The Incredible Shrinking Man

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The Incredible Shrinking Man
Directed byJack Arnold
Produced byAlbert Zugsmith
Screenplay byRichard Matheson
Richard Alan Simmons (uncredited)[1]
Based onThe Shrinking Man
by Richard Matheson
StarringGrant Williams
Randy Stuart
April Kent
Paul Langton
Billy Curtis
Narrated byGrant Williams
Music byUncredited:
Irving Getz
Hans J. Salter
Herman Stein
CinematographyEllis W. Carter
Edited byAlbrecht Joseph
Universal Pictures
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • February 22, 1957 (1957-02-22) (New York)[2]
Running time
81 minutes
Box office$1.43 million (US)[3]

The Incredible Shrinking Man is a 1957 American black-and-white science-fiction horror film from Universal-International, produced by Albert Zugsmith, directed by Jack Arnold, and starring Grant Williams and Randy Stuart. The film was adapted for the screen by Richard Matheson from his novel The Shrinking Man. The opening credits music theme (uncredited) is by Irving Gertz, with a trumpet solo performed by Ray Anthony.

The film won the first Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation (at the time called "Outstanding Movie") presented by Solacon, the 16th World Science Fiction Convention in Los Angeles. By coincidence, Richard Matheson was the convention's guest of honor that year.[4] The film was named in 2009 to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant.[5]

Additionally, the cover variant to the third issue of IDW Comics' The Shrinking Man miniseries, adapted from Matheson's novel, includes "Incredible" in the comic's title as a direct reference to the film.


Businessman Robert Scott Carey, called "Scott", is on vacation with his wife Louise on his brother Charlie's boat off the California coast. When Louise goes below deck for beer, a strange cloud on the horizon passes over the craft, leaving a reflective mist on Scott's bare skin.

Six months later, Scott notices that his shirt and slacks are too big for him. Scott, Louise, and Scott's physician, Dr. Bramson, try to dismiss this as ordinary weight loss. As the trend continues, however, Bramson has X-rays taken. X-rays taken a week apart prove Scott is getting smaller. Bramson refers him to the California Medical Research Institute, and after weeks of sophisticated tests, Scott and his team of new doctors determine that the mist to which he was exposed was radioactive. This, combined with an exposure to insecticide four months later, set off a chain reaction that is mutating Scott's cells, causing him to shrink. Scott tells Louise in light of his predicament that she is free to leave him. Louise promises to stand by her marriage vows; however, during the conversation, Scott's wedding ring falls off his shrunken finger.

Unable to keep his job, Scott resorts to selling the rights to his story to the press, and becomes a national curiosity. The media and sightseers camp out on his lawn, and Louise requests an unlisted number to end the constant ringing of the phone. He begins writing a book of his experiences. Humiliated by his condition and the public spectacle he has become, he lashes out at Louise, who is reduced to tears of despair.

The doctors develop an antidote for Scott's affliction, arresting his shrinking when he is 36.5 in (93 cm) tall and weighs 52 pounds (24 kg). However, a new treatment will be needed to return him to his former size. In a moment of self-loathing, he runs out of the house, his first time being outside since he sold his story. At a neighborhood coffee shop, he meets and becomes friends with a midget named Clarice, who is slightly shorter than him. She is appearing in a carnival sideshow in town and persuades him that life is not all bad being their size. Inspired, he begins to work on his book again. Two weeks later, however, he notices he has become shorter than Clarice, meaning the antidote has stopped working.

After shrinking enough to fit inside a dollhouse, Scott becomes tyrannical with Louise, and contemplates suicide. Leaving on an errand, Louise accidentally lets inside their cat, Butch. Raked by Butch's claws, Scott flees into the cellar. However, as he tries to push the door closed Butch forces it open, sending Scott flying into a box of rags. Returning to find a bloody scrap of Scott's clothing, Louise tearfully assumes that the cat ate him, and his grisly death is announced to the world.

Concluding he cannot scale the stairs, Scott undertakes the task of survival in the cellar, which at his current size is a cavernous, inhospitable world. Spotting a spider twice his size, he raids a sewing kit to arm himself with a straight pin and grappling hook constructed of thread and a bent pin. He uses them to ascend to the cellar window in search of food. A screen prevents him from leaving through the window.

Charlie persuades Louise to move out, and they go down to the cellar to get her luggage. By now, however, Scott is so small that they cannot hear his screams for help. Determined to at least be master of the cellar world, Scott challenges the spider. He ties his grappling hook to a pair of scissors and harpoons the spider, but when he pushes the scissors off the edge the thread catches and breaks. He battles on with his pin, finally stabbing the spider through its head. He finds that he is now so small that he can walk between the wires of the window screen. Scott accepts his fate without fear, and is resigned to the adventure that awaits him in even smaller realms. He knows that he will eventually shrink to atomic size, but no matter how small he becomes, he concludes that he will still matter in the universe because, "to God, there is no zero".


