Dr. Cyclops (1940)


Ernest B. Schoedsack (King Kong, The Most Dangerous Game) directs this schlocky sci-fi matinee flick about a mad scientist (Albert Dekker) who summons colleagues to his South American jungle laboratory. Once there, the guests discover he is using radium to shrink living creatures to miniature size. When they threaten to expose his unorthodox work, he shrinks them for study. It’s then a matter of escaping ‘Dr. Cyclops’s camp before they outlive their usefulness and end up food for his ever-fattening cat.

The story of Dr. Cyclops is a promising one, but the characters are so thin they fail to entice you into their adventure. The movie also lacks the seriousness of Schoedsack’s earlier work, opting instead for a ‘precious’ tone that undercuts the darker moments. Special effects were in their infancy at the time the film was made, so it’s fun to see the technicians and artists using various techniques to create movie magic. For the most part, it all works — though at times, it feels sequences are drawn out for no other reason than to showcase the ingenuity.

While Dr. Cyclops isn’t as compelling as it could be, it may still be of interest to B-movie fans. The technicolor palette heightens a couple of spooky moments involving the radium. The sets are large and impressive, especially when our tiny protagonists flee into the jungle. It’s there where some of the movie’s most effective scenes occur, including a brush fire and an alligator attack.

With Thomas Coley, Janice Logan, Charles Halton, Victor Kilian, and Frank Yaconelli.

Oscar Nomination: Best Special Effects

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