Dr. Cyclops (Ernest B. Schoedsack / U.S., 1940):

The MacGuffin is, why not, "the cosmic force of creation itself," distilled by the wicked egghead (Albert Dekker) in a lurid-green laboratory deep in the Peruvian jungle. (His assistantís moral outrage is swiftly silenced by a radioactive blast to the skull.) Dekker has the right malevolent look, bald as a badger and with thick round specs over a thin mustache, and so riotously obsessive that he invites a batch of scientists from another continent just so they can peep into his microscope for a second or so. Miniaturization is the experiment, among the subjects getting shrunk down to pocket size are a windy biologist (Charles Halton), a comely doctor (Janice Logan), a lazybones mineralogist (Thomas Coley), a burro merchant (Victor Kilian), and a campesino sidekick (Frank Yaconelli). (In keeping with the occasional allusion to Greek mythology, all the tiny prisoners are attired in handkerchief tunics, except for Yaconelli, who must settle for a red diaper.) "Strange how absorbed man has been in the size of things." In Ernest B. Schoedsackís fantasy of characters at the mercy of high and low camera angles, every other shot is a pulp poem. The amalgamation of Incan rubble, soundstage foliage and bottomless wells is weirdly striking and satisfyingly silly, the lush Technicolor hues are like freshly printed comic books. (Winton C. Hoch is listed as "associate director" of photography.) A catís meow turns monstrous, a cactus garden becomes an emerald city. One rare sight has the Lilliputian fugitives silhouetted against a cobalt sky along with a white cockatoo; they later struggle to push a vast canoe into the river and itís Fitzcarraldo all of a sudden, except for the pink alligator maws snapping their way. "Un film passionnant" (Truffaut), the boyish cliffhanger before Jack Arnoldís spiritual rumination (The Incredible Shrinking Man). With Paul Fix and Frank Reicher.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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