Movie Name: Dr. Cyclops
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Release Date(s): April 12, 1940
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Doctor Thorkel (Albert Dekker) has discovered something in the jungles of South America. Dr. Mary Robinson (Janice Logan) and Dr. Bulfinch (Charles Halton) are asked to join Thorkel in his experiments and take Dr. Stockton (Thomas Coley). Joined by a mine owner named Steve Baker (Victor Kilian) and Thorkel’s assistant Pedro (Frank Yaconelli), the group is about to discover what Dr. Thorkel has uncovered…and the group will enter the fight of their life.
Directed by Earnest B. Schoedsack, Dr. Cyclops is a sci-fi horror film. The story was taken from Harry Kuttner’s short story of the same name originally published in after the release of the movie in Thrilling Wonder Stories (June 1940). The movie received an Oscar nomination for Best Effects, Special Effects (losing to The Thief of Bagdad).
Dr. Cyclops was a horror film on my radar as a kid but I never found any means to see it. The movie was featured in the Mad Scientists volume of Crestwood House Monster books series which I devoured religiously as a kid. Usually these horror types don’t live up to the hype, but I did find Dr. Cyclops rather enjoyable.
The story for the movie is rather clever. The writer put a lot of work into thinking about the challenges of being small (and trapped in the jungle). The writing also does some fun things with The Odyssey’s story of the Cyclops. Like Odysseus, the characters manage to escape Thorkel by blinding him by stealing his glasses. The dialogue is a little clunky, but it is in the line of other sci-fi movies of the time.
Albert Dekker is the star as “Dr. Cyclops”. He eats up all his scenes and his “mad scientist” is up there with other great mad scientists of the genre. He’s over the top and lumbering, but he’s also pretty maniacal (seeing the other characters as essentially an experiment an inhuman). He helps drive the film.
The other driving force of Dr. Cyclops is the special effects. Schoedsack worked on King Kong and you can see some of King Kong’s special effects here with the miniaturized people and their battles with Thorkel. The movie special effects look great and the film is shot in Techincolor (which was new at the time for the genre).
Dr. Cyclops is a fun lesser seen “classic” of the genre. The movie’s clever plot leads it not to be entirely predictable and the special effects remain quite good (in the context of when it was made). If you’ve seen Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Wolf Man one too many times, check out Dr. Cyclops for a change.