The Incredible Shrinking Man
is a 1957 science fiction film
Science fiction film is a film genre that uses science fiction: speculative, science-based depictions of phenomena that are not necessarily accepted by mainstream science, such as extraterrestrial life forms, alien worlds, extrasensory perception, and time travel, often along with futuristic...
directed by Jack Arnold and adapted for the screen by Richard Matheson
Richard Burton Matheson is an American author and screenwriter, primarily in the fantasy, horror, and science fiction genres. He is perhaps best known as the author of What Dreams May Come, Bid Time Return, A Stir of Echoes, The Incredible Shrinking Man, and I Am Legend, all of which have been...
from his novel The Shrinking Man
The Shrinking Man is a novel by Richard Matheson published in 1956. It was adapted into a motion picture called The Incredible Shrinking Man in 1957 by Universal Pictures. A remake has been proposed which has been pushed back several times from 2001 to the current day; at one point it was to have...
In 2009, it was named to the National Film Registry
The National Film Registry is the United States National Film Preservation Board's selection of films for preservation in the Library of Congress. The Board, established by the National Film Preservation Act of 1988, was reauthorized by acts of Congress in 1992, 1996, 2005, and again in October 2008...
by the Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress, de facto national library of the United States, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Located in three buildings in Washington, D.C., it is the largest library in the world by shelf space and...
for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant and will be preserved for all time.
Scott Carey (Grant Williams
Grant Williams was an American film actor and operatic tenor. He is best remembered for his portrayal of Scott Carey in the seminal science fiction film The Incredible Shrinking Man , which has since become a cult classic.-Early life:Born John Joseph Williams in New York City to a Scottish father...
), is a businessman who is on vacation on a boat, off the California coast, with his 5 in 8 in (1.73 m) wife Louise (Randy Stuart
Randy Stuart, born as Elizabeth Shaubell , was an American actress whose longest running role was as Louise Baker, the wife of the Cold War spy in the 26-episode adventure television series, Biff Baker, U.S.A., which aired on CBS, with Alan Hale, Jr., as the title character...
) when he suddenly is contaminated by a radioactive cloud. At the time, Louise was below deck getting refreshments, so she wasn't affected. Subsequently, Scott, who is 6 in 1 in (1.85 m) tall and weighs 190 pounds, thinks little of the cloud and doesn't appear to have been affected by it.
However, one morning, six months later, he notices that his shirt seems too big. He blames it on the cleaners. His wedding ring falls off his finger. As this trend continues, he believes he is shrinking. At first Louise dismisses his fears as silly, but he continues to lose weight and height. Noticeably, this is shown when he looks her, previously six inches shorter than him, in the eye.
He visits a prominent research laboratory, and after numerous tests, learns that exposure to the radioactive mist and some normal pesticides caused his cells to shrink.
He continues to both shrink and lose weight. His story hits the headlines and he becomes a national curiosity. He also has to give up his job and stop driving. To make ends meet, he sells his story to the national press.
By this point he feels humiliated and expresses his shame and impotence by lashing out at Louise. She is reduced to tears of despair at his fate.
Then, it seems, an antidote is found for Scott's affliction: it briefly arrests his shrinking when he is 36½ inches (93 cm
A centimetre is a unit of length in the metric system, equal to one hundredth of a metre, which is the SI base unit of length. Centi is the SI prefix for a factor of . Hence a centimetre can be written as or — meaning or respectively...
) tall and weighs 52 pounds
The pound or pound-mass is a unit of mass used in the Imperial, United States customary and other systems of measurement...
The kilogram or kilogramme , also known as the kilo, is the base unit of mass in the International System of Units and is defined as being equal to the mass of the International Prototype Kilogram , which is almost exactly equal to the mass of one liter of water...
). Despite halting his diminution, he is told that he will never return to his former size, unless a cure is found, and that the antidote will only arrest the shrinking. Still, he seems relatively content to remain at three feet tall, and begins to accept his fate.
