"The Devil-Doll" (1936)
How can I resist another Tod Browning film?! The Devil-Doll starring the great Lionel Barrymore whose sister was Ethel Barrymore (who was in The Spiral Staircase which I featured in August) and the great-uncle of Drew Barrymore. You might also remember him as the sinister Mr. Potter in the film It's a Wonderful Life (which happens to be one of my favorite films!)
It begins with Paul Lavond (Barrymore) who is wrongly convicted of a crime. He spends many years in prison on Devil's Island (nice name, huh?). He escapes with another man named Marcel (Henry B. Walthall, this was his final film before he passed) who was also a scientist. His experiments involved shrinking people one-sixth of their original size and the purpose was to help conserve the natural resources of this planet. Instead, after Marcel's death, it was used for revenge!
Lavond decides to join Marcel's widow Malita (Rafaela Ottiano) to seek revenge on those who framed him and vindicate himself in the process. This scheme of revenge includes a man dressing in drag, miniature human-beings (science fiction in 1936!), a crazed "Frankenstein"-esque woman, and a innocent daughter longing to see her father. Let's just say this movie keeps you intrigued and spellbinded.
I remember when I first saw it with my husband a few years back we were both amazed at the special effects especially for that time. Tod Browning did it again! He truly created a memorable masterpiece. Unfortunately at the time his films, "Freaks" and "The Devil-Doll" were not as appreciated and valued as they are now. The same can actually be said about "It's a Wonderful Life"-at the time is was a box office flop! Can you imagine that? I can't imagine Christmas without that film!
Excerpt from "The Devil-Doll"
After all is said and done, when Lavond is finished with his revenge plans he is able to focus his attentions back to the daughter he left behind many years ago. I have to say this closing scene is heart-warming and heart-wrenching all at the same time. Barrymore truly was an actor who mastered his craft.
Lavond with his daughter Lorraine played by Maureen O'Sullivan
In the end even though Lavond got the revenge what he wanted, he had to let go the one thing he truly loved, his daughter. His heart was filled with hatred but when it came to Lorraine it filled quickly with love.
This film has a unique blend of science fiction, horror, intrigue, love, violence, and a dash of romance. It's a shame I think that Tod Browning's work wasn't viewed as the masterpiece that is. His films made you "oohhh" and "ahhhh" and say "what the heck!?". I love that--don't you?