Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, July 16, 2015


Frank Lawton and Maureen O'Sullivan
THE DEVIL-DOLL (1936). Director: Tod Browning.

"Eight hours ago it was a full-grown St. Bernard -- you think I'm mad?"

Wrongly-convicted Paul Lavond (Lionel Barrymore) escapes from prison with his cellmate, Marcel (Henry B. Walthall), who takes him to a hide-out in the swamp. Marcel and his creepy wife, Malita (Rafaela Ottiano of She Done Him Wrong), are nut cases who think the world will benefit by having everything and everyone shrunk down to one sixth of their normal size. But Marcel is unable to come up with anything but tiny dogs who only hop to life at his mental commands. The same thing applies to little Lachna (Grace Ford), who gets the shrink treatment and is used as a pint-sized assassin and thief by Lavond when he goes to Paris, where he hopes to get revenge on the three bank officers who framed him. There Lavond masquerades as an elderly woman who makes dolls, and hopes to be reunited with his daughter, Lorraine (Maureen O'Sullivan). The Devil-Doll is a little too weird for its own good, but the effects and outsize props are serviceable, even if Lachna seems a little transparent at times. Dr. Cyclops, made four years later, at least made some attempt to explain the shrinking process with the use of pseudo-science, but this movie doesn't even bother with an explanation. O'Sullivan [Payment Deferred] gives the best performance in the movie, and is sensitive and appealing, while Barrymore is at least lots of fun as the  grizzled granny. As cabbie and Lorraine's love interest, Toto, Frank Lawton is also a little strange. The film never quite comes to grips with the horrible fate reserved for Lachna.

Verdict: Somehow engaging but pretty silly. **.

No comments: