Svengoolie presents … Dr. Cyclops (1940)

cyclops1From the director of the original King Kong, Ernest B. Schoedsack is back to give us more adventures, this time with hammy camp, over-the-top effects, and the magic of COLOR.  

To top off the hammy camp that makes this movie go, there is an evil doctor plotting against anyone who gets in his way.  Dr. Thornkel is bald, angry, and can’t see very well, which makes him even more angry.  In true King Kong fashion, there is a gloriously drawn out expedition across the jungle.  This is the very first American sci-fi film presented in color and it is really sharp for its age.  The colors are like out of a comic book, with bright greens, whites, and yellows dominating the screen, and they are so well-done that reports that the film earned an Oscar nomination.


I’m sure this is not the first mad doctor story, but this may be the first shrinking man story I’ve ever seen that is dated so early.  No, this isn’t Honey I Shrunk the Kids or Innerspace, but it is a shrinking story all the same.  So the good doctor summons a group of scientists 10,000 miles to do some observations for him, because nobody closer was smart enough.  Or something.

cyclops3Anyway, after being tricked, the group is shrunk down to pint-size and run all over the place.  This is also where that one Star Trek episode got its idea to include shrinking, as it features the same type of setup, small men versus a giant black cat.  Some of the early effects really are good though, so I shouldn’t make fun of it too much.  A scene where the doctor examines a 12 inch live horse is exceptional.  There were no matte lines or bleed-through or anything.  Usually when film-makers combine two reels of film, there is some blurring or obvious distortion, but not here.  A lot of shots were done with oversized objects, like a huge book the two of the small 12-inch-sized people have to move together.

myersEveryone, including our heroes, are quite bloodthirsty and unforgiving.  The shrunken group plot the death of Dr. Thornkel, attacking him and trying to escape whenever they can.  They rig a shotgun to shoot him through the head when he sleeps, but they fail.  The doctor only wants to examine them!  And demand a miiiiiiillion dollars.  Heh heh.  Anyway, the group finally trick the doctor and murder him.  Fortunately, they don’t stay shrunken forever and ever, they’re fine, so don’t worry.  I guess they had confidence it would wear off.

This is not Attack of the 50-foot Tall Woman, but Dr. Cyclops (1940) got there first.  It is just as good as any 50s B-Movie, if not better.  It is notable for its special effects, which all look pretty good.  The movie is short, which is good enough for the Svengoolie audience and a casual audience.  I enjoy the colors and the overall presentation like I enjoy a good Hammer B-movie, but Dr. Cyclops has generic backdrops and characters.  If remembered, this movie has a place in history, but it is decent enough for television and movie lovers.

I’d like to thank the little people….lol…