In France, an insane surgeon's obsession with an actress from England leads him to replace her pianist husband's hands that got mangled in an accident with the hands of a late knife murderer which still have the urge to throw knives.
Paul Lavond was a respected banker in Paris when he was framed for robbery and murder by crooked associates and sent to prison. 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>
To the masses, Tod Browning is mostly unknown. Those who do know his name mostly remember him as the director of the original 'Dracula'. Fans of the genre remember him as the director not only of that movie, but of 'Freaks' as well.
But there is a great slightly campy classic that he directed near the end of his career, The Devil Doll.
While it never hits the highs of those earlier films, it is certainly worth a watch. The story concerns Paul Lavond (played by the always awesome Lionel Barrymore) - an escaped prisoner who learns a way to shrink humans to 1/6th their size, and rob them of their free will. He uses this secret to enact revenge on the men who framed him and sent him to prison.
Like his other films, this Tod Browning film also started a bit of a subgenre in the horror field - no, I'm not talking about creepy dolls (though a case could perhaps be made for that), I'm talking about the wronged individual that seeks redress in a vengeful manner (sure, earlier films danced around the concept - notably 'The Phantom of the Opera' - but here it is so straightforward. Lavond openly admits that he is full of "hatred", "vengeance" and even "evil". That is very refreshing, even in a film that's over 70 years old! Lavond realizes that he will ultimately pay a heavy price for his actions, but never wavers in his conviction to see his plans fully realized. Many great films in the genre followed this formula later on, notably 'The Abominable Dr. Phibes'.
Another great aspect to this film is the great supporting cast. Maureen O'Sullivan (Jane from the Tarzan films!) as Lavond's daughter, and character actress Rafaela Ottiano creepy as always as Lavond's accomplice.
Definitely worth a watch.
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