arts

Sci-Fi, Sci-Fi, Sci-Fi

it came from outer space posterIt was a quiet epic in a era of marauding monsters and fiendish creatures.

Pop culture sci-fi movies in the 1950s, targeting young baby boomers, were a steady diet of either hostile aliens or homegrown mutants in unprovoked assault against humankind.

The threat seemed so horrific there were hardly words to describe the danger: It Came from Outer Space. Behold the The Thing From Another World. And what could be more blood-curdling than an Invasion of the Body Snatchers?

Danger from within was just as great. The post-war baby boomer era was flirting with disaster, critics warned: in our effort to tame and control nature, we might unleash forces beyond our control right here. “Atomic” mutations caused by “radioactivity” were BIG: The Amazing Colossal Man or giant locusts, tarantulas, and ants on the hunt for delicious human prey.

Perhaps half-consciously, these themes were a Cold War metaphor: Communism can attack from without or be spawned internally.

shrinking man posterIn the midst of this onslaught came The Incredible Shrinking Man, a low-budget thriller that continues to garner critical acclaim. It had enough excitement and close-your-eyes gasps to satisfy any action seeker, but was also one of the first “thinking person’s” sci-fi films.

The plot: an average Scott Carey is accidentally exposed to a radioactive pesticide and begins to shrink, from 6’ 2” down, down, down to…? In the process, he faces horrifying monsters, but they are an ordinary house cat and a garden spider suddenly much larger than his diminishing body. The greatest enemy he confronts is himself, trying to adapt to a Kafkaesque world spinning quickly out of control.

It’s a uniquely personal tale reminiscent of the prototypical baby boomer “Western” where individualism, pioneering spirit and moral character film propspropel the hero against all odds.

The conclusion is unexpected, even improbable. There is no resolution. The good guy prevailsmore than wins.Scott continues to shrink and eventually squeezes through the tiny screen opening and delivers himself from a basement prison to the vast outside. He will enter smaller and smaller worlds where presumably his human intelligence and ingenuity remain intact.

Scott becomes reconciled to his fate: “So close – the infinitesimal and the infinite. But suddenly, I knew they were really the two ends of the same concept. And in that moment, I knew the answer to the riddle of the infinite…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!”

Terry Hamburg writes the Baby Boomer Daily about the exciting and revolutionary baby boomer years.

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