Review: ‘The Devil-Doll’

The premise [from the novel Burn, Witch, Burn by Abraham Merritt] is a scientist's discovery of a process by which all living things, including humans, can be reduced to one-sixth their normal size. The director, cameraman and art department make the most of it, but the writers' contribution is lacking in originality and seldom is equal to the idea in back of it.

The premise [from the novel Burn, Witch, Burn by Abraham Merritt] is a scientist’s discovery of a process by which all living things, including humans, can be reduced to one-sixth their normal size. The director, cameraman and art department make the most of it, but the writers’ contribution is lacking in originality and seldom is equal to the idea in back of it.

Lionel Barrymore, as a framed convict named Lavond and later in the disguise of old Madam Mandelip, is a scientific Count of Monte Cristo who avenges his false imprisonment. His companion in a prison escape is the inventor of the atom-shrinking process. The inventor dies on the first night of freedom and Barrymore carries on the ‘great work’ with the man’s crazy widow.

Two of the big moments derive their power from camerawork, while the third is a remake by Tod Browning of the scene which highlighted his Unholy Three (1925). Once again the stolen jewels are concealed in a toy doll and the police inspector has them in his grasp without knowing it.

For Barrymore the leading part is a field day. Rafaela Ottiano, with a white streak in her hair and hobbling on a crutch, is convincing as the scientist’s wacky widow. Capable ingenue that she is, Maureen O’Sullivan had no trouble as Barrymore’s daughter, but Frank Lawton, her opposite in the romantic secondary theme, is much too British and refined for a cab driver assignment.

The Devil-Doll

Production

M-G-M. Director Tod Browning; Producer Edward J. Mannix; Screenplay Garrett Fort, Guy Endore, Erich von Stroheim; Camera Leonard Smith; Editor Frederick Y. Smith; Music Franz Waxman

Crew

(B&W) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1936. Running time: 70 MIN.

With

Lionel Barrmore Maureen O'Sullivan Frank Lawton Robert Greig Lucy Beaumont Henry B. Walthall
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