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The Devil Doll (Tod Browning, 1936) [RePoPo]

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The Devil Doll (Tod Browning, 1936) [RePoPo]

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Name:The Devil Doll (Tod Browning, 1936) [RePoPo]

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The Devil-Doll (Tod Browning, 1936)
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Release Notes
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Type..................: Movie
Container file........: MKV
Audio Languages.......: English 2.0 (Mono, Untouched)
Subtitles Ripped......: Spanish
Subtitles in Subpack..: French, Spanish
Aspect Ratio..........: 1.33:1
Original Aspect Ratio.: 1.37:1
Color.................: B/W
Source................: NTSC DVD
Genre.................: Sci/Fi
IMDb Rating...........: 7.0
Movie Information.....: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0027521/


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Falsely convicted Lionel Barrymore escapes from Devil's Island with fellow
prisoner H.B. Walthall. A brilliant scientist, Walthall reveals to Barrymore
that he has developed a process to shrink human beings. Upon Walthall's death,
Barrymore makes his way back to the old scientist's lab, intending to use
Walthall's formula to exact vengeance on those who have wronged him. He does so,
clearing his name and securing the future happiness of his daughter Maureen
O'Sullivan (who believes that Barrymore is dead) in the process. But Barrymore's
crazed assistant Rafaela Ottiano isn't satisfied. "We'll make the whole world
small!" she hisses, forcing Barrymore to kill her and destroy the formula. To
save his daughter from scandal, Barrymore disappears into the night, the
implication being that he plans to commit suicide at the first opportunity. The
excellent miniature work in The Devil Doll (much of it accomplished with
outsized sets, a la the Laurel and Hardy comedy Brats) successfully takes the
viewers' minds off the rather silly plot. Director Tod Browning was always
stronger with atmosphere than with plot and dialogue, and this film is no
exception. Far less logical than the miniaturization process is Barrymore's
decision to disguise himself as an old woman, since this transparent guise
wouldn't convince a 2-year-old in real life. Based on the novel Burn, Witch,
Burn by Abraham Merritt, The Devil Doll was scripted by several hands, including
Erich Von Stroheim.

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CAST
Lionel Barrymore - PaulLavond
Maureen O'Sullivan - Lorraine Lavond
Frank Lawton - Toto
Robert Greig - Coulvet
Lucy Beaumont - Mme. Lavond
Henry B. Walthall - Marcel
Grace Ford - Lachna
Pedro de Cordoba - Matin
Arthur Hohl - Radin
Rafaela Ottiano - Malita
Juanita Quigley - Marguerite
Claire Du Brey - Mme. Coulvet
Rollo Lloyd - Detective
E. Alyn Warren - Commissioner
Egon Brecher
Billy Gilbert
Wilfred Lucas - Wilfred Lucas [Voice]
Eily Malyon - Laundry Proprietor
Frank Reicher

CREW

Tod Browning - Director / Screenwriter
Edward J. Mannix - Producer
Guy Endore - Screenwriter
Garrett Elsden Fort - Screenwriter
Abraham Merritt - Book Author
Erich Von Stroheim - Screenwriter
Leonard Smith - Cinematographer
Franz Waxman - Composer (Music Score)
Frederick Y. Smith - Editor
Cedric Gibbons - Art Director

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REVIEWS

Henry Stewart:

The Devil Doll, directed by Tod Browning (Freaks, Dracula), has a few things
going for it aside from its reliable director; most strikingly, it has Lionel
Barrymore in drag for the bulk of its running time. (If only George Bailey had
known his rival's dirty secret! He may have had some leverage.) Barrymore plays
Paul Lavond, an erstwhile banker framed for embezzlement, who escapes from
prison along with a mad scientist, Marcel (Henry B. Walthall), who brings Lavond
to his secret laboratory in the swamp to show off his incredible shrinking
potion; it can transform anything—or anyone—to pint-size, and also conveniently
allows the shrinker to control the shrunken's mind. The science is a little
fuzzy here—free will depends on the size of our brains?—but before you could
call anyone on it the scientist character is killed off (and coincidentally,
shortly after filming, Walthall died in real life as well), leaving Lavond in
control of his potions and ripe for revenge against the three slimy bankers who
set him up, soiled his name, shamed his daughter, drove his wife to suicide, and
sent him to the clink.

