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

Thursday, August 6, 2009

THE DEVIL-DOLL


THE DEVIL-DOLL (1936). Director: Tod Browning.

Banker Paul Levond (Lionel Barrymore) and mad scientist Marcel (Henry B. Walthall) escape from prison and arrive at Marcel's home, where his wife Malita (Rafaela Ottiano) has continued his experiments. They hope to make everybody tiny so they'll need less to eat (it never occurs to them that tiny humans would be preyed upon by suddenly larger animals and insects). Levond was convicted of embezzlement and murder which was actually committed by three associates. Levond goes to Paris to get revenge on the trio, disguising himself as an old lady and using the shrunken animals and people created by Marcel and his wife. He also befriends his daughter Lorraine (Maureen O'Sullivan) who doesn't realize her father's innocence and despises him. This is a very bizarre movie with excellent special effects and good acting. Barrymore is terrific, and Ottiano makes a suitably weird partner-in-peril. This may have been inspired by certain scenes in Bride of Frankenstein made the year before and possibly influenced the later Dr. Cyclops (which had a very different storyline). The problem with the movie is that not enough is done with the basic premise, as if no one had a very clear idea in which direction the movie should proceed. Tod Browning also directed Dracula.

Verdict: Odd. Maybe too odd. **1/2.

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