The Devil-Doll - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Devil-Doll Reviews

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½ June 6, 2017
Very enjoyable (for the most part) 1930s comedy thriller, with Lionel Barrymore having great fun in Old Mother Riley drag as a wrongly-convicted banker out to get revenge on his former colleagues, using miniaturised human 'dolls' (but of course). After a strong opening the film does lose energy, but it's redeemed by good performances, special FX and a spooky Franz Waxman score.
½ November 10, 2016
Two men escape prison together. One is an old scientist, and the other is a middle-aged man in jail for embezzling his bank practice, but he claims that his partners framed him. The younger man helps get the older man back to his home and laboratory. There he sees the old man is obsessed with shrinking animals and even humans down to miniature sizes. In some ways, he succeeds, but the brain function of the shrunken individuals breaks down. They become tiny mindless drones that follow commands of their creator without question. The younger man questions the morality of the old man's work. Later, he plots to use the miniature drones posed as realistic dolls to get revenge on his partners and reclaim his name. There is supposed to be a dark suspense to the movie but the tiny people are just not very threatening. The filmmakers seemed fascinated by the camera technology of making miniature people on film. This movie comes off the heels of the Bride of Frankenstein, which used these techniques in a more limited and more effective way. There is actually enough story content and substance with the characters to save the movie from falling into cheesy chiller movie territory. In fact, I would rather see the escaped prisoner outsmart those wronged him in the shadows on his own. The story of men escaping prison and man seeking revenge on his partners would actually be better without the tiny sinister drones.
February 8, 2016
Impressive special effects for "The Devil Doll" starring Lionel Barrymore who is actually related to actress Drew Barrymore. I recommend this movie and "Freaks" which was also directed by Tod Browning.
½ October 29, 2015
in browning's skillful hands this 1 is creepy
½ October 29, 2013
You don't recognize a prisoner of life itself?

An escaped convict from Devil's Island wants revenge on those that sent him there. While on the island, the prisoner learned how to shrink humans and animals into miniature form. The convict shrinks some people and makes them help him gain revenge. Will the convict be successful in executing his plot?

"She's an inbred, peasant, half-whit."

Tod Browning, director of Dracula (1931), Freaks, The Unknown, London After Midnight, Mark of the Vampire, Iron Man (1931), The Mystic, and The Unpainted Woman, delivers The Devil-Doll. The storyline for this picture was fun and entertaining and reminded me a little of Gulliver's Travels (the way the little people were used). The special effects were better than average and the acting was very good. The cast includes Lionel Barrymore, Maureen O'Sullivan, Frank Lawton, and Grace Ford.

"Why don't you bury the little girl here?"

The Devil-Doll is a movie I came across while flicking through Turner Classic Movies (TCM) for movies to DVR this Halloween season. The plot sounded worthwhile so I gave it a shot. It is a little slow and cheesy at times, but the overall premise and execution is pretty good. I recommend seeing this if you're a fan of classic horrors but I wouldn't add it to my DVD collection.

"You have only hatred in your heart."

Grade: C+/B-
½ July 23, 2013
The first thing to be said about this movie by Tod Browning (Dracula, Freaks) is that Lionel Barrymore stars and spends 3/4 of the movie in old lady drag. He's a wrongfully convicted former bank president who was swindled by his colleagues. In prison, he meets a mad scientist type who can shrink living beings down to 1/6 of their size -- he wants to use this to solve the problem of world hunger. Barrymore has other plans. Sure, the 1936 special effects are dated but I found the film to be fully enjoyable -- even if it isn't really a horror movie.
November 9, 2012
Lionel Barrymore in drag most of the film while enacting revenge through live miniature dolls via mind control. It's as amazing as it sounds, only stumbling blocks would be mostly due to the restrictive Hays Code of the time for motion pictures. That and some slight stumbles in pacing but at 79 minutes it's a good movie to catch late one evening usually on TCM.
½ October 26, 2012
Combining several of Browning's favorite horror oddities this is one kooky great flick. Nothing spells scary more than Lionel Barrymore in old lady drag.
August 12, 2012
Creepy little horror film from the director of "Freaks", Tod Browning and co-written by Erich von Stroheim. Drew Barrymore's great uncle Lionel Barrymore plays an escaped prisoner from Devil's Island who is seeking revenge on those who framed him. His plan involves dressing up as an old woman who opens a doll shop, and then shrinking real people and animals to doll size to carry out his evil plans. How could you not want to watch a movie with that kind of a set-up? Mia Farrow's mom, Maureen O'Sullivan, plays Barrymore's daughter, who I think I have a crush on.
May 7, 2012
This is an incredibly underrated and enjoyable horror/ comedy flick. The plot is as priceless as it is ludicrous: Lionel Barrymore, after escaping from prison, has to cross-dress to pose as the elderly owner of a doll-shop, where the dolls are actually real people shrunk to doll size, so he can get revenge on the men who had him wrongly convicted. Barrymore's performance is great and hilarious, surely the best cross-dressing role I've ever seen on screen (I would also not be surprised if it came out that Robin Williams took this role as inspiration for "Mrs. Doubtfire" -- he plays the role similarly to how Barrymore does his 'old lady'.) The special effects are quite fantastic, Tod Browning does his typical very good directorial job, the dialogue and performance from Barrymore are hilarious, and the fact that it gets so ludicrous is just a positive in my book. A flawed, but highly entertaining and clever film.
August 31, 2011
Eddig Tod Browning minden filmje lenyűgözött (C)s ez se kiv (C)tel. Ráadásul Lionel Barrymore eddig m (C)g egy filmeben sem tetszett ennyire. Mestermű!
½ April 26, 2011
The Devil-Doll (aka "The Witch of Timbucktoo")
Starring: Lionel Barrymore, Maureen O'Sullivan, Rafaela Ottiano, and Frank Lawton
Director: Tod Browning