But, as a jail bird and Public Enemy No. 1, how can he stay in and get around
Paris to exact his vengeance without being re-arrested? How about by opening a
"doll" shop and dressing as a little old lady? Barrymore is a hoot, but this is
a horror movie, not a comedy and, thankfully, he manages not to allow his
performance to become bawdy in that Mrs. Doubtfire/White Chicks sort of way
common to contemporary crossdressing films. (I know, I know, it's a tired
complaint: "they don't make drag queen pictures like they used to!") In fact,
he’s often so convincing throughout that it’s easy to forget it’s even him
underneath that costume.

Reflecting the dual nature of Barrymore's transvestism, there's a lot of double
entendre in the dialogue, such as a self-reflexive moment in the final scene as
well as a conversation early in the film between Lavond and Marcel's wife. “I
may not look it,” he tells her, “but I was once a successful banker.” The
slumming Barrymore seems to be saying, with gravelly disappointment, “you may
not be able to tell from the silly horror movie I’m in, but I used to be a
respected actor of the stage.” Not even B-movies, however, could diminish
Barrymore’s acting prowess, and he gets to show off his range, from his familiar
Mr. Potter scowl to the sweet and funny disposition of an old woman; he is at
his best in a hilarious scene in which a police officer comes to ask questions
and s/he goes into hysterics. "Oh, what will the neighbors say?" he screeches in
a falsetto. Indeed!

Lavond shrinks a couple of people, and uses them to kill, paralyze, and torment
his foes one by one. The special effects are sophisticated, showing the
miniaturized assassins with a clever combination of rear projection and
oversized set design. Also notable is that The Devil Doll is somewhat class
conscious, a rarity for a Hollywood film; for a slight example, while Lavond
stalks his enemies as the old lady, he's constantly shooed away with disgust and
disdain for being a lowly peddler. But while The Devil Doll might seem to be
subversive, pro-Soviet agitprop, with its literally “little" guys exacting
justice by knifepoint on wealthy and powerful bankers, it's actually moreso a
subtle shade of anti-Communist, as its mini-killers are the victims of a
madman's mind control. Lavond's soldiers are brainwashed slaves, like
Lilliputian Manchurian candidates.



From "And You Call Yourself a Scientist"


Two men make a daring escape from Devil’s Island. One is Paul Lavond (Lionel
Barrymore), a former banker wrongly convicted of murder and embezzlement; the
other is an obsessed scientist named Marcel (Henry B. Walthall). After weeks on
the run, the two succeed in evading the authorities, and reach an isolated house
occupied by Marcel’s crippled wife, Malita (Rafaela Ottiano). Marcel is thrilled
to find that Malita has been continuing with their work, telling her that he has
thought of a way of solving the problem that has been hampering the experiments.
Lavond follows Marcel and Malita to their laboratory. There, Malita displays a
number of tiny dogs that Lavond assumes are toys. He is shocked when Marcel
insists that they are real dogs, shrunk to one sixth of their normal size.
Unfortunately, the shrinking process damages the brain of the animals: they
cannot think for themselves, but they can be controlled by the will of others,
something Marcel demonstrates for the astonished Lavond. Marcel tells Malita
that he has thought of a way of preserving the brain during the shrinking
process, and goes on to explain his plan of shrinking people, so that their food
needs will be similarly reduced, thus combating world hunger. Malita invites
Lavond to stay with them, but he reveals his plan of revenge against the three
men who framed him, saying he must leave soon. That night, Lavond is woken by
noises downstairs. He enters the laboratory to find that Marcel has reduced the
house servant, Lachna (Grace Ford). Like the dogs, she may be controlled by the
will of another. Lavond and Marcel clash, with the latter suffering a heart
attack. Distraught by Marcel’s death, Malita begs Lavond to stay and help her
carry on the work. A plan begins to take shape in Lavond’s mind…. In Paris,
Coulvet (Robert Greig), Radin (Arthur Hohl) and Matin (Pedro de Cordoba),
Lavond’s former partners, meet to discuss Lavond’s escape from prison. They
agree to offer a large reward for his capture. The police search is in vain,
however, as Lavond has assumed another identity: that of "Madame Mandelip", a
dollmaker with a shop in the Parisian backstreets. In this guise, Lavond visits
Radin, demonstrating a "toy" horse and asking him to invest in "her" business.
Radin visits the shop, where Lavond shows him Lachna, now dressed as an Apache.
Pointing out the detail in the "doll’s" costume, Lavond shows Radin a tiny
stiletto – then stabs him in the thigh with it. The knife was dipped in a
substance that paralyses its victim. As Malita gleefully contemplates shrinking
Radin, Lavond – as Madame Mandelip - goes to see his daughter, Lorraine (Maureen
O’Sullivan), who is working in a laundry in order to support herself and her
grandmother. Although she is in love with Toto (Frank Lawton), Lorraine has
refused to marry him because of her father’s disgrace, and her mother’s suicide.
Lavond visits his mother (Lucy Beaumont), to whom he has already revealed
himself. He tells her that he plans to tell Lorraine who he is, but when
Lorraine arrives she speaks of him so bitterly that he changes his mind.
Instead, Lavond begins the next phase of his revenge, visiting the home of M.
Coulvet, to sell his wife a "doll"….

