Monday, August 17, 2009

Universal Monsters Monday V







I know I skipped last week, but I hadn't finished my homework assignment. As I did with UMM IV, I'm skipping a bit, this time to the last set in the run, which is somewhat inexplicably THE SHRINKING MAN, which came out in 1959 or 1960, depending on the source. It is also the set with the least amount of cards that I own, not even the title card, and what I'm showing you is about half of what I have in the way of cards. But I have more in the way of story, as the film was based on Richard Matheson's THE [INCREDIBLE] SHRINKING MAN, his second novel after I AM LEGEND. The film is true to the book, much more than any of the three treatments given IAL, but for one key point. As seen in the first card, Scot Carey was on a fishing boat out near Catalina Island when he is engulfed in this white cloud. Even as a kid watching the film, I was like, but no one else was affected. Even his wife was on board, albeit down below. The book handles it well, and it attests to how thought out Richard Matheson's works are in the way of logic. In the book, Carey has the cloud pass over him and he's just fine, really. Then he walks home from the bus one day and is hit by some fertilizer spray, and it is that which triggers the shrinking. So much of Matheson's work involves individual tragedy. How many of you knew he wrote DUEL for Playboy, the film starring Dennis Weaver and that crazy trucker which was the first film directed by Spielberg? Yup. I've been very lucky to get famous, lucky to be sharing the same time in time, writers, and I have books autographed by Matheson, Robert Bloch, and Evan Hunter, amongst others. Matheson is the only one of the bunch still living, thankfully. Back when I had him sign my copy of TSM, it bemused him that I had a library copy from Farmingdale, LI, more along the lines of if I swiped it or not. Good-naturedly, of course. No, I have Kurt & Amy Wimberger to thank, and I believe it involved swapping books, with me giving the library in their hometown another pb. Though I'm still befuddled by TISM (and THIS ISLAND EARTH) being part of the Universal Monster set, though I guess a shrinking guy and a brain-shaped robot could be considered monsters, I think its more me associating the Universal Monster era with black and white films. Regardless, I encourage everyone to watch the film. The star, Grant Williams, died of toxemia when he was 47. And read Matheson. When I'm not telling people to read Philip K. Dick, I'm telling them to throw some love at Richard Matheson.

5 comments:

Rich Chwedyk said...

Hey Wayne, it is soooo cool to see that Matheson autograph! He has written so many memorable things: TSM, "Duel," "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," "Little Girl Lost," "Somewhere in Time," "Hell House," the early Corman Poe films -- good gawd, y'all! But wait, there's more! My brother bought my copies of the "Shock" paperback collections published by Dell, when I was low on funds and a helpless kid!

Winter term, I had a student in my short story class who, when I read the opening sentence from Matheson's "Duel" (and when I expected the class to recall it from the TV movie) said, "I remember that story. It was in Playboy around 1970 or '71." I was amazed. He was a middle-aged guy, a few years older than me, Air Force vet, Vietnam era. He said, "You hear about the guys who read Playboy for the articles? Well, that's me." You can't give much "extra credit" for a Continuing Ed class, but (like the student who knew Nelson Algren and even once had him over for dinner) I gave him all the credit I could.

Long live Richard Matheson!

Charles Gramlich said...

Yes, the autograph is cool. I've not read tihs book, nor seen the movie, but I would probably enjoy it.

Capcom said...

Wow, that Shrinking Man stuff is awesome! That was one of the scariest movies IMO when I was a kid. Agreed, not sure if it fits in to the original early genre of monsters per se, but should certainly be in a group of what I guess could be called the second wave of atomic monsters. But the story had so many psychological elements, i.e., a man losing his power as a man, and his virility in his wife's eyes, and then having to battle all the common things in our homes that normally we can just brush away without a thought, e.g. the cat and spider. Especially frightening for a child, who can't wait to grow up, and then sees a grown man shrinking back down to child size and losing all that "grownup" power that he had gained up to that point. And then in the end, we are left to assume that he becomes the first man to come face to face with the atomic and sub-atomic levels, if he lives long enough. Heavy duty. Must definitely read that story some day.

I think that the veiny big headed, bug eyed, claw handed mutants in This Island Earth could possibly qualify, but still, that's more into the later atomic mutant category too. You know, the cosmic BEMs as opposed to the earthly freaks of nature sort of early Famous Monsters.

HemlockMan said...

I know I'm in the minority--especially when it comes to sf fans, but I have NEVER liked THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN. Well...the movie. I've never read the book.

I just always found it hokey and goofy on a level that keeps me from being able to enjoy it in the proper fashion.

Steve Malley said...

I have one of Matheson's newer ones sitting here on the shelves. Might just be time to take it down and give 'er a twirl...