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The Incredible Shrinking Man
Director: Jack Arnold (Dir)
Release Date:   Apr 1957
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 22 Feb 1957; Los Angeles opening: 27 Mar 1957
Production Date:   20 May--mid-Jul 1956
Duration (in mins):   81
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Cast:   Grant Williams ([Robert] Scott Carey)  
    Randy Stuart (Louise Carey)  
    April Kent (Clarice [Bruce])  
    Paul Langton (Charlie Carey)  
    Raymond Bailey (Doctor Thomas Silver)  
    William Schallert (Doctor Arthur Bramson)  
    Frank Scannell (Barker)  
    Helene Marshall (Nurse)  
    Diana Darain (Nurse)  
    Billy Curtis (Midget)  
    John Hiestand (TV commentator)  
    Lockhart Martin (Giant)  
    Luz Potter (Midget)  
    Tamara, a spider    
    Joe La Barba    
    Reg Parton    

Summary: Robert Scott Carey is enjoying a boating vacation with his wife Louise when a strange mist suddenly engulfs him, covering him with a sparkling powder. Six months later, Scott notices that his clothes are too big, and visits Dr. Arthur Bramson to figure out why he has shrunk two inches. Although Bramson is quick to allay Scott’s fears, he cannot explain why Scott continues to shrink over the next few weeks, and sends him to the California Medical Research Institute for extensive tests. Finally, one analysis reveals the presence of an unusual chemical in Scott’s body that has rearranged his cell’s molecular structure, causing him to shrink in perfect proportion. Dr. Thomas Silver, a scientist at the institute, deduces that the problem was caused by a combination of exposure to insecticide and radioactivity, prompting Scott to realize that the mist that enveloped him on the boat must have been atomic. Outside, a despairing Scott assures Louise that he does not expect her to stay with him, and although she declares that as long as he wears his wedding ring, she will be his wife, the ring slips off his shrinking finger soon after. Within weeks, Scott has shrunk to a height of three feet, and his only hope for earning money lies in selling his story to the media. Word of his malady spreads throughout the world, and soon reporters and curious onlookers surround Scott’s home. Mobs crowd the front door and tie up the phone line, causing Scott to grow angry and bitter and Louise to cry with helplessness. One day, Scott is writing about his frustration in his journal when Dr. Silver calls to inform him that an anti-toxin has been developed. The serum succeeds in halting Scott’s attenuation, but it cannot help him return to his normal height. Filled with shame and sadness, he wanders into a carnival where midgets are being paraded as freaks, and stops for a drink at a café. There, he is joined by midget Clarice Bruce, who assures Scott that little people can lead full lives. Their encounter encourages Scott, who begins work on his autobiography. One day, however, he notices that he is suddenly shorter than Clarice, and realizing that he has begun shrinking again, runs home in horror. Weeks later, he is only inches high, and must live in a dollhouse. Scott’s fears cause him to treat Louise tyrannically, and one day when she goes out, she is so rattled that she accidentally allows the cat to creep into the house. The cat pursues Scott as if he is a mouse, slashing him with a claw and forcing him to run behind the basement door. Although Scott tries to shut the door against the beast, the cat pushes the door open, hurtling him into a sewing basket at the foot of the stairs. When Louise returns, she sees the cat, finds Scott's bloody shirt and, anguished, assumes Scott is dead. Meanwhile, he regains consciousness and stacks thimbles, creating a ladder to climb out of the box. Realizing that the stairs are too mountainous to scale and that he must find a way to survive until Louise comes for him, Scott drinks from a dripping pipe, creates a bed in an empty matchbox, and searches for food. At one point, Scott finds cheese in a mousetrap, but when he springs the trap, the cheese catapults through the floor grate. Scott’s hunger speeds the shrinking process, and now the size of a spool of thread, he spots a piece of bread on what seems like an impossibly high ledge. Using thread and a bent needle as a grappling hook, he scrambles up to the ledge, nearly falling into a paint box along the way. Scott is elated at his success, and even after a mesh window to the outdoors reminds him that he is trapped in a prison of sorts, he vows to dominate his environment. As soon as he brings pieces of bread back to his matchbox, however, a massive spider pursues him, and he realizes that he is now prey. Upstairs, Scott's brother Charlie has convinced Louise to leave the house and put her anguish behind her, but just before they depart, the basement floods. Scott clings to a nail on a stair, but is so little that Charlie and Louise cannot hear him as he shouts for them, even when they are standing directly above him, unclogging the drain. Scott grabs onto a pencil that prevents him from being swirled down the drain, but is powerless to stop Louise from leaving the house. Slightly crazed, he determines to kill his main foe, the spider, and to that end climbs back onto the ledge. Armed with a needle, he attracts its attention, and as the spider moves to devour him, Scott stabs it to death. Now shrinking almost to nothingness, Scott climbs through the grate to the outdoors and stands in the yard contemplating the sky, no longer sure if he is human. Suddenly, he is struck with an understanding of the universe and his place in it, and as he melts away into infinity, his fears likewise dissolve with the realization that no matter how small he is, he will always exist. 

