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30 September 2014 @ 03:48 pm
Movie Review: The Incredible Shrinking Man, part ii of ii  
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Scene 32: Meanwhile, Scott isn’t dead but he’s in a load of pain. He’s fallen into a scrap box of Louise’s for her dress making and finds himself surrounded on all sides by the wooden crate.

He’s able to escape relatively easily via a crack in the wooden crate, but his problems are only just starting. Although he voiceovers that he knew he needed to get back to his wife to survive, he’s a long, long way from the top of the basement stairs and he’s without food or water.

Seeing the daunting task of scaling the stairs, Scott yells out for Louise, but of course at his height of only inches - nobody is going to hear that. He quickly realizes that his only hope is to remain alive until Louise manages to come down to the basement. Water turns out to be the easiest need to meet, thanks to a drippy water heater and although the drops are nearly big enough to knock him over, it provides. His next find in his new environment, is shelter - rather than trying to climb back up into the scrap box - and this is taken care of by an empty match box dropped on the floor [hi product placement!].

Scott’s next bother is his too loosely and long fitting clothes, which he starts to trim down into shorts with the pointy end of a discarded nail [which struck me as ill-advised, considering he’s in a dank, cool basement -- I was focused on his wrapping some rags around his feet to keep them warm rather than trying to wear less].


Commentary: I really like that it is obvious that Richard put in a lot of thought to each step of Scott Carey’s new size and what his new challenges would be. The film doesn’t skimp on just how hard it would be trying to survive as only a few inches tall in a world fit for people-sized existence and it’s neat to watch as each size reduction is met with Scott’s ingenuity and will to survive until such time as his condition can be reversed.

Other than the lack of direct Louise/Scott interaction as the film proceeds to focus more and more on him, everything proceeds logically and with the effects of putting Grant with oversized props that were created with care, it’s remarkably well put together.



Scene 33: Upstairs, Louise and Charlie are talking about how to proceed. He insists that Louise should come to live with his family for awhile and sell of her home. But Louise is paralyzed with fear that Scott is alive somewhere in their house, hurt and lost rather than dead.

Charlie points out they’d searched the entire floor in every nook and he believes his brother was killed; It’s something they need to accept. She does… mostly… but she’s hung up on the fact that it must’ve been a horrible death and she wasn’t there when he needed her.


Commentary: Poor Louise… I can’t imagine how she’ll actually move on from this. And not only because she was the one who didn’t make sure the cat stayed out of the house, but because you’d have to think she’ll be hounded for her story until the day she dies so how can she put it behind her? All the sympathy to Louise.


Scene 34: [Except for the sympathy to Scott, because he’s really in Sucksville.]

In the basement, Scott Carey wanders the basement looking for tools he can use to live. He continues to voiceover that he wouldn’t allow himself to doubt that Louise would come to the basement eventually and he’d get her attention.

In the meantime, Scott’s biggest concern is his gnawing hunger and the lack of anything food-related. Worse, is that without nourishment, the shrinking effect seems to be accelerating.

Scott notices a mousetrap with a bit of cheese laid out on the floor. At first, he risks setting the trap in order to grab hands-full of cheese before he realizes that another nail is lying close enough to spring the trap without risking his life.

But the cosmos isn’t done fucking with him: As the trap springs, the bit of cheese flips through the air and manages to fall down the basement drain grate, putting the food beyond his reach. But, he still has some hope -- the last time we saw Louise down here working on her dress, she was nibbling at cake. That cake, growing stale, is still on the work bench where she left it… although, I’m concerned about the web nearby -- is it spider, or just cob?


Scene 35: Carey makes his way over to the bench, but he still has the problem of how to reach such a height. There is a box with slats for sides, but it’ll take a lot of strength and energy to climb, and he doesn’t have any climbing apparatus.

As Scott is pondering this, a soft knocking is heard against the slat he’s standing near. Moments later, a tarantula comes crawling out of the woodwork!

The arachnid doesn’t notice him, so Scott is able to tuck himself away. He finds a small box holding some threat and needles in a pin cushion that Louise had left where she’d used it on the hem of the dress she was designing. It doesn’t take him long to realize that at his size, the sewing thread is as good as rope. And a needle makes a good sword. But, he needs a climbing hook and when he attempt to bend another sewing pin to the purpose, he finds his strength insufficient.

This is solved by his finding that the cement walls of the basement are pockmarked with small holes, large enough for the tip of a pin allowing him to push with his weight and bend it into a more hook-shaped design.

He quickly shapes his climbing gear for his quest for the stale cake. He’s faced again with a hurdle when it comes to actually cutting his ‘rope’ from the spool but uses a discarded match to burn through it.