Comments: An interesting if not entirely successful mixing of genres, Tod
Browning’s The Devil-Doll ends up being more of a hoot than a shiver-fest.
Science fiction, horror, revenge drama and sickly sentimentality jostle each
other throughout; and unfortunately for genre fans, it is the latter two that
finally win out. The film opens promisingly enough with Paul Lavond and his
fellow escapee slogging through the swamps with bloodhounds in close pursuit.
From here the story plunges into the bizarre tale of Marcel and Malita.
Explaining life on Devil’s Island, Lavond tells Malita that to survive, a man
must have something to focus upon. For himself, it was his revenge, while for
Marcel it was "science". Indeed. You’ve gotta love a man whose first words to
his wife after escaping from prison are "The work! The work!" A quick embrace
later, and the two are back in the lab, ranting about "perfect brains" and "no
more failures". Yeah, right. We’ve all heard that before, haven’t we? Marcel’s
plan is to shrink all living things on Earth, in order to cure world hunger.
(All things, Marcel? Oh, dear….) However, up until now the shrinking process has
left the subjects blank-minded, with no memory and no will. Just to demonstrate
what a pair of humanitarians they are, Marcel and Malita test out Marcel’s new
theory on Lachna, the "inbred peasant half-wit" unfortunate enough to be
employed as their servant. We never do see the actual shrinking process, but it
seems to involve a chemical "mist", plus a great deal of cotton wool. Similarly,
Marcel’s scheme for maintaining normal brain function after reduction is
undisclosed, although we are told that he has "repaired" Lachna’s brain. The
fact that Lachna, like the dogs, is incapable of independent action is therefore
somewhat confusing; and tragically, before we can get an explanation one way or
the other, Marcel keels over with a heart attack. Malita immediately devotes
herself to fulfilling Marcel’s plan for "making the whole world small", and
tries to recruit Lavond to the cause. Although repulsed, in your typically
narrow-minded layperson way, by what he has observed, Lavond begins to see
possibilities in Malita’s ability to shrink and control human beings; and he
lures her to Paris by promising that he will help her once his revenge on his
former partners is complete.