Honest banker Paul Lavond (Barrymore) is sentenced to life in the hellish prison of Devil's Island after his business associates frame him for a robbery and murder they committed. However, after 17 years, he escapes with a mad scientist who was working on a method to reduce humans to a height of mere inches (all for the good of humanity, of course). The scientist may have been mad, but his methods worked--they not only reduced humans to doll-sizes, but they make them controllable via mental telepathy. Consumed with hatred for those who framed him, and a wish to restore the wealth that was denied him to his now-grown daughter (O'Sullivan), he takes the scientist's methods to Paris and embarks on a bizarre campaign of terror and vegeance.

"The Devil-Doll" is a film with an exceedingly goofy concept at its core, but the cast is so spectacular and the effects so well done--they hold up in most instances even today--that it really doesn't matter. Barrymore and every other actor in the film give such straight performances that telepathically controlled, tiny assassins seem perfectly reasonable. (The one execption is Ottiano, who plays the widower of the inventor of the "dollification" process... and since she's even nuttier than her husband, it's okay for her to be waaaay over the top.)

This is a film that's well-shot, well-acted, and which holds up well 70+ years after its release.
April 26, 2011
Well it has been awhile since I updated, so I will make this a movie review update.

Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla: Lame/dull/boring. Take your pick. The fight scenes were few and far between. And Godzilla's "ally" King Caesar sucked.

The Devil Doll: Boring. It's about a guy who turns dolls to life to kill people or something. I really don't know, I was destracted because he dressed up like an old woman for most of the movie. Typical '30's acting. Dissappointing.

Heavy Metal:It is an animated flick that deals with sex and violence. Not music, not cool visual effects. Boring!

Godzilla vs. Monster Zero: Fight scenes were decent and Godzilla did the funniest happy dance of all time. But the movie was way to drawn out.

Tremors 3: I finally saw it! We finished it in homeroom and it was pretty funny. But because it is a B movie and a trequel -- I can't give it the A movie rating of a 7 or above. I would recommend it for a laugh.

Not much else going on. New classes are looking good. Especially Mdern Irish and British Literature. Mr. Kearney is HILARIOUS! Mr. Laats seems funny too. Mr. Chaney, Ms. McBride-Doyle, and Ms. Zbikowski are decent teachers, but nothing mentionalbe has happened yet.

Well, the final bell just rang and I'm outta here!

-Joe
PS Check the Journal of Bruce Campbell and co. for some interesting information.
½ April 26, 2011
What an interesting film, the special effects are amazing, especially for 1936. Good cast. It is a little over the top but it's an excellent film.
½ April 26, 2011
I didn't expect much from this movie. Holy wow was I surprised. Not only is the plot engaging and fun, but ultimately the story transcends the typical horror movie shtick one might assume with a title and a premise such as "Devil Doll" has--living dolls doing the bidding of a falsely accused criminal seeking vengeance. Also, that criminal is in drag for most of the movie. AND YET IT IS NOT SCHLOCKY IN THE LEAST! Amazing.

In true Tod Browning fashion, what might simply be a "horror movie" is given great emotional depth and characters that, much like the witch's creation in the film, are very near flesh and blood in their realization. Devil Doll is as much a drama as it is a horror film, and effective in both parties. Whisper this--the ending was so touching that I actually had to wipe away a tear or two.
Super Reviewer
September 15, 2010
Weird, silly movie. I didn't care for it.
July 3, 2010
When an escaped convict with a score to settle teams up with a mad scientist who can shrink animals and even people to doll size, he finds a perfect way to take revenge on the men who wrongfully got him sent to prison. A good classic horror film.
July 1, 2010
The special effects are damn good when you consider the release date and Lionel Barrymore gives a fine performance. The rest of the characters are paper thin and the living doll concept takes an awful big leap in logic to accept. Worth seeing for lovers of old horror films just don't set your expectations to high and you should have a decent enough time.
October 28, 2009
An escaped convict (Lionel Barrymore) discovers a method to shrink human beings, and uses that new found knowledge in only sensible ways. Specifically, to dress up like an old woman, sell the tiny people as dolls, and then direct them to assassinate the men who framed him.

THE DEVIL-DOLL is a humorously quirky horror movie from the strange mind of Todd Browning. Many scenes are effectively atmospheric, and the scene of the tiny assassin climbing up a bed-post to kill his target is a surprisingly convincing effect.

I did find it to be an odd choice that the assassins' favored method of the kill is to stab his victim with a teeny-tiny knife. Really, if you're so susceptible to instant death by getting stabbed in the ankle with a one-inch blade, you probably aren't going to be around for long anyway.

Also, Lionel Barrymore (Probably best known today as old Mr. Potter in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE.) makes an alarmingly convincing grandmother.
½ October 23, 2009
Lionel Barrymore in drag. Need I say more. Probably one of (if not) Tod Browning's best pictures, Devil-Doll is a macabre modern fairy tale of revenge and fantasy with Barrymore using miniature people to kill those who imprisoned him. The ending is actually a big surprise for a 1930s horrror film and the final scene atop the Eiffel Tower might even bring a tear to the eye.
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