It’s been a while since we watched a sci-fi movie with K, and so our viewing of The Incredible Shrinking Man was even sweeter the other night.
It’s a pretty innocuous film, from 1957, but there is something that stays with you afterwards in an unsettling, sort of creepy way. Now that I think about it, I think it may have simply aroused some very old memories of seeing a movie called Attack of the Puppet People when I was a kid. It made for fine Saturday afternoon television viewing, but I think I had bad dreams later that night. The idea of having a completely altered physical existence from the one you know and live everyday is pretty terrifying; imagine suddenly becoming tiny, gigantic, invisible, glowing green ...
In The Incredible Shrinking Man, a young, happily married man encounters a strange, radioactive cloud while out boating one day, and later notices some very strange things. He is, of course, shrinking.
The effects are surprisingly good. In the beginning, staging tricks make his wife appear larger, and his clothes are just a little more ill-fitting each day. Slowly, his physical frame appears child-like on oversized sofas and standing at windowsills he can barely reach. Soon he’s living in a dollhouse, and fearing the house cat, as well he should.
The artistry that went into the sets, and in creating objects many times their true size (scissors, straight pins, mouse traps, twine balls), was impressive. This “shrinking” film inspired others (such as Puppet People), but this is one of the best of the lot.
Without giving anything away, you need to know that it takes its time getting to the juicy stuff, but stay with it, as it’s well worth it. Our hero’s encounter with the spider (did they use a tarantula?!) is what you want to stick around for.
And my bad dreams, back in the day of Saturday afternoon horror movies on television? After reading up on Puppet People, I’m reminded that the disturbing thing about that movie was that the miniaturized people were kept in a state of suspended animation in bottles, like dolls under glass. What ten-year old wouldn’t be a little freaked out by that?