Commentary: What I like about this extensive scene is that we don’t get any of Scott’s voiceover thoughts, which is what I was expecting. The scene speaks for itself, so adding his nattering on would’ve gotten annoying and I’m glad that they left it as is with us just watching.

What I do wish, is that they’d lightened up on the music as well. I’d have rather gotten Scott’s isolation underscored by only the ambient noise of his actions as he proceeded in his struggle.

It also feels like these scenes are stretched to fill time as we get what he’s doing. We don’t really need to see every single moment of his preparation, despite the good prop work going on.

Really, the movie is 81 minutes [according to IMDB] and I think it could’ve actually gotten away with being only 70 as is; what they really needed more of was the Louise/Scott hope/despair-love/hate scenes as they both tried to maintain a marriage that is more and more impossible for either of them. With those scenes, they surely would’ve had a full 90 minute film.



Scene 36: He’s finally ready to begin the long climb and successfully makes it up onto the first slat with his improvised climbing gear. He gets some success with the second as well.


Scene 37: A small time-skip ahead, and Scott has made it to the top of the slat ladder for the box alongside the workbench. He voiceovers for us that he was left faint and weak by the exertions as well as having sore hands from the string-rope. But he knew he couldn’t stop because the actual cake was still a climb ahead.

At the top of the box though, he’s left to face the gulf between the two box sides as the other two sides where he’d just be able to walk are blocked by discarded paint cans that were haphazardly set down and never gotten rid of.

There is a paint stick that could be used as a bridge, but he finds that it’s stuck to the box with dried paint. Rather than try to chip the paint loose and then push the stick, he chooses to walk out over the gulf and then try to make the leap. Alas for him, the stick shifts under his weight and threatens to topple itself with him into the box far below.

He’s barely able to make the successful leap, though he’s left dangling by his weakening grip. With significant effort, he’s able to pull himself up and gather himself. He’s not in the clear yet, though. He’s left with another long climb to the workbench via some twine that had been left hanging from its spool.


Scene 38: Finally, he makes it! As he eats his bit of stale food, he notes the basement window leading to fresh air outdoors. He climbs some dirt piles and makes it to the screened window where he watches a bird light on the lawn and chirp.

At first he’s about to feed it, but then he throws down his bit of cake in despair and shakes on the screen -- feeling suddenly that he was in a prison with no hope for release. He vows to dominate his new world of shadows and colorless surroundings… a mighty king in a tiny kingdom.

As he returns to the cake and tosses bits of it to the floor below for gathering, he brushes the webbing. He looks around in a panic, but no spider presents itself.


Scene 39: As Scott returns to the basement floor and hauls his crumbs toward his matchbox shelter, the tarantula makes its return… and spots him!

He’s forced to drop everything to dash to the box, but the spider follows and crawls all over it seeking an entrance to get to him. The tarantula threatens to tip the box home over, but it is a spider after all and it quickly gets bored and wanders away before it does so.


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Scott realizes though, that he had a mortal enemy in his new kingdom.


Commentary: I really have a problem with the continued lack of strong emotion in Scott’s voiceovers as acted by Grant Williams. His frustration and exhaustion is evident on his face, but his voiceover work remains mostly flat which really hurts us getting into his head with him. I’d rather that they’d scrapped nearly all of the voiceover and just let us be with the character and drawing our own conclusions over his mental state.

In fact, it’d be better for us because Scott sounds far too coherent and together for his worsening circumstances. It’d be better for the film if he’d been less logical, less emotionally stable [as hinted at when he was standing at the window screen, trapped within the basement] and much more angry and desperate. The voiceovers could’ve worked well enough if they’d reflected this emotional turmoil of a man starting to unravel at his fate but instead, it just sounds like recitation.

And although we can see that Scott’s major confrontation will be with the tarantula in the basement, setting it up for later wasn’t really necessary. We know where it’s going, and the time used to set up that the fight is coming could’ve been used earlier in the film for the emotional punches between Louise and Scott that I keep mentioning was needed. Even some bitter shouting from Scott toward Charlie for “abandoning” him when he needed the income from their company most would’ve been a good use of time.

It’s also more than a bit odd for Scott to spend the amount of time the film did with Clarice, only for her to utterly vanish just as quickly. Some sort of scene between Louise and this “other woman” would’ve been nice.



Scene 40: Upstairs, Charlie is carrying suitcases down from the second floor. In the dining room, Louise mentions a case that she’d like to take with her in the basement.


Scene 41: In said basement, the drippy water heater has created a small stream to the basement drain. And because the cosmos is AWFUL, the leak has also grown - leaving Scott’s dubious matchbox shelter in even worse condition as it gets steadily dripped on. He’s lying in exhausted sleep, as the box seeps with water.

As Scott is checking out the damages, the drip turns into a complete leak and he’s swamped by a flood of water and carried off across the basement floor.