At a circus, he briefly becomes friends with a female dwarf, who initially is identical in height; she is appearing in a side-show and persuades him that life isn't all negative being their size. Although their relationship is platonic in the film, it becomes romantic in the novel. During one of Scott's conversations with his new small friend, he suddenly notices he has become even shorter than her, meaning the antidote is not working. Exasperated, he runs away. He continues shrinking, and eventually is reduced to living in a dollhouse. After nearly being killed by his own cat, he winds up trapped in a basement and has to battle a voracious spider, his own hunger, and the fear that he may eventually shrink down to nothing. After defeating the spider, he accepts his fate and (now so small he can escape the basement by walking through a space in a window screen) is resigned to the adventure of seeing what awaits him in even smaller realms. The film's ending monologue implies he will eventually shrink to atomic size; but, no matter how small he does so, he concludes he will still matter in the universe and this thought gives him comfort and ends his fears of the future.
Differences from the novel
The original novel differs slightly in content and tone from the film. In the novel the story is told through flashback. It describes Scott's life in the basement up until his battle with the spider. Scott Carey and his wife Louise have a five-year-old daughter named Beth. He encounters a drunken pedophile when he's 42 inches (1,066.8 mm) tall and some teenage toughs, who persecute him, when he's three-feet-tall. He experiences some disturbing sexual tension
Sexual tension is a social phenomenon that occurs when two people interact and one or both feel sexual desire, but the consummation is postponed or never happens....
in his dealings with his daughter's 16 year old babysitter, Catherine, when he is two-feet-tall, barely reaching his daughter's chest, and has to cope with a strained relationship with his wife, who has gradually become a gigantic figure. The soliloquy which closes the film is not found in the book but was added to the script by the film's director, Jack Arnold.
The film was very well received by critics. It has a fresh 88% on Rotten Tomatoes
Rotten Tomatoes is a website devoted to reviews, information, and news of films—widely known as a film review aggregator. Its name derives from the cliché of audiences throwing tomatoes and other vegetables at a poor stage performance...
In addition to its selection for the National Registry in 2009 by the National Film Preservation Board
The United States National Film Preservation Board is the board selecting films for preservation in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry. It was established by the National Film Preservation Act of 1988...
, it won the 1958 Hugo award
The Hugo Awards are given annually for the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements of the previous year. The award is named after Hugo Gernsback, the founder of the pioneering science fiction magazine Amazing Stories, and was officially named the Science Fiction Achievement Awards...
for that year's best science fiction or fantasy dramatic presentation.
American Film Institute
The American Film Institute is an independent non-profit organization created by the National Endowment for the Arts, which was established in 1967 when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act...
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills - Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:
- "To God, there is no zero. I still exist." - Nominated
- AFI's 10 Top 10
AFI's 10 Top 10 honors the ten greatest American films in ten classic film genres. Presented by the American Film Institute , the lists were unveiled on a television special broadcast by CBS on June 17, 2008....
- Nominated Science Fiction Film
Sequel and Remakes
Matheson wrote a script for a sequel titled Fantastic Little Girl
, but the film was never produced. The script, in which Louise Carey follows her husband into a microscopic world, was later published in 2006 by Gauntlet Press in a collection titled Unrealized Dreams
The Incredible Shrinking Woman
The Incredible Shrinking Woman is a 1981 science fiction/comedy film, starring Lily Tomlin, Charles Grodin, Ned Beatty, John Glover and Elizabeth Wilson, and directed by Joel Schumacher. The film was written by Tomlin's longtime life partner and frequent collaborator, Jane Wagner. The original...
, a credited comic remake in which Lily Tomlin
Mary Jean "Lily" Tomlin is an American actress, comedienne, writer, and producer. Tomlin has been a major force in American comedy since the late 1960's when she began a career as a stand up comedian and became a featured performer on television's Laugh-in...
played the wife of an advertising man who shrinks as a result of exposure to household products was released in 1981.
Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment are currently slated to produce a remake starring Eddie Murphy
Edward Regan "Eddie" Murphy is an American stand-up comedian, actor, writer, singer, director, and musician....
. It is still very early on in pre-production and no formal release date has been announced.
The Incredible Shrinking Man
was released on DVD August 30, 2011 by Universal Studios
Universal Pictures , a subsidiary of NBCUniversal, is one of the six major movie studios....