Production notes[edit]

The plot was something new for Universal Pictures, which had to approve a story that did not have a neatly resolved ending. Matheson's novel ends with the character shrinking to infinitesimal size. No last-minute rescue occurs; the man keeps shrinking. In spite of these problems, Zugsmith managed to secure a $750,000 budget.[1] At the completion of production, studio executives wanted to change the ending to a happy one with doctors discovering a serum to reverse the shrinking process; director Arnold refused. With the successful Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) and its sequels to his credit, he was able to convince the studio to agree to a preview. The test audience was startled at the film, but they liked it; the ending was not changed.[1]

Matheson regretted having his character shrink one-seventh of an inch per day in the novel, according to an interview with Stephen King in King's book Danse Macabre.[citation needed]

Most of the film's special effects were supervised by Clifford Stine, head of the studio's special-effects department. Jack Arnold solved the problem of simulating giant drops of falling water by use of a treadmill dropping hundreds of water-filled condoms.[1]

The film's California Medical Research Institute is the same fictional facility that also features prominently in Universal's The Monolith Monsters, released eight months later, which also starred Grant Williams.[6]


The film was well received by critics, and became a multimillion-dollar hit.[1] Bosley Crowther of The New York Times panned the film, writing that "unless a viewer is addicted to freakish ironies, the unlikely spectacle of Mr. Williams losing an inch of height each week, while his wife, Randy Stuart, looks on helplessly, will become tiresome before Universal has emptied its lab of science-fiction clichés."[7] Variety wrote, "The technical staff under Albert Zugsmith's production wing has done an outstanding job of the trick stuff needed to put the story on film." The review noted, however, that the film was "inclined to slow down on occasion, resulting in flagging interest here and there."[8] Harrison's Reports wrote that "the story is, of course, too fantastic to be believed, but it grips one's attention throughout by reason of the good direction and the expert use of trick photography."[9] Philip K. Scheuer of the Los Angeles Times called the film "a fascinating exercise in imagination, as terrifying as it is funny ... Science-fiction admirers who are accustomed to finding food for thought as well as vicarious thrills in such flights of fancy will not be disappointed, either."[10] The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote: "Straightforward, macabre, and as startlingly original as a vintage Ray Bradbury short story, this remarkable film—for all its peaceful and resigned conclusion—opens up new vistas of cosmic terror."[11]

The film currently holds a 90% "fresh" rating on the film review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 21 reviews.[12]

Sequel and remakes[edit]

Matheson wrote a film treatment for a sequel titled Fantastic Little Girl (alternately titled The Fantastic Shrinking Girl), but the film was never produced. The story, in which Louise Carey follows her husband into a microscopic world, and after finding him, begins to grow in size together with him, then returning to the basement of their original home to battle a rat in the finale, was later published in 2006 by Gauntlet Press in a collection titled Unrealized Dreams.[13][14]

The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981), a comedy remake released by Universal Pictures, features Lily Tomlin as the wife of an advertising executive in a similar predicament, the result of being exposed to an experimental perfume.

In 2010, Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment talked of producing another comedy remake starring Eddie Murphy.[15] The film rights later lapsed, and in February 2013, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announced the development of a new adaptation of The Shrinking Man with Matheson co-scripting with his son, Richard Jr.,[16] but development stopped after Matheson died in June 2013.

Video releases[edit]

The Incredible Shrinking Man was released on LaserDisc and later on both Region 1 and Region 2 DVDs by Universal Studios.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Vieira, Mark A. (2003). Hollywood Horror: From Gothic to Cosmic. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. pp. 180–181. ISBN 0-8109-4535-5.
  2. ^ "The Incredible Shrinking Man - Details". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved July 20, 2018.
  3. ^ "Top Grosses of 1957", Variety, 8 January 1958: 30
  4. ^ awards.
  5. ^ "25 new titles added to National Film Registry". Yahoo News. Yahoo. 2009-12-30. Archived from the original on July 10, 2012. Retrieved 2009-12-30.
  6. ^ Warren 1982, p. 113.
  7. ^ Crowther, Bosley (February 23, 1957). "Diminishing Returns". The New York Times: 13.
  8. ^ "The Incredible Shrinking Man". Variety: 6. February 6, 1957.
  9. ^ "Film review: The Incredible Shrinking Man". Harrison's Reports: 18. February 2, 1957.
  10. ^ Scheuer, Philip K. (March 28, 1957). "'Shrinking Man' Film Frightening and Funny". Los Angeles Times: Part IV, p. 13.
  11. ^ "The Incredible Shrinking Man". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 24 (282): 83. July 1957.
  12. ^ "The Incredible Shrinking Man". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 22, 2017.
  13. ^ The Fantastic Shrinking Girl film treatment by Richard Matheson.
  14. ^ Reflections of a Storyteller: A Conversation with Richard Matheson William P. Simmons, Cemetery Dance magazine.
  15. ^ "Remake Watch: The Incredible Shrinking Man". SciFi Movie Page. Retrieved 2010-02-17.
  16. ^ "MGM Rebooting 'Shrinking Man' With Author Richard Matheson and Son Writing". The Hollywood Reporter (February 13, 2013).


External links[edit]