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Scene 42: Meanwhile, Louise and Charlie are at the top of the stairs, where they see that the basement floor has flooded by the defective water tank. As Charlie climbs down the stairs to turn off the water to the tank, we see that Scott had been carried to the staircase where he struggles to stay put with help of a nail. He calls for help to Louise, but his voice is just too tiny.

With the water shut off, Scott starts wading out toward his brother while Louise tells Charlie that the basement drain must’ve gotten clogged. Scott grabs onto a floating pencil, his desperate shouts not being heard by his wife or brother.

Charlie clears the drain, only for Scott on his pencil to both be drawn toward its whirlpool but to also drift toward Charlie’s potentially lethal shoe heel. Scott just misses being stepped on.

Meanwhile, the trunk that Louise wanted is now soaked, so she tells him that she’ll gather it later. Charlie grabs it anyway, telling Louise that he wants her to leave the house that night and not come back to where her life has turned upside down.

Poor Scott is left unnoticed in the draining flood of the basement, clinging to his pencil.


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Scene 43: As Scott is unconscious and hanging over the basement drain, Louise gets into Charlie’s car. They leave, though Louise still obviously has mixed feelings about abandoning her and Scott’s house.


Commentary: This film is SO depressing! It continues to just dump on poor Scott throughout the whole film, and setting up hope spots for him that it will not pay off. Although I do really enjoy watching the film, it’s about here that I start questioning why… this poor man cannot catch a break and the very universe itself seems to be out to get him.


Scene 44: In the basement, Scott comes to. He’s exhausted, he’s cold, he’s hungry, he’s shelter less and now he’s lost even the hope that he can be discovered and rescued. And, of course, the tarantella is still wandering around the basement looking for food.

Scott makes a dash for his ruined matchbox shelter and comes out with his hook and line and with his pin-sword. He voiceovers that he refused to die as an insect in the jaws of the ‘spider-monster’. With the weaponry in his hand, he felt like a man.

Suffering hunger again, he decides that he and the spider had to have their delayed fight for survival. And though he offers that he no longer hated the spider, he’d come to the decision to be the one to survive.


Commentary: And this is what more of the voiceovers needed -- though still a bit more poetic than necessary, at least Grant is providing some emotional resonance in his talking about the decision to fight and conquer for that last scrap of stale cake.


Scene 45: So Scott retraces his climb onto the crate where he’s left with the open box top and no paint stick to use as a leaping point. This time he uses the hook to snag a paint can on the edge and then to walk around the bottom edge of the can until he can step onto the other side of the crate.

Scene 46: Another time skip takes us to his climbing up onto the bench by the hanging twine.

As Scott readies himself for battle, he notices a pair of Louise’s sewing scissors. He’s far too small to employ them as a weapon, of course. But he comes up with a plan -- he’ll impale the spider on his hook-line with the other end tied around the scissors. Then, he’ll push those off the ledge of the workbench and drag the spider down to its doom.

[But annoyingly he tells us all of this in voiceover instead of letting us realize the plan ourselves as he carries it out.]


Commentary: I want to mention here how much I really liked the setting up of the constant Chekov’s Guns throughout the picture. Everything that we see Scott come into contact with in his ever smaller condition has been set up by a scene beforehand much earlier in the film to give it context for being there where he can use it later. The film was very obviously set up with care and attention to detail so that nothing Scott grabs just suddenly appears from behind the black and I admire the effort that was put into it.

Now, I do wonder just what the tarantula thinks it’s doing climbing into that web. I’m going to wank that it’s already killed the resident spider and is looking to see if maybe there is another one to eat because… well… tarantulas DO NOT BELONG IN WEBS.



Scene 47: Scott shakes on the webbing to draw the spider’s attention. It takes several tries to get it to move down toward him [no doubt because the tarantula has no idea what the hell the shaking of the web means since they DO NOT BELONG IN WEBS].

The spider rushes toward Scott, who is successful in snagging him with the hook-line. At first it appears that Scott underestimated just how heavy the scissors were since he has trouble pushing them over the edge of the bench and nearly gets himself eaten. Worse for him though, is that the universe has already decided that he’s it’s bitch, so the string gets caught on the rough edge of the bench and fails to send the scissors toward the floor, while his nemesis closes in for the kill!

As Scott races away, the spider follows. The string looks like it’s just about to come loose, when it goes and breaks instead! DAMN IT!

Scott runs for the window screen, but slips on the dirt mound as the tarantula continues its march on him. He realizes he can’t outrun it and will have to go pin-sword to fangs with the creature. It’s a close thing, especially when he trips and loses the pin but he’s able to recover while the spider stands over him and spear the thing from underneath.