Production Company: Universal-International Pictures Co., Inc.  
Distribution Company: Universal Pictures Co., Inc.  
Director: Jack Arnold (Dir)
  William Holland (Asst dir)
  Wilbur Mosier (Asst dir)
Producer: Albert Zugsmith (Prod)
Writer: Richard Matheson (Scr)
Photography: Ellis W. Carter (Dir of photog)
  William Dodds (Cam op)
  Robert Pierce (Asst cam)
  William Walling (Stills)
  Stanley Gulliver (Key grip)
  Jim Hilbert (Co-grip)
  Everett Lehman (Best boy)
  Tom Ouellette (Gaffer)
Art Direction: Alexander Golitzen (Art dir)
  Robert Clatworthy (Art dir)
Film Editor: Al Joseph (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Russell A. Gausman (Set dec)
  Ruby R. Levitt (Set dec)
  Ed Keyes (Prop master)
  Roy Neel (Asst prop master)
  Whitey McMahon (Prop maker)
Costumes: Jay A. Morley Jr. (Gowns)
  Rydo Loshak (Ward man)
  Martha Bunch (Ward woman)
Music: Joseph Gershenson (Mus supv)
  Ray Anthony (Trumpet soloist)
Sound: Leslie I. Carey (Sd)
  Robert Pritchard (Sd)
  George Ohanian (Sd ed)
  Bob Hirsch (Sd ed)
  Donald Cunliffe (Rec)
  Roger Parish (Mike man)
  Henry Janssen (Cable man)
Special Effects: Clifford Stine (Spec photog)
  Roswell A. Hoffman (Opt eff)
  Everett H. Broussard (Opt eff)
  Charles Baker (Spec eff)
Make Up: Joan St. Oegger (Hairstylist)
  Virginia Jones (Hairdresser)
  Bud Westmore (Makeup)
  Jack Kevan (Makeup)
Production Misc: Lew Leary (Unit mgr)
  Dorothy Hughes (Scr supv)
  Ray Gockel (Coordinator)
Country: United States
Language: English

Music:
Songs:
Source Text: Based on the novel The Shrinking Man by Richard Matheson (Boston, 1956).
Authors: Richard Matheson

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Universal Pictures Co., Inc. 21/1/1957 dd/mm/yyyy LP7706

PCA NO: 18249
Physical Properties: Sd: Westrex Recording System
  b&w:

 
Genre: Science fiction
  Horror
Sub-Genre: Domestic
 
 
Subjects (Major): Atomic power
  Dwarfs
  Fear
  Medicine--Research
  Radioactive substances
  Wives
 
Subjects (Minor): Autobiography
  Brothers
  Carnivals
  Cats
  Cellars
  Combat
  Dollhouses
  Falls from heights
  Floods
  Food
  Grief
  Missing persons, Assumed dead
  Mobs
  Physicians
  Reporters
  Rings
  Spiders
  Stabbings
  X-rays

Note: The film ends with a lengthy voice-over narration in which Grant Williams, as his character, "Robert Scott Carey," discusses his acceptance of life as having no finite end, and his hope that perhaps other beings will follow him into his new, microcosmic world. According to a Mar 1956 LAT article, Dan O’Herlihy was considered to play the role of Scott. Studio press materials note that "Tamara," the spider used in the film, was one of the only tarantulas ever trained, and was also seen as the title character in the 1955 Universal film Tarantula (see below). According to a May 1956 HR item, portions of the film were shot on location in Lake Arrowhead, CA.
       The following production information was reported in studio press materials: Universal's technicians worked for eight months prior to filming to develop a "revolutionary film process" for photographing the picture's special effects, and the production was put on hold twice during that time. During the seven weeks of pre-production shooting and another twelve weeks of special photography, the set remained closed to anyone not directly connected to the production, and all cast and crew members were required to carry special passes to gain access. Some of the scenes in which Scott is only inches high were shot without special photography, by using giant props, such as the twelve-foot-long sewing pin that Scott uses to kill the spider. Although press materials note that a sequel was considered, in which Scott would shrink further, eventually exploring the "sub-microscopic" world, that film was never made. Modern sources add the following names to the crew cerdits: Scr Richard Alan Simmons and Spec eff Fred Knoth, Tom McCrory and Jack Tait.
       Despite some poor reviews at the time of its release, The Incredible Shrinking Man is often referred to by modern critics as one of the best science-fiction films ever made. Many scholars see in it both an allegory for fears of the atomic age, and an expression of 1950s males' concerns over female empowerment. Universal made a comedic version of this film in 1981, entitled The Incredible Shrinking Woman , directed by Joel Schumacher and starring Lily Tomlin and Charles Grodin. In 2003, Universal announced a remake of the film, to be directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans and star Eddie Murphy. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   9 Feb 1957.   
Daily Variety   1 Feb 57   p. 3.
Film Daily   1 Feb 57   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   8 May 1956   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Jul 1956   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Nov 1956   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Feb 57   p. 3.
Los Angeles Times   29 Mar 1956.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   2 Feb 57   pp. 249-50.
New York Times   23 Feb 57   p. 13.
Variety   6 Feb 57   p. 6.
Village Voice   30 May 1997.   

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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