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The Incredible Shrinking Man

Original film poster by Reynold Brown
Directed by Jack Arnold
Produced by Albert Zugsmith
Written by Novel:
Richard Matheson
Richard Matheson
Richard Alan Simmons (uncredited)
Starring Grant Williams
Randy Stuart
April Kent
Paul Langton
Billy Curtis
Music by Uncredited:
Irving Getz
Hans J. Salter
Herman Stein
Cinematography Ellis W. Carter
Editing by Albrecht Joseph
Distributed by Universal Studios
Release date(s) United States April 1, 1957
Running time 81 min.
Language English
Budget US$ 750,000
Followed by The Incredible Shrinking Man (Remake)

The Incredible Shrinking Man is a 1957 science fiction film directed by Jack Arnold and adapted for the screen by Richard Matheson from his novel The Shrinking Man (ISBN 0575074639).

In 2009, it was named to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant and will be preserved for all time.[1]



Scott Carey (Grant Williams), is a businessman who is on vacation on a boat, off the Californian coast, with his 5ft 8in wife Louise, when he suddenly is contaminated by a radioactive cloud and pesticide. At the time, Louise was below deck getting refreshments, so she wasn't affected.

He subsequently thinks little of the cloud, and doesn't appear to have been affected by it. At the time, Scott stood 6ft 1in tall and weighed 190 pounds.

However, one morning, six months later, Scott notices that his shirt seems too big. He blames it on the cleaners. However, this trend continues, and Scott 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 his wife, previously five inches shorter than he, in the eye.

Scott visits a prominent research laboratory, and after numerous tests, learns the mist carried radioactive pesticides, causing his cells to shrink.

Scott carries on shrinking and losing weight. His story hits the headlines, and he becomes a national curiosity. He also has to give up his job and stops driving. To make ends meet, he sells his story to the national press.

Eventually, Scott shrinks to standing three-feet-tall. By this point he feel humiliated, and expresses his shame and impotence by lashing out at his wife, who is now a giant in comparison. At a circus, he briefly becomes friends with a female dwarf, who is exactly the same height as him. She is appearing in a side-show and persuades Scott that life isn't all negative being their size. The relationship is platonic in the film, but romantic in the book.

Then, an antidote is found for Scott's affliction. It briefly stops Scott from shrinking. He is 36 and a half inches tall and weighs 52-pounds at this point. 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, but he seems relatively content to remain at three-feet tall, and begins to accept his fate.

However, when he later notices that he has become even shorter than the midget, Scott leaves her. He carries on shrinking, and eventually is reduced to living in a dollhouse. After nearly being killed by a 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, Scott accepts his fate and (now so small he can escape the basement by walking through a space in a window screen) looks forward to seeing what awaits him in even smaller realms.

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 tall and some teenage toughs, who persecute him, when he's three-feet-tall. He experiences some disturbing sexual tension in his dealings with his daughter's 16 year old babysitter, Catherine, when he is under two-feet-tall, barely reaching his daughters chest, and has to cope with a strained relationship with his wife. 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.


Scene from The Incredible Shrinking Man

The camera work and effects were considered remarkable and imaginative for their time.

The theme of size-changing was explored in several other movies of this period, including Jack Arnold's earlier Tarantula, in which a synthetic food causes several animals to grow to massive size, including the title animal, a spider that grows to alarming heights. Them! (1954), The Amazing Colossal Man (1957), Beginning of the End (1957), and Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958) explored the opposite idea of uncontrolled growth. Attack of the Puppet People was rushed into production by American International Pictures and director Bert I. Gordon in 1958. Other notable films of this genre include Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and Fantastic Voyage. The final permutation (female shrinkage) eventually appeared in 1981 with The Incredible Shrinking Woman, a credited comic remake in which Lily Tomlin played the wife of an advertising man; she shrinks as a result of exposure to household products. Currently there are plans for an Eddie Murphy comedy film titled The Incredible Shrinking Man.


  • "That's silly, honey. People just don't get smaller." (Louise reassuring her shrinking husband, Scott)
  • "See how funny I am? The child that looks like a man. Go on, laugh, Louise, be like everybody else, it's alright. Well, why can't you look at me? LOOK AT ME!" (Scott, three feet tall, slamming his tiny hands on top of a coffee table)
  • "The unbelievably small and the unbelievably vast eventually meet, like the closing of a gigantic circle." (Scott, to himself)
  • "And I felt my body dwindling, melting, becoming nothing. My fears locked away and in their place came acceptance. All this vast majesty of creation, it had to mean something. And then I meant something, too. Yes, smaller than the smallest, I meant something, too. To God there is no zero. I still exist." (Scott, to himself - last line in movie.)


The film was very well received by critics. It has a fresh 88% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Sequel and Remake

Matheson wrote a script for a sequel titled Fantastic Little Girl, but the film was never produced.[2] 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. However, there appears that a sequel is currently in production, and that the sequel is expected to be released in 2010.

Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment are currently slated to produce a remake starring Eddie Murphy. It is still very early on in pre-production and no formal release date has been announced. [3]


External links

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