The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)

“To God, there is no zero”

When Scott Carey gets exposed to a mysterious cloud he discovers he is shrinking at an alarming rate. With new dangers to consider as he gets smaller, will he shrink from existence and be lost forever or will he ultimately find himself and the meaning of his existence?

Director: Jack Arnold

Cast: 

  • Grant Williams as Scott Carey
  • Randy Stuart as Louise Carey
  • April Kent as Clarice
  • Paul Langton as Charlie Carey
  • Raymond Bailey as Dr. Thomas Silver

Released: 22nd February 1957

Running time: 81 minutes

Budget: $750,000

Box office: $1.43 million

Academy Awards: none

Thoughts:

I initially approached this as just a hokey low-budget film, created solely to show off the special effects and camera techniques used but it turns into a bit of an essay on existence and mankinds place in the world.

However small Scott gets, his world is the same – a need for clothing and food, the presence of larger threats, a fight for resources, and a thought that there may possibly be others who can join him in this ‘new world’ – a desire or need for company.

It ends with an implied continued shrinkage to sub-atomic and quantum levels (probably best as it’d be hard to adequately represent it visually even today) with a zoom out from Scott to the Universe as a whole. As he shrinks, Scott seemingly comes to realise the nature of existence. He recognises the apparent arrogance of the man-made constructs we live by – in order to comprehend and find purpose in life as we understand it. The smaller he gets the more he becomes ‘one with the Universe and everything’ and discovers that even the smallest thing matters and even a metaphorical ‘death’ is not the end.

Observations & Questions:

  • If the film was made nowadays, could the role of Clarice (a self-proclaimed ‘midget’) still be played by a regular-sized actress or would they have a little person/dwarf actress play the role? Unlike race (and in some cases, gender), it is currently still acceptable for able-bodied actors to play characters with physical, psychological, and mental health issues different from their own. The same can be said of sexualities. Is there a limit to this acceptability when there are actors available who do share these issues with the characters?

Quotes:

“I was continuing to shrink, to become … what? The infinitesimal? What was I? Still a human being? Or was I the man of the future? If there were other bursts of radiation, other clouds drifting across seas and continents, would other beings follow me into this vast new world? 

So close – the infinitesimal and the infinite. But suddenly, I knew they were really the two ends of the same concept. The unbelievably small and the unbelievably vast eventually meet – like the closing of a gigantic circle. I looked up, as if somehow I would grasp the heavens. The universe, worlds beyond number, God’s silver tapestry spread across the night. And in that moment, I knew the answer to the riddle of the infinite. 

I had thought in terms of man’s own limited dimension. I had presumed upon nature. That existence begins and ends in man’s conception, not nature’s. And I felt my body dwindling, melting, become nothing. My fears melted away. And in their place came acceptance. All this vast majesty of creation, it had to mean something, too. Yes, smaller than the smallest, I mean something, too. 

To God, there is no zero. 

I still exist!”

Watched: 20th August 2017