Newest Reviews
Merchant of Four Seasons, The
Love of Jeanne Ney, The
Blonde. Purple
Dirty Ho
Dying to Divorce
Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn
Trouble with Being Born, The
Last Matinee, The
Strings, The
Free Hand for a Tough Cop
People Just Do Nothing: Big in Japan
Dear Future Children
Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Watery Rebus
Thin Red Line, The
Petite Maman
Fast & Furious 9
Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat
Sweet Thing
Father, The
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Night House, The
Father of Flies
80,000 Years Old
Dead & Beautiful
Whisker Away, A
Wild Indian
Whale Island
Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires
Don't Breathe 2
Closing Time
Newest Articles
Keeping the Beatles Alive: Get Back
The Punk Rock Movie: Out of the Blue on Blu-ray
Yeah, Too Quiet: The Great Silence on Blu-ray
Vestron Double Bill: Dementia 13 and The Wraith
Farewell Dean Stockwell: His Years of Weirdness
Kung Fu Craft: Cinematic Vengeance! on Blu-ray
999 Letsbe Avenue: Gideon's Way on Blu-ray
Hungary for Cartoons: Hungarian Animations on MUBI
You Have No Choice: Invasion of the Body Snatchers on Blu-ray
You Can't Tame What's Meant to Be Wild: The Howling on Blu-ray
Commendably Brief: Short Sharp Shocks Vol. 2 on Blu-ray
Super Silents: Early Universal Vol. 2 on Blu-ray
Fable Fear: The Singing Ringing Tree on Blu-ray
Gunsight Eyes: The Sabata Trilogy on Blu-ray
Bloody Bastard Baby: The Monster/I Don't Want to Be Born on Blu-ray
Night of the Animated Dead: Director Jason Axinn Interview
The ParaPod: A Very British Ghost Hunt - Interview with Director/Star Ian Boldsworth
On the Right Track: Best of British Transport Films Vol. 2
The Guns of Nutty Joan: Johnny Guitar on Blu-ray
Intercourse Between Two Worlds: Twin Peaks Fire Walk with Me/The Missing Pieces on Blu-ray
Enjoy the Silents: Early Universal Vol. 1 on Blu-ray
Masterful: The Servant on Blu-ray
70s Sitcom Dads: Bless This House and Father Dear Father on Blu-ray
Going Under: Deep Cover on Blu-ray
Child's Play: Children's Film Foundation Bumper Box Vol. 3 on DVD
  Devil-Doll, The Small Wonder
Year: 1936
Director: Tod Browning
Stars: Lionel Barrymore, Maureen O'Sullivan, Frank Lawton, Rafaela Ottiano, Robert Greig, Lucy Beaumont, Henry B. Walthall, Grace Ford, Pedro de Cordoba, Arthur Hohl, Juanita Quigley, Claire Du Brey, Rollo Lloyd, F. Alyn Warren
Genre: Horror, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Two escaped convicts struggle through the forest with the guards and dogs hot on their heels. One is Marcel (Henry B. Walthall), whose home is nearby and on reaching it they are welcomed inside by his wife Malita (Rafaela Ottiano). His companion is Paul Lavond (Lionel Barrymore), one of the most powerful bankers in France until he was framed for fraud and the subsequent murder of a nightwatchman, and now he is dead set on clearing his name - or failing that, killing off the three associates who set him up. But once he sees what Marcel had been working on all these years, he cannot believe his eyes...

The idea of shrinking people is one which science fiction has periodically returned to as in The Incredible Shrinking Man or Fantastic Voyage, with various diversions such as Paul McCartney's adventure halfway through Help!, but for some reason horror did not quite embrace the idea in spite of the opportunities the notion raised. Sure, The Incredible Shrinking Man had his cat and spider to do battle with, but to use the little folk as, effectively, "monsters" was not something that was much pursued, making The Devil-Doll something of a novelty: even Dr Cyclops a few years later saw the mad scientist as the antagonist.

This was one of director Tod Browning's last efforts before he retired, disilliusioned, from the profession, and showed some of his inspiration in its staging, working to a script co-written by another disillusioned director, Erich von Stroheim. It was the old revenge motif played out with an eccentric touch, as Lavond discovers Marcel has been endeavouring to reduce his subjects in size, although for what reason other than "make the whole world small" is none too apparent. He has diminished dogs, but then graduates to humans with his wife's maid (Grace Ford), wrapping her in cotton wool and allowing a chemical mist to envelop her.

That has the desired effect, but just as Marcel is about to celebrate his breakthrough, he keels over and expires, leaving Malita alone; ah, but not quite alone as Lavond sees great potential for mischief with this set up. Pausing briefly to note the unusual point of a female mad scientist in a genre mostly the domain of males, we are plunged into stage two of the plot, where Lavond heads off to Paris with plans to shrink the men who ruined his life unless they confess. The police have put up wanted posters across the city, but he has a way of confounding them: cross dressing. Looking and sounding like something out of Monty Python, Barrymore is done up like a sweet, silver-haired granny.

Somehow people are fooled, and with Malita he sets up a toy shop as his base of operations. There's also some business about reclaiming stolen jewels, but what is most captivating about this are those special effects sequences. In some parts the joins do show if you're looking for them, but not egregiously so, and as an alternative to camera trickery there are truly impressive sets for the little folk to explore. Definitely the highlight, these parts may not be creepy (though there are those who disagree), but they are a testament to innovative filmmaking as the small assassins wield tiny swords tipped with paralysing poison, although it's worth noting nobody actually dies as part of Lavond's schemes. Add in a would-be tearjerking subplot with Maureen O'Sullivan as the daughter who grew up never knowing her father, and you have a curious, weirdly touching yet inescapably daft chiller. Music by Franz Waxman.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


This review has been viewed 3137 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

Review Comments (0)

Untitled 1

Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.

Latest Poll
Which star probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Darren Jones
Andrew Pragasam
Jason Cook
Enoch Sneed
  Desbris M
  Paul Tuersley
  Chris Garbutt


Last Updated: