Blu-ray Review: The Incredible Shrinking Man | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, December 7th, 2021  

The Incredible Shrinking Man

Studio: The Criterion Collection

Oct 25, 2021 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

“The unbelievably small and the unbelievably vast eventually meet, like the closing of a gigantic circle…”

On a boating vacation with his wife of six years, Scott Carey (Grant Williams) is exposed to an unusual mist that leaves a sparkling residue on his skin, but no other perceptible side effects. Months later, he notices his suit no longer fits as it should. In a few weeks, his height has reduced by almost two full inches. Concerned, he visits his doctor, who sends him for a volley of tests. These confirm what Scott knew all along: he’s shrinking, faster and faster. Doctors can only point to his exposure inside the radioactive cloud as they scramble to find a cure or reverse its effects.

This Cold War sci-fi classic has the same tone and metaphysical outlook as a Twilight Zone episode—which is unsurprising, as its writer (of both the screenplay and source novel), Richard Matheson, penned many of that show’s most beloved entries. Directed by Jack Arnold (Creature from the Black Lagoon) for Universal, The Incredible Shrinking Man is an impressive spectacle of practical special effects work. While not every gimmick will look real to all of us used to watching 21st century SFX tech, a lot of it holds up pretty darn well for a movie that’s almost 70 years old. His shrinking is handled through a variety of methods, including back projection, a rudimentary type of green screen, forced perspective, and a large number of oversized props.

While the first part of the movie is dedicated to Scott’s coming to terms with his predicament, the tensions it causes with his wife, and him becoming a media celebrity because of it, the second half is a long, tense struggle for survival in a normal American home, which becomes as hostile as any alien planet at his reduced size. Scott’s main adversaries become his former pet cat, and a tarantula (!) that lives in their basement. Shrunk to the scale of Thumbelina, Scott’s able to use a sewing needle as a sword—on the other hand, though, a piece of cake on a shelf may as well be on the top of a mountain.

Criterion’s Blu-ray edition of the film looks great, and is packed with extras. In perhaps the most interesting featurette, experts Craig Barron and Ben Burtt break down how the film pulled off its effects, going so far as to recreate some of them and unearthing rare behind-the-scenes stills that show cast and crew members goofing around on giant-sized chairs and next to humongous paint buckets. Fans Joe Dante and Dana Gould pay tribute to the movie, and Ballyhoo Motion Pictures speaks with Richard Christian Matheson about his father’s inspiration for the story. We also get an 8mm home video version, a selection of missing music, an Orson Welles-narrated teaser trailer, vintage interviews with Jack Arnold and Richard Matheson, a documentary about Arnold’s work at Universal, an audio commentary, and more. It’s one of the most packed discs we’ve seen in a long time, even by Criterion’s standards. This is an easy recommendation for any fan of Fifties science fiction.



Submit your comment

Name Required

Email Required, will not be published


Remember my personal information
Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

There are no comments for this entry yet.