July 07, 2002
Dr. Cyclops (1940, in color) was directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack who had also directed "King Kong". The special effects are very good (especially considering when it was made), with many oversized props or double-exposure shots.
We meet Dr. Thorkel, a mad scientist (Albert Dekker) whose look (bald, round spectacles) was later used by Richard O'Brien in the "Rocky Horror" sequel "Shock Treatment". Thorkel's "pupil" Mendoza feels that he's playing God--so Thorkel kills him, then sends for biologist Dr. Rupert Bulfinch (Charles Halton), to come to Thorkel's camp deep in the Amazon jungle. Scientists Mary Robinson (Janice Logan) and Bill Stockton also come along, as do mule owner Steve Baker. When they arrive they meet Thorkel's helper Pedro (Frank Yaconelli), who can't seem to find his horse Pinto.
Dr. Thorkel basically gives his visitors the brush-off, enraging Bulfinch. They all wonder what in the world Thorkel is working on; Baker notices there's a radium mine next to Thorkel's camp. Then we see Thorkel with a shrunken horse (Pedro's horse Pinto!) on a table.
After Bulfinch finds evidence of a tiny pig, Thorkel shows up to tell them he doesn't want them at his camp. Pedro hears his horse in the distance and starts looking for him. After Thorkel leaves, Pedro tells them he's brought many animals to the camp but they all seem to disappear--and Satanis, Thorkel's cat, seems to be getting fatter. Hmm. The visitors are convinced that Thorkel's crazy, and they also realize that the radium next to his camp is valuable.
They break into his lab and Bulfinch notes that Thorkel thinks he's shrunk a horse. Thorkel confronts them, then says he'll reveal what he's been working on. Pedro sees his shrunken horse. Then Thorkel traps them into a room and turns on a device from outside. The device shrinks them to one foot tall!
The shrunken visitors wake up, clad in handkerchiefs. Pedro sort of looks like a baby, chubby and clad in a diaper-like handkerchief. Thorkel's cat Satanis scares them and Thorkel tells the kitty, "You won't have these mice...at least not yet". The shrunken people run up the stairs and Thorkel's delighted to see that they made it through the shrinkage in perfect shape (reflexes, etc.)
Thorkel dozes off and the little people go to the door. The latch is far above them so they use books to help reach it; they open it and go outside. Satanis attacks them but Pedro's dog Tipo scares the cat off, saving them. Pedro's proud of his dog, who seems scared and puzzled by the sight of his diminished master. Thorkel sees the shrunken people outside; Mary is making clothes, Pedro is using a knife bigger than he is to cut meat, and Bulfinch is on top of a giant book. Thorkel says that they're resourceful. Bulfinch compares Thorkel to Cyclops-- "he also thought that size and strength would be sufficient". The rebellious Bulfinch refuses to co-operate with Thorkel (after Bulfinch is caught with a butterfly net).
Dr. Thorkel discovers that his shrunken people are actually growing again (at a slow rate); he kills Bulfinch by holding poison up to him, and the others escape. Outside the camp, they deal with a bad storm and huge animals (like a gigantic alligator). They discover a canoe and try to get it into the water. Tipo leads Thorkel to them and Thorkel shoots Pedro to death.
The little people hide in a box, but Thorkel takes the box back to his camp. They escape by cutting a hole through a screen in the box.The little people position a gun on a chair, pointed toward Thorkel's bed, in the hopes of killing him. But he gets sleepy while at his desk so they steal his glasses from right under him.
He awakes and tries to find them, yelling out that they will start growing back to normal--but he won't let that happen--he'll destroy them there!(Certainly if they got back to civilization, they might talk about what he did to them, and he wouldn't want the authorities to come after him!) But the shrunken people lead him toward the mine and he falls in, to his death.Months later, Bill, Mary, and Steve are back to normal size and back in civilization.
Dr. Cyclops is entertaining with neat special effects for its time.It may have served to inspire the kids' TV show "Dr. Shrinker", which was about a mad scientist who shrank three teens and whom always seems to be trying to catch them.