Four explorers are summoned to Peru by the brilliant physicist Dr Thorkel. They discover a rich source of radium and a half-mad Thorkel who shrinks them down to one-fifth their normal size when they threaten to stop his unorthodox experimentation. Written by
Steve Hill <email@example.com>
Partially sighted molecular biologist Dr. Alexander Thorkel (Albert Dekker) invites a team of fellow scientists to help him with his work at his laboratory deep in the Amazon jungle; within hours of their arrival, the problem that Thorkel has been struggling with has been resolved, and the surprised boffins are immediately given their marching orders, none the wiser about the precise nature of their ungrateful host's experiments.
Eager to learn more, the curious group sneaks into Thorkel's room to take a peek at his notes, but discover more than they bargained for when they become the guinea pigs in the secretive genius's next experiment: bundled into a room, they are exposed to a heavy dose of radiation that reduces them to a fraction of their original size.
Directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack, one of the team responsible for bringing King Kong to the screen in 1933, Dr. Cyclops is a fairly routine mad-scientist sci-fi/horror potboiler, but one that benefits immensely from a incredible array of groundbreaking special effects and sumptuous Technicolor photography. Technically, this film is way ahead of its time, looking more like a product of the mid 1950s than the early 40s, and for this reason alone it should be a priority for all fans of fantastic cinema.
Utilising a combination of careful camera placement (low shots to make Thorkel appear huge; high shots to make his victims appear small), detailed over-sized sets and props, rear projection, split screen and mattes, Schoedsack and his effects team create scene after scene of memorable movie magic. Take into account that this movie is now over 70 years old and it cannot fail to impress.
On the downside, the score is extremely heavy handed and some of the performances are less than stellar (Dekker is excellent, but the exaggerated mannerisms adopted by the pint-sized profs are embarrassingly trite). Thankfully, these are minor quibbles when measured against the film's massive technical accomplishments and the film remains a consistently entertaining experience nonetheless.
7.5 out 10, rounded up to 8 for the sight of yummy egghead Dr. Mary Robinson (Janice Logan) in her sexy makeshift toga: she might be reduced to a foot in height, but she's certainly no shrinking violet.
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