Friday, 20 January 2017

THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN











d. Jack Arnold (1957)

'Yes, smaller than the smallest, I meant something too'.

Despite it's sensational title, 'The Incredible Shrinking Man' is an astonishingly thoughtful, even profound film, especially at its conclusion, where our hapless hero, now less an inch high, stoicly accepts his fate and embraces the process of slowly melding into the Universe. 

It starts, like so many stories, with a normal person (blog fave Grant Williams, who is excellent) being made abnormal by exposure to radioactivity, in this case via a dirty cloud that sweeps over him while he's out yachting. Shortly afterwards, he notices that his clothes are becoming looser and, ominously, his wedding ring falls from his finger. Medical science are baffled and pretty useless as 'people just don't get shorter' (actually, they get shorter all the time, particularly as they get older. In fact, people get shorter over the course of a normal day, and are always tallest when they get out bed: fact).  

Within a few months, he's incredibly angry and living a wretched life barricaded in a dolls house under constant threat of dismemberment by his own pet cat. It's terribly sad, especially as the mysterious condition diminishes him in every way except mentally, leaving him all the time in the world to question himself as a husband, as a man, as a human being.

Eventually, he ends up lost in the basement, presumed dead by his family and locked into a life or death battle with a resident spider. He drinks water that drips from the boiler and lives on crumbs from a slab of stale cake. It's a hard, miserable existence, and there is a palpable sense of relief when he finally realises that his normal life is gone forever and that whatever his future brings will be at a sub-atomic level. So, he raises his eyes to the night sky and accepts he will go from microscopic to submicroscopic, from quark to proton, finally becoming an infinitesimally small, nameless particle known only to God, to whom 'there is no zero'. 

I'd like to have that sort of courage and spiritual depth, but I'm a bit of a 'fuck it' person, so I'd probably just impale myself on a needle or jump on a mouse trap. We all have our own way of shrinking away to nothing, I suppose.

Friday, 13 January 2017

THE BRAIN EATERS












d. Bruno VeSota (1958)

'A few weeks ago, Riverdale, Illinois was just another small, quiet town. But on that Saturday just after midnight, a living nightmare began'.

A 200 million year old race of hungry neon leeches land on on Earth with the idea that they are going to plug themselves in to the necks of human beings, operate them like mad puppets until they finish eating their brains, and then move on until the supply is extinguished. You can see what's in it for the leeches, but the Midwest natives are unconvinced, so eventually use science, a harpoon gun and several lives to zap the little bleeders into oblivion.

Not much happens, to be honest, but it's relatively well made and the alien's ship, a gleaming metallic cone of unknown material filled with a myriad of concentric tunnels, is interesting, as is the late appearance of the human manifestation of the malevolent hirundea, happily played by our old friend Leonard Nemoy (that's how it's spelled on the credits), wearing a silly Father Christmas beard to make him look older and wiser, his familiar features further obscured by odd lighting and a vaseline smeared lens. It's good to sort of see him.

Friday, 6 January 2017

THE ASTOUNDING SHE MONSTER











d. Ronald V. Ashcroft (1958)

A young, pouting woman with extraordinary eyebrows, dressed in a skin tight iridescent metal catsuit and shimmering with radiation, arrives from outer space on a mysterious mission. Finding herself in a secluded forest, she stalks towards the only occupied place for miles around, a cabin occupied by a geologist and his dog. On the way, she kills a fox, a snake, a black bear and the members of a criminal gang who have kidnapped an heiress. Her silvery fingers are deadly, and the merest touch from her means radium poisoning and instant destruction. It's a bad situation, especially as she seems unstoppable by conventional means, i.e. she is shot about thirty times and it makes no difference, but these are Americans, so they just keep on firing into her.

Eventually, the geologist is able to whip up a cocktail of acids that kill the murderous alien and dissolve her away, leaving behind nothing but a trail of animal and human corpses and a medallion that contains a message from the President of the United Federation of Planets (or something like that) saying hello to the Earth and asking if we need any help with anything. It seems the young woman was merely an galactic emissary on a good will mission, a revelation that makes no sense at all unless the President of the United Whatnot of Whatever is an idiot, as sending a kill crazy person dripping with death to the middle of nowhere with a message of interplanetary importance was always bound to end in abject and embarrassing failure.

Super cheap, majorly clunky, the film only really jerks into life when the shiny un-smiley alien psycho lady is on the prowl but that's okay, as she's on the prowl for fifty minutes of its sixty five minute running time.