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Paul Lavond was a respected banker in Paris when he was framed for robbery and murder by crooked associates and sent to Devil's Island. Years later, he escapes with a friend, a scientist who was working on a method to reduce humans to a height of mere inches (all for the good of humanity, of course). Lavond however is consumed with hatred for the men who betrayed him, and takes the scientist's methods back to Paris to exact painful revenge. Written by
Ken Yousten <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Madame Mandilip's special dolls are costumed as members of vicious street gangs known as the Apache (pronounced ah-PAHSH), who were involved in theft, prostitution, and the occasional murder in pre-World War I Paris. The dolls even perform the Apache dance popularized by the gangs, in which extremely close steps alternate with seemingly brutal punches, kicks, hair-pulling, spins, and throws; it was usually danced to the Valse des rayons (aka Valse chaloupée) composed by Jacques Offenbach. In the 1930s and 1940s, this dance was still performed by professional dancers and can be seen in several films and even cartoons of the period. See more »
The shrunken animals do not cast shadows when they move. This is obvious with the dogs on the lab table and the horse galloping on Radin's desk. See more »
Lavond (as Madame Mandelip):
I may not look it, madame, but I was once a very successful banker. Three men - my partners - lied and tricked me into prison. Well, three lives are going to pay for it.
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Disguised as an old woman, an escaped convict uses the creations of a pair of mad scientists to further his schemes of personal revenge.
Director Tod Browning, master of the macabre, had another winner with this little horror/science fiction film. Its glossy production values, courtesy of MGM, do not get in the way of the director's pacing or the heightening of suspense. The actual story itself - with tiny, shrunken people being used to carry out dastardly deeds in Paris - is quite absurd, but the cast is so good and the direction so able that the viewer can simply sit back and enjoy the results.
Lionel Barrymore, one of America's greatest character actors, has a field day in the lead role and is actually quite compelling dressed as an elderly lady, hobbling about like an authentic beldame. It would not be long before he would be confined to a wheelchair by crippling arthritis, but with his excellent voice and piercing eyes Barrymore would scarcely be handicapped as an actor. Here he is a positive menace, cooing & consoling his intended victims before sending the devil-dolls - controlled by his mind - to finish the job of retribution.
Fragile & ailing, Silent Film star Henry B. Walthall would be dead before THE DEVIL-DOLL could be released. Nonetheless, he still manages to give a powerful performance as a deranged scientist who has discovered how to reduce living things to one sixth their original size. Walthall's desperate eagerness over his researches replicates the dying actor's desperation to communicate with his audience. Equally formidable is Italian actress Rafaela Ottiano as Walthall's widow, feverishly continuing her husband's weird experiments. Her insane eyes and sinister mien, making her resemble Frankenstein's Bride, give the film some of its spookiest moments.
Rotund Robert Greig appears as one of Barrymore's victims; gentle Lucy Beaumont plays Barrymore's mother. Maureen O'Sullivan & Frank Lawton, reunited once again after DAVID COPPERFIELD (1935), nicely fill the requisite roles of the young lovers.
Movie mavens will recognize Eily Malyon as a mean-tempered laundress & Billy Gilbert as a butler, both uncredited.
Erich von Stroheim, brilliant & obsessive, was one of the screenwriters on this project. The special effects in the scenes involving the tiny people are quite well managed.
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