1936 The Devil Doll is Character-Driven but Light on Horror (31 Days of Horror Part 5)

Sommerleigh Pollonais – Horror Head Writer

In the 1936 film The Devil Doll (sometimes written as The Devil-Doll) an escaped convict uses miniaturszed humans to wreak vengeance on those that framed him.

That’s no woman; that’s a man baby!

With a title like The Devil Doll, I went into this expecting to see some goofy version of something akin to Child’s Play. What I got was an over-the-top story of a man bent on revenge who escapes prison with another man who turns out to be a mad scientist (the only kind of scientist we saw in these early sci-fi/horror flicks). Said scientist has figured out how to miniaturise animals and humans, but the process makes them lose their ability to think on their own, so they can be controlled by normal human beings. It’s an over the top premise and in the hands of lesser actors, could’ve easily shown up in an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. You know the show where the cast makes fun of shlocky B-movies? But our main protagonist Paul is played by Lionel Barrymore, an Academy Award -winning actor best known for his villainous portrayal of Mr. Potter in the Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life. He’s also the grand father of famed actress Drew Barrymore. Here he’s equally likeable and despicable as an almost Count of Monte Cristo like character, and his ability to disappear into his personas (he disguises himself as an elderly woman to evade the police) is delightful to behold.

Hello my baby, hello my honey, hello my rag time gal…

The dramatic moments do outweigh the horror elements quite a bit and I think the only reason it’s considered a film of the genre was because of the “dolls” in this film. The special effects were applauded at the time and favourably equated to films like King Kong and The Invisible Man. High praise indeed. This is one of those movies that I like to call “character driven,” as the characters and the actors playing them are well written and well performed. It made for entertaining viewing, even though as a horror movie, this one fell a bit short for me.

Maybe next time, I’ll pick one of director Tod Browning’s more famous films, like Dracula (1931) or the movie that almost got him kicked out of Hollywood for being too much for viewers, Freaks (1932). The latter is still considered one of the most terrifying horror movies ever made and has made Bravo’s list of Top 100 Scariest Movie Moments of all Time!

Sommer’s Score: 6 out of 10

For part 4 of my 31 Days of Horror and my review of 1926 classic Faust you can click here. And for more classic film reviews you can like and follow Redmangoreviews on Facebook here. 

2755F829-2EEC-4A68-B6F7-F963F48C9D92 Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.

Double Tap Baby!

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