By Dennis Hartley
Always remember, never mix your drinks. And, as we learn from Jack Arnold’s 1957 sci-fi classic (one of three special archival presentations at this year’s SIFF), you should never mix radiation exposure with insecticide…because that will make you shrink, little by little, day by day. That’s what happens to Scott Carey (Grant Williams), much to the horror of his wife (Randy Stuart) and his stymied doctors.
Unique for its time in that it deals primarily with the emotional, rather than fantastical aspects of the hapless protagonist’s transformation. To be sure, the film has memorable set-pieces (particularly Scott’s chilling encounters with a spider and his own house cat), but there is more emphasis on how the dynamics of the couple’s relationship changes as Scott becomes more diminutive. The denouement presages the existential finale of The Quiet Earth.
In the fullness of time, some have gleaned sociopolitical subtext in Richard Matheson’s screenplay; or at least a subtle thumb in the eye of 1950s conformity. Matheson adapted from his novel. He also wrote the popular I Am Legend (adapted for the screen as The Last Man on Earth , The Omega Man and the eponymous 2007 film).