THE DEVIL-DOLL (1936)  (revised)

In which Paul Lavond, a French banker framed for murder and theft, escapes from Devil’s Island with revenge on his mind, in company with a man who just happens to have developed the perfect weapon:¬†miniaturised human beings with no minds of their own, capable of being controlled from a distance by the will of another. But even as Lavond’s plans begin to come together, the police begin to close in, forcing Lavond to some desperate measures – and giving us, in the middle of what is essentially science fiction, the most horrifying of sights: Lionel Barrymore in drag.

Tod Browning’s second-last film, The Devil-Doll shoots itself in the foot by dwelling on the angst of the Lavond family instead of on any of its fun stuff, but finally gets a pass mark thanks to a couple – literally a couple – of supporting characters who remind us that nothing says “Mad Science” like pulling some really ridiculous faces.


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