Dr. Cyclops (1940)
“The thrill of the year!”
Director: Ernest B. Schoedsack
Cast: Albert Dekker, Thomas Coley, Janice Logan
Synopsis: A mad scientist working in the South American jungle miniaturizes his colleagues when he feels his megalomania is threatened.
This is the kind of film you’re drawn to more for its novelty value than for any other reason. Dr. Cyclops is a b-movie Sci-fi/horror flick which is ordinary in every way apart from its early use of Technicolor and some neat special effects for the time. Apart from these two aspects, the film has little to recommend it.
Albert Dekker looks agreeably creepy in his coke-bottle spectacles as the mad scientist Dr Thorkell, ensconced deep in the Peruvian jungle where he is using a source of radium to shrink various animals. We’re not given much of a clue as to why, but its clear that little thought or effort went into plot or character development. Thorkell’s peepers are getting a little strained due to all this miniaturisation, so he summons the pompous Dr Bullfinch (Charles Halton) and his glamorous assistant (Janice Logan) a few thousand miles so that they can spend a few seconds peering through a microscope before he attempts to send them packing. When they’re naturally reluctant to go the mad doc subjects them (and a couple of other stock characters) to his miniaturisation process.
It has to be said that his victims don’t really seem all that distressed by suddenly finding themselves to be shorter than Cyclops’ ruler, but they spend the rest of the flick trying to escape him before deciding to turn the tables.
It’s all camp tack, of course, but its not without it’s enjoyable elements. Frank Yaconelli’s bright red nappy is certainly memorable, although my favourite moments are those when the mad doc periodically raises some weird contraption from a well in his backyard and produces an oversize spanner to tighten the same nut over and over. A clever writer could have made a few telling comments on the ‘God complex’ certain members of the scientific community seem to possess, and of the manner in which they may be tempted to look upon people as subjects to experiment upon rather than human beings, but Malcolm Stuart Boylan and Tom Kilpatrick were studio hacks so the opportunity was missed. Great opening scene though…
(Reviewed 2nd September 2007)