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Scene 48: Filled with an exhausted elation, Scott claims his prize of a crumb of stale cake. He tells us in voiceover that holding the bit of food, he realized he wasn’t hungry anymore… nor afraid of his fate.

Scott stares up at the screen window again, and passes out.


Scene 49: Hours later, after nightfall, he sees the moonlight. Looking down at the rags he’d dressed in, he realizes that his shrinking is continuing unabated. Scott goes on a philosophical thought stream about his existence, his place in the cosmos and whether he’d be the vanguard of a new existence as he shrunk down to the infinitesimal. He finds he’s small enough now to climb through the screen holding him in the basement and reach the outdoors.

As Scott feels himself shrinking away, he’s at peace thinking of the connections between the infinitesimal and the grandness of God’s creation above. He voiceovers that to God, there is no zero and insists that he still exists, no matter how small he ultimately becomes….


Commentary: Obviously, this is supposed to be uplifting at the end or at least some sort of bittersweet moment of Scott reclaiming his dominion over himself and his existence… yeah… whatever… I still just find it sad and unfair. But I’m glad that they didn’t have him cured and returned to the status quo. It was a good ending for his story… if it ended at all….



The Good: Grant Williams handles his role very well, especially in those times when he's trapped in the basement [although a caveat in the bad applies, alas].

I also liked Grant and Randy opposite one another at the start of the picture, when they're both very charming together.

I love the sense of claustrophobia as Scott's world gets smaller along with his stature.

The practical effects for the shrinking was very well done, especially with the oversize props. We see many of these as real objects in regular size, before we then later get the giant prop and the amount of detail in the oversize thing compared with the real item is remarkable. They really put in the effort for the film. Great work.

I love the work that was put into this script to keep Scott constantly dealing with new challenges and setbacks as his size continues to decrease.

I like the ending, even though I find it bleak and depressing [apparently more than Scott himself does].


The Bad: Grant's voiceovers of Scott's internal thoughts are delivered in a flat cadence that often undercuts the drama of Scott's worsening situation.

Some of the backprojection work, considering the timeframe, of course isn't well realized including some points where Scott becomes transparent.


Other Thoughts: I really wish that we'd gotten more of a sense of the emotional toll that Louise paid during all of this, especially when Scott gets more and more controlling over her and lashes out at her. We don't get nearly enough of scenes depicting the strain and heartache in their marriage over all of this.

Speaking of which, I really wanted a scene where Louise meets Clarice and wonders about her relationship with her husband and I find it odd that after Scott runs away from Clarice due to his realizing he's shrinking again, we never see Clarice again.

The handling of the circus people is really uncomfortable.

There is another hanging thread in Scott's manuscript -- nothing ever comes of it, and it would've been nice to have a scene where Charlie is shopping it out for the money that Louise needs to take care of the household.

Starting with Scott in the basement, the film does seem to deliberately stack the deck against him. It's not bad, obviously, but it is exhausting to see this character not get any slack whatsoever in the script. It's really starts getting oppressive.

Since I praised the script, let me throw in a caveat: As mentioned in commentary there is a small issue of things starting to feel stretched for film length which would've been time better spent on character interactions between Scott and his wife and brother, instead. The film is unbalanced in preference for the set pieces.


The Score: I really love this film, despite some caveats in the script's time usage and some really dull voiceover work by Grant. This should be considered one of the better 1950's Sci-Fi Flicks by anybody and earns a...

4.0 out of 5 stars



[I've decided on the next review: The Walking Dead's webisode "Torn Apart" ... a.k.a. The Story of Bicycle Zombie.]


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Bob NelsonBob Nelson on August 31st, 2018 08:39 pm (UTC)
Not bad for its time...
Very good point in saying that it would have been interesting to have Clarice and Louise meet...

The book is written in third person but the film chooses first person and yes given his flat narration that gets to be a bit much. Of course as he gets smaller his voice would get much more high and faint but it doesn't. The recent "Downsizing" makes this mistake too. He also supposedly would be pretty much blind, deaf, and cold...Yet so small that he could fall down a huge distance and not be hurt.

By the last scene, Scott is at the flyscreen and so small he can pass through. A flyscreen's squares are about a sixteenth of an inch across and he was about three times that big.
The book describes such things as Scott meeting the cat when he's maybe five sevenths of an inch tall (more like 3 inches in the movie) and it describes a water heater repairman and how huge he would seem. The description is like: "far up...he could see its face, nose a precipitous slope he could ski on, ears and nostrils like caves he could explore; eye pupils the height of him; teeth he could slide an arm between". Louise is also described in a similar manner.
harsens_rob: Freighter Watchharsens_rob on October 19th, 2018 05:27 pm (UTC)
Re: Not bad for its time...
Thank you Bob, for taking the time to respond to the review!

I really appreciate your tidbits about the changes between book and movie.