Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Devil-Doll (1936)

Minor Tod Browning film about a revenge-minded prison escapee (Lionel Barrymore) who uses a dead scientist's miniaturization technology (and the scientist's assistant) to exact just desserts on the people who framed him and wrongly sent him to jail. The effects are still pretty amazing, but the story never quite gels; for one, I was never sure whether Barrymore's blase attitude towards covering his tracks was intentional or not. Given the ending, I can see how the former can be a viable interpretation, but it's still kinda silly. (And yeah, I know complaining about credibility in a film about shrunken people, on some level, is missing the point. But there it is anyway.) Also, the actress playing Malita is capital-A awful, and her character's arc is frankly absurd. Fortunately, Barrymore is able to hold together a lot of the less impressive stuff, and Browning, as always, is able to create a couple nifty sequences (i.e. the hiding of the necklace, the last doll deployment). I think its reputation has become weirdly inflated over the last several years, but it's still a fair entertainment.

Grade: B-


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