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Revisiting the Classics: THE DEVIL DOLL

Directed by Tod Browning, who is more famous for a little movie called DRACULA as well as FREAKS and the Lon Chaney silent classics THE UNKNOWN, THE UNHOLY THREE, and LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT. It stars Lionel Barrymore (great-grandfather of Drew Barrymore) as a crossdressing murderer and Maureen O’Sullivan (Jane in a whole bunch of the early Tarzan movies and the mother of Mia Farrow) as his daughter. The performances lift this one above the Horror flick standard of the day, a standard which is in itself not a poor one. Barrymore in particular is fantastic.

Two men escape Devil’s Island, one of them a mad (but well-meaning) scientist and the other a falsely-imprisoned and now vengeful former banker. The former has discovered the means of shrinking human beings down to minuscule size and then controlling them with mental commands. Before dying, he passes this knowledge on to his friend, who then uses it to teach his former business partners, the ones who framed him, a lesson. The special effects are quite impressive for the day. One can catch hints of later films, like the PUPPET MASTER series, in this one; it also hearkens back to movies that came before it: Barrymore had done the crossdressing shtick a year earlier in Tod Browning’s MARK OF THE VAMPIRE, a talkie remake of LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT. Hey, if you find something that works…

TheCheezman • December 5, 2018

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