Grant Williams in The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)

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Richard Matheson’s The Shrinking Man

The Incredible Shrinking Man is based on the 1956 novel The Shrinking Man by Richard Matheson. Published as original Gold Medal paperback s577, The Shrinking Man had been written primarily in Matheson’s cellar at his rented house on Long Island, where he imagined the extraordinary dangers his diminutive character would encounter.

The movie rights to Matheson’s thriller were quickly snapped up by Universal International Pictures, with their resident sci-fi impresario, Jack Arnold, slated to direct. Richard Matheson and Richard Alan Simmons wrote the screenplay and Ellis W. Carter served as cinematographer.

Grant Williams, Randy Stuart Star in Science Fiction Movie Classic

Grant Williams (Scott Carey) and Randy Stuart (Louise Carey) head the fine cast. Other players include April Kent (Clarice), Paul Langton (Charlie Carey), Raymond Bailey (Dr. Thomas Silver), William Schallert (Dr. Arthur Bramson), Billy Curtis (Midget) and Orangey (Butch the Cat).

The Incredible Shrinking Man Special Effects

Budgeted at $750,000, The Incredible Shrinking Man was shot from May to July 1956. Prior to filming, the special effects wizards labored for 8 months, creating the miniaturized world of Scott Carey. Special props were created, including a 12-foot sewing needle, a 20-foot mousetrap, a chair 25 times its normal size, various oversized cans, a large ball of thread and a huge Fire Chief matchbox.

Also constructed was the all-important basement set – encompassing an incredible 9 sound stages – which served as the alien, hostile environment in which Scott Carey struggles to survive. Shrouded in partial secrecy, the basement set required special passes for all who ventured onto its fantastic premises.

The Incredible Shrinking Man Movie Review

Filmed in black and white, The Incredible Shrinking Man opens with the Grant Williams narration: “The strange, almost unbelievable story, of Robert Scott Carey, began on a very ordinary summer day. I know this story, better than anyone, because I am Robert Scott Carey.”

And what a story it is, with Grant Williams playing a man who is enveloped by a strange mist while boating at sea. The radioactive mist – in deadly combination with ordinary exposure to lawn insecticide – sets in motion a bizarre biological process in which Williams is transformed into “the incredible shrinking man.”

The Incredible Shrinking Man is 1950s science fiction at its best. The movie’s premise is both fun and frightening, with the viewer watching intently as the unfortunate Scott Carey is subjected to the horrors of his new miniaturized world. The family cat becomes his worst nightmare, slipping back into the house where he stalks his former owner, ripping his clothes to shreds. Now presumed dead by his wife and brother, Scott Carey struggles to survive in the basement, where everyday things become his mortal enemy – a burst water heater, a rigged mousetrap, a marauding spider…

Jack Arnold (It Came from Outer Space, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Tarantula) directs with flair. Grant Williams is superb as “the little guy,” with Randy Stuart and April Kent delivering fine performances as the women in his rapidly deteriorating life. An added bonus is Ray Anthony’s haunting, jazzy trumpet solo heard at the beginning of the film.

The Incredible Shrinking Man Release, Box Office, Reviews,  DVD

  • The Incredible Shrinking Man made its debut at New York City’s Globe Theater on February 22, 1957.
  • The movie grossed $4 million during its original release.
  • “Director Jack Arnold works up the chills for maximum effect…The technical staff has done an outstanding job of the trick stuff. Optical effects by Roswell A. Hoffman and Everett H. Broussard make the shrinking visually effective,” reported Variety.
  • The Incredible Shrinking Man DVD (Universal, 2006).
  • A remake of The Incredible Shrinking Man is now in development.

“To God, there is no zero. I still exist!” a defiant, sub-atomic Scott Carey declares at the end.



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