DR. CYCLOPS wackjob experimentation wasn’t terribly successful back in 1940 for director Ernest B. Schoedsack, who’d helped make King Kong a part of folklore. Though the keen-o Special Effects were Oscar-nominated, the receipts only grazed $1,830,000, 89th place for the year (The Mighty Kong had roared to #4 back in ’33).
A new generation saw it on TV starting in 1959, however, and on the pages of “Famous Monsters Of Film-land”, gaining some kiddie-comfort from its midgetized heroes battling against the creepy-looking mad scientist (children entranced by things that can be shrunk or grown by “science”).
As heroine ‘Dr. Mary Robinson’ (Janice Logan) explains “You don’t seem to realize that Dr. Thorkel is the greatest living authority on molecular structure” she is nonchalantly answered by ‘Steve’, mule-wrangler (Victor Kilian), “I guess there’s nothing like learning a trade.” The aphorism-ready Steve is more on the ball than fussy ‘Dr. Rupert Bulfinch’ (Charles Halton), who wears a suit and tie in the Amazon, wiener hero ‘Bill Stockton’ (Thomas Coley) and regional comic relief ‘Pedro-last-name-lost-to-posterity’ (Frank Yaconelli).
They are reduced to doll-size by eye-sight-afflicted ‘Dr. Thorkel’, who is also a homicidal maniac when he’s not boring the Andes for radium. He doesn’t rave, but calmly asserts his ‘rational’ side by saying “But, first you will forgive me if I am so rude as to resort to a stimulant”, which is the kind of politeness you want from someone who is about to feed you to his cat.
Albert Dekker has his most famous role as Thorkel, and is quite good playing along with the lunacy, looking major bonkers with his shaved head, spectacles and hulking size. If only they had appreciated his genius. That’s the trouble with presenting an unusual idea to skeptical colleagues: the whole killing-them-afterwards part (just try laughing at a plan to rob Ft. Knox…).
The elaborate sets and props are fun, done in Technicolor, rare at the time, especially for a fantasy offering. 77 minutes, with Paul Fix (getting the ‘best’ zapping death from an intellectually offended Thorkel). Other 1940 ventures into what-if? realms included One Million B.C., The Thief of Bagdad, The Invisible Man Returns, The Mummy’s Hand, Black Friday, Pinocchio and Fantasia. Choke on those apples, Adolph!