Some nights, us sci-fi fans want intellectual stimulation, along the lines of 2001 or Solaris. Sometimes, we want to be wowed by the latest blockbusters. And other times, there’s nothing that can beat a bit of ‘40s schlock. If you’re having one of those nights, you may want to consider Fabulous Films’ latest DVD release of Doctor Cyclops.
Seeing director Ernest Schoedsack once again team up with producer Merian Cooper seven years after they made cinema history with King Kong, Doctor Cyclops also begins with expedition into the jungle. This time, though, it’s to join the reclusive Dr. Thorkel (Dekker), who’s been digging up radioactive ore using a device that looks something like a giant Incan dildo. The radiation, it turns out, makes organisms smaller! Soon, all our heroes find themselves shrunk and struggling to escape from the insane scientist, who, through a rather contrived mythological analogy, they’ve dubbed... Doctor Cyclops!
It’s not the only classic sci-fi movie that features people being shrunk, and you’re probably wondering how it compares to the more well known The Incredible Shrinking Man. Well, despite being made seventeen years earlier, the effects in Cyclops stand up just as well, if not better. For a start, it’s in colour (the first American horror in three-strip Technicolor, film pigmentation nerds!), lending an exoticism to the Amazon setting which is backed up by probably-stock footage of various ferocious beasties. And then there are some pretty convincing – for the time – sequences of the little guys being chased around by a giant cat and of them clambering over the furniture of Cyclops’s office as they devise a plan to take him down.
But the story and characterisation is where this movie falls apart, even given the fact that you know from the start it’s going to be schlocky. To go back to that same comparison, The Incredible Shrinking Man knew to keep its plot simple and its characters sharply defined in order to let the effects lead; Doctor Cyclops, however, gets itself lost amidst the wonky science of its eponymous madman’s plans, while making the bigger mistake of not explaining why he’s doing any of this. Key decisions made by characters throughout the film make no sense at all, and dialogue is nothing short of terrible.
But hey, some days you just need to watch a group of tiny people drop matches on a caiman’s head. Fabulous Films’ release is pretty basic, with cover art being a reused old poster and special features restricted to a trailer.
DOCTOR CYCLOPS / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: ERNEST B. SHOEDSACK / SCREENPLAY: TOM KILPATRICK / STARRING: ALBERT DEKKER, THOMAS COLEY, JANICE LOGAN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW