
½ September 5, 2010
Another of my favourite sci-fi movies of the fifties. This movie is great not just because of the cool special effects, the story is fantastic. At first it seems a bit silly because the idea is that he shrinks after being exposed to atomic bomb mist or something, but after that it has elements of a romantic drama, horror, and in the end really makes you think about life on Earth. I highly recommend this movie.
Super Reviewer
September 23, 2008
an excellent film with imaginative old school effects. the shrinking man's trials seem funny at first but by the epic adventure in the basement, i was totally on his side. great ending
Super Reviewer
October 14, 2009
This is one that was on Chiller Theater when I was growing up. Typical Sci Fi Movie from the Fifties, A couple are out in a boat when hubby sends the wife below deck to get him a beer, that was back in the time when wife?s did things for there husbands, anyway while below deck a strange cloud overcomes the boat and the man is covered in Glitter, 6 months later he stars shrinking, remember this was the era of worries about nuclear bombs and children at school getting in hall ways covering there heads and eyes. All in all its enjoyable, not scary but enjoyable. Sharp Picture Quality for a Black & White. Good Acting 3 stars for the couple from Teaneck New Jersey.
Super Reviewer
August 12, 2007
so I finally got to see it again, after so many years when I was just a little kid, the power of this fantastic movie is even stronger than what I remember.

Suspenseful and imaginative sci-fi classic, with Richard Matheson's thoughtful prose, and remarkable special effects.

Imagine your own house as an immense fortress full of deadly traps and gigantic monsters around the corner. Fascinating stuff.
Super Reviewer
½ January 17, 2009
Top notch science fiction with mind blowing special effects, especially when you consider that this film was released in 1957!
Super Reviewer
January 23, 2008
"the incredible shrinking man" distinguisghes itself from the rest pieces in the sci-fi genre by its poetic stroke of existentialism, analouous to kafka's "mtamorphosis", a tale about the alienated solitude as well as the discrimination toward the other. BUT kafka's culprit is the unacceptance of social norm; shrinking man's fault-blamer is the exposed chemical mist which might be an rumination toward the atomic period in the cold war. human suffers his own deformity and departs farther from society due to his metamorphosis.

a man sails on sea joyfully with his wife while a peculiar mist pervades toward him then he starts to shrink drastically to the point of helpless despair depsite his spouse still keeps her loyality to him. to overcome such bizarre feeling of misfit, he seeks solace from a female midget in the circus as if he's no longer alone. but tragically his shrinking progress deepens so much that he withdraws from her group as well. eventually he ends up in a doll house with his being menaced by his former pet which by now is a giant monster preying on him as potential food. then he tumbles into his own basement, trapped there to duel the ghastly spider for a piece of cheese to live on his existence. during the process of glorious fight, he learns the meaning of universe, conquering his own fear to integrate into this blissful annihilation of the whole cosmos without remorse.

the masterful touch is the microcosmos of basement as the modern pilgrime of robinson cruso that adds up a sense of existentialistic absurdity. and it transcends its limit of sci-fi genre to a revered sublimination of human dignity: the honorable death shall be to bleed and sweat for your existence then embrace enuii of life easefully since everyone inevitably would vanish into a particle within the earth, so why bother to feel so angst-ridden? that's the genuine meaning of zen, the fatalistic acceptance of oblivion.
Super Reviewer
½ April 14, 2013
Some of the effects look dated by todays standards, but the depth of Matheson's story shines through.
Super Reviewer
August 4, 2007
Brilliant and very daft.
August 15, 2015
The Incredible Shrinking Man's visuals, needless to say, are visibly dated by today's standards, but one can tell that for it's time they were innovatively mind-blowing. Packed with a tight 80 minute run time, this has a creative, involving story with natural performances, a likable lead, brisk pacing, a fitting and goosebump-inducing arachnophobic antagonist and bittersweet finale. The Incredible Shrinking Man is genuinely fun, and highly recommendable to anyone craving a throwback to the classic days of genuine, clean cinema.
½ May 5, 2015
A pretty exciting and movie premise with decent 50's effects and a solid story-line. The movie does less with dialog and more with action, and the world around the shrinking man gets pretty disturbing. The ending could have been better, but in all it's a fine science fiction tale.
March 28, 2015
Has some genuinely frightening moments with a cat and a spider. Has nice dialog between husband and wife. Has nice set-pieces. But the ending was rather bleak and though I understand where the director was going, I felt it was a little hurried and empty.
August 10, 2013
At times unintentionally funny, but with many truly frightening moments for Scott (Grant Williams), as he encounters new dangers at every stage of his journey.
July 8, 2013
"To God there is no zero, I still exist."

In the 1950's, the one director that was successful in making horror movies would be Jack Arnold. Some of his most successful films in that decade include It Came From Outer Space, Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Tarantula. But the film I'm about to review, 1957's The Incredible Shrinking Man, is probably his most famous.

After unintentionally catching some harmful radioactive rays during a boating vacation, Scott Carey (Grant Williams) soon discovers that he is getting smaller and smaller and smaller. Eventually, he gets so small that he gets to be famous and develops a hatred for everyone, including his wife (Randy Stuart). After being attacked by the family cat, Scott ends up in the basement, causing his wife and brother (Paul Langton) to believe the cat killed him. Scott must use his small height and small knowledge to survive in the basement, especially when there's a tarantula intending to eat him.

One of the problems with Jack Arnold's films is a lack of good character development, with It Came From Outer Space being the worst offender. The Incredible Shrinking Man, however, surprised me in the fact that the character development, particularly in the shrinking man, is actually well-developed. Grant Williams did a fairly good job at doing the role, and some moments come out as chilling, particularly in scenes where he questions his existence.

The special effects are terrific for a film made in the 50's, especially scenes where Williams is shrinking. When he gets to be super small, you think that he was really that small. Other highlights in the visuals include the attack scene with the cat (which I found to be unintentionally funny) and a climatic battle with a tarantula. Believe it or not, this tarantula used was the same one Arnold used before in his film Tarantula.

The last thing I have to mention is the surprise ending. After loads of sci-fi and horror, in the end of the film, the film questions the existence of life. Without getting too preachy, the speech Williams makes in the end is a surprising and excellent way to end a horror/sci-fi film.

While I still prefer Tarantula to be the essential Jack Arnold film, The Incredible Shrinking Man is still an entertaining and visually incredible 50's classic.
June 9, 2013
Has some genuinely frightening moments with a cat and a spider. Has nice dialog between husband and wife. Has nice set-pieces. But the ending was rather bleak and though I understand where the director was going, I felt it was a little hurried and empty.
January 4, 2013
Has some genuinely frightening moments with a cat and a spider. Has nice dialog between husband and wife. Has nice set-pieces. But the ending was rather bleak and though I understand where the director was going, I felt it was a little hurried and empty.
December 6, 2011
"The Incredible Shrinking Man" could have been a fascinating adventure-packed drama, but instead it focused on a tediously long and boring spider fight and an annoying narration. Forgive me but i hated this film.
October 11, 2011
I adore the way this is shot, It makes the film so much more fun. The actor really throw themselves into the roles as well.
May 30, 2011
I certainly did enjoy the visual effects, which are quite advanced for the time. The props also felt fairly authentic, as Williams gets smaller and smaller. The premise was something I wanted to enjoy, and looked forward to one of the early entries into sci-fi. Where I was disappointed was the acting, which was only passable (Williams' narrations could be flat at times) and the story, which started off interesting but sagged into tedium after Willams' character fell into the basement. I also had difficulty suspending disbelief at times: how was he able to pull a good-sized lamp off a table when he was barely larger than the power plug? How could his wife presume him dead, claim they looked everywhere, yet he was in the basement the whole time? Surely he wasn't so small that he would totally escape their desperate searches (perhaps they weren't so eager to find him after all...) I was also turned off by the sudden religious turn at the closing of the film: didn't really fit with the overall theme and it somewhat dates the film. Concluding, I would say that sci-fi buffs should certainly see the film for its (at the time) state-of-the-art effects, but otherwise its an average film.
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