Starring: Grant Williams, Randy Stuart, April Kent
Director: Jack Arnold
Running Time: 81 mins
The Incredible Shrinking Man is an American film about a man who, after being exposed to a mysterious fog while out at sea, begins to gradually shrink, before soon finding himself the size of a pea in his own house.
Many sci-fi/horror movies of the 1950s have a legacy that stands strong to this day, but from a modern perspective, it’s occasionally difficult to look past what are regularly very outdated special effects.
The Incredible Shrinking Man, however, is one of the few films of the era where the visual effects not only hold up, but are just as mind-blowing today as they must have been back in the ’50s.
This is the first time that I’ve watched a movie of this genre from the era and really wondered to myself: how did they do that? Though it seems simple at first, the way that the film portrays a fully-grown man amidst a world of giants in such a convincing way is really spectacular.
The main gist of the movie is pretty simple. After being exposed to some mysterious chemical, a man gradually begins shrinking, before finding himself in the enormous world that was once his own home.
What’s interesting about the film’s opening stages, however, is that it doesn’t jump into the Lilliputian adventure straight away. Instead, it’s an engaging and perplexing sci-fi tale which brings with it a wild press frenzy that turns the lives of the husband and wife going through this bizarre nightmare completely upside down.
That brings an engaging emotional note to proceedings, and for the first half hour, The Incredible Shrinking Man is much more than just another ’50s sci-fi movie, with some genuinely captivating drama to its story too.
The film then takes a dramatic shift once our main man, played by Grant Williams, has shrunken down to his smallest size. Turning into somewhat of an adventure movie, the film pits him against once harmless objects inside his house, as he tries to survive the hungry claws of his pet cat, and scale the seemingly insurmountable staircase from his basement.
Where the movie really impresses is in its use of not just special effects, but clever camerawork and editing. In fact, the most convincing moments in this film aren’t when the incredible shrinking man is spliced onto a larger background, but rather when it uses practical effects.
From the use of humongous props of normal household objects to a clever use of perspective and editing, you really do believe that this man has shrunk down to the size of a pea, and it looks just as convincing and effective today as I’m sure it did over half a century ago.
Where the film falls down, however, is in its story, which really runs out of steam about halfway through. Apart from a pair of spectacular action scenes in which the man does battle with two animals inside the house, The Incredible Shrinking Man is a very static movie, largely revolving around the man’s efforts to escape from his basement.
Again, there are moments when the movie is really entertaining, but the second half lacks the mystery and excitement of the opening half, and that makes the film an often frustrating watch, which is a real shame given its strength early on.
Overall, I liked The Incredible Shrinking Man, mainly because of its brilliant use of special effects, camerawork and editing that still holds up to this day. With a captivating opening act, the film has a good story too, although it runs out of steam in its second half. So, that’s why I’m giving the movie a 7.5.