The Incredible Shrinking Woman

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The Incredible Shrinking Woman
Incredible shrinking woman.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJoel Schumacher
Written byJane Wagner
Based onThe Shrinking Man
by Richard Matheson
Produced byHank Moonjean
CinematographyBruce Logan
Edited byJeff Gourson
Music bySuzanne Ciani
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • January 30, 1981 (1981-01-30) (United States)
Running time
88 minutes
United States
Budget$10 million[1]
Box office$20,259,961

The Incredible Shrinking Woman is a 1981 American science-fiction comedy film directed by Joel Schumacher (in his cinematic directing debut), written by Jane Wagner and starring Lily Tomlin, Charles Grodin, Ned Beatty, John Glover, and Elizabeth Wilson. This film parodies the 1957 science-fiction film The Incredible Shrinking Man, and credited as based on Richard Matheson's 1956 novel, The Shrinking Man. The original music score was composed by Suzanne Ciani.

The film was released in pan-and-scan on VHS by Universal on July 13, 1994. On November 4, 2009, an unmastered low-quality DVD release (manufactured on demand using DVD-R recordable media) in 16:9 anamorphic widescreen was offered under the Universal Vault Series banner. It was later released by Shout! Factory as a "Collector's Edition" Blu-ray on November 14, 2017, with an updated transfer, and includes interviews and a deleted scene with Edith Ann, who is also played by Lily Tomlin.[2]


Pat Kramer of Tasty Meadows is an ordinary suburban housewife and mother of two children. Her husband Vance is an advertising executive. After exposure to an experimental perfume and other chemicals from her husband's company, she begins to shrink, gradually at first, then rapidly.

A few weeks pass and Pat has shrunk to the height of her children. Eventually, she becomes a celebrity of sorts, appearing on The Mike Douglas Show, and captures the hearts of the American people. Soon, she is less than a foot tall, making her like a doll and forcing her to move into a dollhouse.

Pat is kidnapped by a group of mad scientists, who make it seem that she perished in the kitchen garbage disposal. They plan to shrink everyone in the world by performing experiments on her to learn her secret. With the help of a kind young lab custodian and a super-intelligent gorilla named Sydney, she escapes.

Speaking of her escape to a crowd of people, she continues to shrink, saying her goodbyes before becoming microscopic in size. Vanishing from sight, she is again presumed dead, but in fact she falls into a puddle of spilled household chemicals - which return her to her original size. After her homecoming celebrating her returning to a normal size she notices that her wedding ring is now too tight while her foot is splitting her shoe open, suggesting she might still be growing.


Production notes[edit]

Lily Tomlin plays four characters in this film: lead character Pat Kramer; her neighbor Judith Beasley (a character derived from Tomlin's live shows); Tomlin's Laugh-In characters Ernestine (a telephone operator); and Edith Ann, (a little girl - seen only in the TV version of the film).

The film reunited Lily Tomlin with fellow Laugh-In cast member Henry Gibson.

Lily Tomlin and Elizabeth Wilson previously appeared together in 9 to 5 as Violet Newstead and Roz Keith, respectively.

Rick Baker, who plays Sydney the Gorilla in the film, was the first recipient of the Oscar for Best Make-Up for An American Werewolf in London when the category was first introduced in 1981. Baker's career, especially his early fascination with gorillas and his work in three movies featuring them, is told in the TV documentary Gorillas: Primal Contact.

Actor Dick Wilson plays a fussy supermarket manager - much like his famous Charmin tissue TV commercial character: Mr. Whipple.

The film's writer, Jane Wagner, is Tomlin's wife and frequent collaborator.

The film started principal photography in February 1979 with John Landis directing, but was suspended after a few days, with the reason stated as budget issues. Production resumed August 13, 1979, with Joel Schumacher replacing Landis.

According to Landis, on an episode of Shock Waves Podcast, he wanted a trailer in theaters "one year before Shrinking Woman comes out" featuring Alfred Hitchcock in silhouette. The trailer would have Hitchcock speaking to the camera: "Good evening, work is underway here at Universal Studios in Hollywood on potentially the most important motion picture of all time - The Incredible Shrinking Woman starring Lily Tomlin." At this point, Hitchcock would uncup his hands from his desk, and a miniature-sized Tomlin would appear underneath.[3]

Actress Julie Brown has noted that Tomlin, after seeing Brown perform live, gave her her first film role by casting her in this film, thus qualifying her to receive a Screen Actors Guild membership. Her role was ultimately reduced to several seconds of non-speaking screen time.


The film opened to predominantly negative reviews from critics. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 27% based on 11 reviews, with an average rating of 4.2/10.[4]

Upon release, The New York Times' Vincent Canby called the film: "an amiably funny variation on Jack Arnold's classic 1957 science-fiction film, The Incredible Shrinking Man, which had been based on Richard Matheson's novel The Shrinking Man," and went on to write that the film was "a low-key comedy that rambles from one comic idea to the next with the slightly uneasy manner of a nightclub comedian doing a new improvisation. It succeeds in bits and pieces that are separated by long patches that are more remarkable for their good will than for their wit." Regarding Jane Wagner's screenplay, he wrote: "Miss Wagner has a great talent for the kind of monologues, sketches and oddball characters that made Miss Tomlin's Appearing Nitely so memorable on Broadway, but not for creating a sustained comic narrative."[5]

The Chicago Sun-Times' Roger Ebert was more enthusiastic, calling it: "a terrific movie for kids and teenagers. It's a melancholy fact of the times we live in that any movie of even moderate ambition is supposed to become a blockbuster - and that 'family movies', with few exceptions, are inane, innocent, and boring. But The Incredible Shrinking Woman is not inane, is sometimes wickedly knowing, and is only periodically boring." Ebert observed that the movie was: "also funny in its visual approach, showing us a suburban world in which everything is done in hideously jolly colors and everybody, even the TV anchorman, wears peach blazers. America in this movie looks like a gigantic paint-color chart," but ultimately remarked that while the movie succeeds on several levels, it does so: "without ever breaking through to become a really inspired comedy."[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Shout Factory: Three O'Clock High and The Incredible Shrinking Woman Coming to Blu-ray -
  3. ^ "Shock Waves on Apple Podcasts". iTunes.
  4. ^ "The Incredible Shrinking Woman". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 28 July 2022.
  5. ^ Canby, Vincent (January 30, 1981). "The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981)". The New York Times. Retrieved July 24, 2012.
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger (January 1, 1981). "The Incredible Shrinking Woman". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved August 28, 2019.

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