While Godzilla and giant ants punished the world for atomic crimes, one man’s encounter with a radioactive cloud gives him a new perspective on life after the bomb. It begins one day for Scott Carey when he is on a boat with his wife and a cloud passes through, depositing a glittery substance on his skin. He is unable to remove it immediately, but thinks nothing of it.
Some days after getting home, Scott Carey begins to shrink. The first blow to Carey arrives when he becomes shorter than his wife. He is soon befriended by a carnival “midget” only to find that he has become even smaller than her. Living in a small house within his own home, he is removed from the rest of the world when a cat knocks him into the basement, convincing everyone that he has perished. It’s in the basement where the transformation of Scott Carey moves from the physical to the metaphysical as he fights for survival in a world foreign to the modern man.
The effects are surprisingly good for a film from 1957 and largely rely on the kind of perspective tricks they used to make “Little” Mary Pickford even littler–like over-sized versions of everyday objects. This is no monster movie exploited for thrills and suspense nor does it have a traditional happy ending. Instead, Carey transcends the struggle for survival to find peace in his and our new world when he says:
“I had thought in terms of man’s own limited dimension. I had presumed upon nature. That existence begins and ends is man’s conception, not nature’s. And I felt my body dwindling, melting, becoming nothing. My fears melted away. And in their place came acceptance. All this vast majesty of creation, it had to mean something. And then I meant something, too. Yes, smaller than the smallest, I meant something, too. To God, there is no zero. I still exist!”
The film can feel a little cheesy at times, but no more so than Kevin McCarthy desperately trying to warn of body snatchers on the highway or Michael Rennie’s ultimatum for humankind. I recommend it.