Criterion’s 4K digital restoration of The Incredible Shrinking Man (’57) is now out and about. Cheapskate that I am, I decided instead to watch the YouTube version. I’ve always respected the bargain-basement trick photography and physical effects that make this modest black-and-white film work as well as it does, and it was fun to once again relish the good parts.
But I’d forgotten there are two scenes that flirt with unintentional humor. The first comes when a TV news anchor reports that Robert Carey (Grant Williams), famed for a strange ailment that has caused him to get smaller and smaller, has been killed by his cat. He hasn’t been, in fact, but the anchor reports the news so grimly and with such lathered-on emotion that you can’t help but chuckle. The idea of an adult, mouse-sized human being crushed and bloodied by a house cat…I’m sorry but it’s oddly funny.
There’s a second scene in which Carey’s wife, Louise (Randy Stuart), is talking to her husband’s older brother (Paul Langton) about how horrible it must have been to be mauled and chewed to death, and again you can’t help but smirk. Why is it vaguely chuckle-worthy? I don’t know but it is.
Either you “get” cruel humor or you don’t.