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). The film stars Grant Williams and Randy Stuart. The opening credits musical theme is by an uncredited Irving Gertz, with a trumpet solo performed by Ray Anthony.
The film won the first Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation presented in 1958 by the World Science Fiction Convention. 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.
Scott Carey (Grant Williams) is a businessman who is on vacation with his wife Louise (Randy Stuart) on a boat off the California coast. When Louise goes below deck momentarily, a large, strange cloud on the horizon passes over the craft, leaving a reflective mist on Scott's bare skin. Louise is slightly alarmed when she comes above deck, and the two are puzzled by the phenomenon that disappears as quickly as it had it shown up.
However, one morning six months later, Scott, who is normally 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m) tall and 190 pounds, notices that his shirt and slacks seem too big and blames it on the laundry service. As this trend continues, he believes he is shrinking and sees his physician, Dr. Bramson (William Schallert) who reassures him that he is in perfect health and that "people just don't get shorter." Louise also dismisses his fears as silly, stating that he has simply been losing weight, but he continues to lose height as well as weight. Louise becomes concerned when Scott points out that she no longer needs to tiptoe to kiss him.
Several visits to the doctor over the course of a week results in x-ray proof that Scott is, beyond a doubt, getting smaller. His doctor refers him to the prominent laboratory, the California Medical Research Institute, and after nearly three weeks of numerous sophisticated tests, Scott and his team of new doctors learn that the mist to which he was exposed six months earlier while on the ocean was radioactive. This, combined with an accidental exposure to a large amount of common insecticide four months later, has set off a chain-reaction that has enabled a rearranging of Scott's molecular structure, causing his cells to shrink his body, forcing a proportionate diminution.
Scott continues to shrink proportionately in size. His story hits the headlines and he becomes a national curiosity. He can no longer drive a car, and has to give up his job working for his brother, Charlie (Paul Langton) who encourages him to make some money off his story by selling it to the national press. He begins keeping a journal, to be published as a record of his experience. As things continue, Scott feels humiliated and expresses his shame by lashing out at Louise, who is reduced to tears of despair because of their situation.
Then, it seems, an antidote is found for Scott's affliction: it arrests his shrinking when he is 36½ inches (93 cm) tall and weighs 52 pounds (24 kg). Despite halting his diminution, 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. Still, he tries to become content to remain a three-foot tall adult and accept this prognosis, but in a moment of extreme self-loathing he runs out of the house, his first time being outside since he sold his story.
At a neighborhood coffee shop, he meets and becomes friends with a female midget named Clarice (April Kent), who is proportionately his equal, with him being slightly taller. She is appearing in a carnival sideshow in town and persuades him that life isn't all negative being their size. Inspired, he begins to work on his book again. Two weeks later, during one of Scott's conversations with his new small friend, he suddenly notices he has become even shorter than her, meaning the antidote has stopped working. Exasperated, he runs back home, ending his brief friendship with Clarice.
After becoming small enough to fit inside a dollhouse, Scott becomes more tyrannical with Louise, simultaneously wanting courage to end what he calls his "wretched existence" and hoping that his doctors can save him. He is attacked by his own cat one day when Louise has quickly left on an errand, and winds up accidentally trapped in the basement of his home. Returning to find a bloody scrap of Scott's clothing, Louise tearfully assumes that her husband has met his end via the cat, and his undignified death is announced to the world.
Scott then goes through the odyssey of navigating his own basement, which for him at his current size is a cavernous, inhospitable world. Most of his time is spent battling a voracious spider, his own hunger, and the fear that he may eventually shrink down to nothing. When the water heater bursts, his brother, Charlie, and his wife, Louise, come down to investigate; by now, however, Scott is too small, Charlie and Louise cannot hear his screams for help. Scott ultimately kills the spider and collapses in exhaustion. Awakening, he finds he is now so small he can escape the basement by walking between the wires of a window screen. Scott accepts his fate and is resigned to the adventure of seeing what awaits him in even smaller realms. He knows he will eventually shrink to atomic size; but, no matter how small he becomes, he concludes he will still matter in the universe because, to God, "there is no zero." This thought gives him comfort and ends his fears of the future.
Grant Williams as Scott Carey
Randy Stuart as Louise Carey
April Kent as Clarice
Paul Langton as Charlie Carey
Raymond Bailey as Doctor Thomas Silver
William Schallert as Doctor Arthur Bramson
Frank J. Scannell as Barker (as Frank Scannell)
Helene Marshall as Nurse
Diana Darrin as Nurse
Billy Curtis as Midget
The film was very well received by critics. It has a fresh 88% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Sequel and remakes
Matheson wrote a film treatment for a sequel titled Fantastic Little Girl (alternately titled The Fantastic Shrinking Girl), but the film was never produced. The story, in which Louise Carey follows her husband into a microscopic world, and after finding him, begins to grow in size together with him, then returning to the basement of their original home to battle a rat in the finale, was later published in 2006 by Gauntlet Press in a collection titled Unrealized Dreams.
The Incredible Shrinking Woman, a credited comic remake released by Universal Pictures in 1981, features Lily Tomlin, as the wife of an advertising executive, and in a similar predicament as a result of exposure to an experimental perfume.
In 2010, Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment were talking of producing another comedy remake starring Eddie Murphy. The film rights later lapsed, and in February 2013, MGM announced a new adaptation of The Shrinking Man with Matheson co-scripting with his son, Richard Jr.
The Incredible Shrinking Man has been released on both Region 1 and Region 2 DVDs by Universal Studios.