Once the story moves to Paris, The Devil-Doll loses much of its appeal – or
perhaps that’s just me. In place of our loony scientists’ endless ranting, we
get Paul Lavond in drag, doing a "sweet little old lady" routine for the benefit
of his chosen victims, the police, and even his own family. Things really lose
steam when the film’s focus shifts from Lavond’s revenge plot to his attempts to
reconcile with his estranged daughter, Lorraine. Given The Devil-Doll’s brief
running time, far too long is spent detailing the repercussions of Lavond’s
imprisonment on his family, particularly since this involves the clumsy
cinematic convention of having characters tell each other in detail what they
must already know. (Our only relief from this is the occasional reappearance of
Malita, who stops by from time to time to do a bit more ranting before, as you’d
expect, blowing her lab and herself up with what I can only assume was an Atomic
Grenade©.) Things pick up when Mme Mandelip’s "dolls" swing into action. The
first of Lavond’s three victims is lured to the shop, immobilised, and shrunk,
finally becoming one of the tools of revenge himself. The attack upon the second
involves the film’s most lengthy and elaborate sequence of special effects as
Lachna, following Lavond’s mental orders, empties out Mme Coulvet’s jewellery
box before attacking Coulvet himself with her poisoned stiletto. These events
not surprisingly unnerve the final victim, Matin, who receives a cryptic
anonymous note telling him at what time his own fate will be decided. Matin
surrounds himself with guards, but to no avail. In one of the film’s cleverest
ideas, we see that the miniaturised Radin has already been smuggled into Matin’s
house – and is hanging from his Christmas tree amongst the other ornaments. As
the hour named in the note approaches, so does Radin; but as he raises his tiny
knife to strike the fatal blow, Matin snaps, denouncing himself and the others,
and declaring Lavond innocent of the crimes of which he was convicted. At this
point, everything looks set for a more than usually predictable happy ending –
except that it doesn’t quite work out that way. Unexpectedly, Paul Lavond turns
out to be a man with an unusually developed sense of justice. Although not
guilty of the crimes for which he served his prison term, he is guilty of
destroying the lives of both Radin and Coulvet, and for this condemns himself to
never rejoining his family. In this day and age, when any action film "hero" can
blow away half a city in an attempt to clear his name, then simply shrug off the
body count and resume his normal life, this attitude is as refreshing as it is
startling. More startling still, in 1936, is Lavond’s ultimate fate. Having
reassured himself that Lorraine’s future is secure, Lavond makes a speech that
implies, without spelling out, his intention of killing himself. Given the
Legion of Decency’s absolute ban on "suicide in plot resolution", it is quite
amazing that the final scenes were allowed to stand. Perhaps suicide is only
suicide if it happens onscreen.

The Devil-Doll was Tod Browning’s penultimate film, and feels like it. After
Freaks, Browning was clearly being kept on a short leash: despite the bizarre
storyline, the film lacks that feeling of pleasure in the macabre that informed
all of Browning’s earlier works. Similarly, there is no sense at all of the
presence of Erich von Stroheim – another MGM casualty. In short, the film is
never what you feel it should have been; and its pleasures are incidental. In
full Mrs Doubtfire mode, Lionel Barrymore hams it up shamelessly in his dual
role. Whether or not you enjoy The Devil-Doll may well depend upon how much of
"Madame Mandelip" you can stomach. Speaking personally, I find a little of "her"
goes a long way. For me, the real fun of this movie comes early on, with the
outrageous performances of Henry B. Walthall and Rafaela Ottiano as a pair of
happily married mad scientists. Between them, Walthall (best known for playing
"The Little Colonel" in D.W. Griffith’s The Birth Of A Nation) and Ottiano
almost manage to make Barrymore’s performance seem subtle. Ottiano in particular
is a laugh riot. With a dramatic streak of white in her hair, stumping about the
lab with a single crutch, the actress conveys her character’s obsession by
clenching her teeth, contorting her mouth, and opening her eyes as wide as she
possibly can – usually while looking down, which is kind of freaky. Once this
trio has finished dining on the furniture, there isn’t much that the rest of the
cast can do. Of the supporting players, Maureen O’Sullivan stands out, but as
much for the incongruity of her immaculately clipped British accent as for her
performance. As you would expect, the quality of the film’s special effects is
highly variable. The superimposition work is generally poor, and is further
hampered by problems of scale: poor Lachna shoots up and down like Alice in
Wonderland. In contrast, the "doll" scenes that were done by having the actors
interact with oversized sets and props show great attention to detail
throughout, and consequently they work very well. Leonard Smith’s crisp
cinematography and Franz Waxman’s score are also assets. Although not a great
film by any means, The Devil-Doll is certainly one of the better entries in the
pantheon of "little people" movies, making an interesting forerunner to the more
overtly science fiction Dr Cyclops, and even to Bert I. Gordon’s Attack Of The
Puppet People. Speaking of which, it occurred to me while listening to Malita’s
melodramatic raving, and watching her make Lachna and Radin dance for her own
amusement, that it was a pity no-one ever introduced her to John Hoyt’s Mr
Franz. Now that would have been a match made in cinematic heaven….


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MEDIAINFO REPORT

General
Format : Matroska
File size : 1.27 GiB
Duration : 1h 18mn
Overall bit rate : 2 331 Kbps
Encoded date : UTC 2009-02-06 14:00:04
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Bit rate : 2 037 Kbps
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Height : 464 pixels
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Text
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Codec ID : S_TEXT/UTF8
Codec ID/Info : UTF-8 Plain Text
Title : Español
Language : Spanish



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