Dr. Cyclops

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Dr. Cyclops
Dr cyclops.jpg
Directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack
Produced by Dale Van Every
Merian C. Cooper
Written by Tom Kilpatrick
Starring Albert Dekker
Thomas Coley
Janice Logan
Charles Halton
Victor Kilian
Music by Gerard Carbonara
Albert Hay Malotte
Ernst Toch
Cinematography Henry Sharp
Edited by Ellsworth Hoagland
Paramount Pictures
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • April 12, 1940 (1940-04-12)
Running time
75 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Dr. Cyclops is a 1940 Technicolor American science fiction horror film directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack, starring Thomas Coley, Victor Kilian, Janice Logan, Charles Halton, Frank Yaconelli, and Albert Dekker, and released by Paramount Pictures.[1] It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects (Farciot Edouart, Gordon Jennings) at the 13th Academy Awards.[2]


Biologists Dr. Mary Robinson (Janice Logan) and Dr. Bullfinch (Charles Halton) are summoned by Dr. Alexander Thorkel (Albert Dekker) to his remote laboratory in the Peruvian jungle. They are accompanied by mineralogist Dr. Bill Stockton (Thomas Coley), a friend of Mary's and a last minute substitute for another scientist, and Steve Baker (Victor Kilian), who wants to make sure his hired mules are well cared for (and suspects Thorkel may have discovered a rich mine). When they arrive, Thorkel asks the scientists to describe a specimen in his microscope, since his eyesight is too poor for him to do so himself. Bill identifies iron crystal contamination, much to Thorkel's satisfaction. Then, to their astonishment, Thorkel thanks them for their services and wants them to leave.

Insulted that they have traveled thousands of miles for nothing, they set up camp in Thorkel's stockade, insisting that he tell them more about his research. While snooping around, Steve discovers the area is rich with pitchblende, an ore of uranium and radium. When he finds them looking around his laboratory, Thorkel becomes angry, but as he is outnumbered, reveals he is shrinking living creatures, among them a horse, using radiation piped from a radium deposit down a deep shaft. He invites them and his assistant Pedro (Frank Yaconelli) to examine his apparatus, then locks them inside his radiation chamber. With the information that Bill has provided, he is able to correct the flaw that has killed his prior specimens. When his victims awaken, they find they have shrunk to twelve inches tall.

They flee from Thorkel, and then from Thorkel's cat Satanus, from whom they are saved by Pedro's dog Tipo, who is bewildered by his master now being smaller than him. Bullfinch is eventually coaxed into speaking with Thorkel, but the latter is not interested in negotiating, merely in measuring Bullfinch. When he discovers that Bullfinch is growing, he realizes that the effect is only temporary. He murders Bullfinch in cold blood and sets out to hunt the others down so that they cannot go to the authorities.

The four survivors hack their way through gigantic jungle foliage and do battle with the wildlife. They attempt to launch Pedro's small boat (now enormous in their eyes), but are attacked by a caiman. When Thorkel locates them using Pedro's dog, Pedro leads Thorkel away from the others and is shot dead. The fugitives hide in one of Thorkel’s specimen cases and are brought back undetected to his lab.

While Thorkel goes outside to adjust a machine, Bill, Steve and Mary prepare to kill him with his own shotgun when he lies down on his bed. However, he instead falls asleep at his desk. They hide his spare glasses, then Steve steals the pair Thorkel put on his desk, managing to smash one lens before Thorkel awakes. Thorkel chases the shrunken trio to the mineshaft and precariously hangs by a rope when the plank he was lying on breaks. Steve cuts the rope, causing Thorkel to plunge to his death.

Months later, Bill, Steve and Mary return to civilization, restored to their original size. Bill and Mary are in love.


Place in film history[edit]

Dr. Cyclops was directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack, who was also responsible for King Kong. Like that earlier film, it involves an expedition into the jungle in search of scientific discovery. Also like King Kong, the film features elaborate sets and special effects. The film is also the first American science fiction film made in Technicolor, since Mystery of the Wax Museum in 1933 and Schoedsack took care that the special effects in color were effective.[3]

Film historian John Brosnan has written of the film: "It's a fast-paced, inventive film though the dialogue is awful and the acting is undistinguished with the exceptionof Albert Dekker's portrayal of Dr Thorkel. As with Charles Laughton's version of Dr Moreau, his evil is not a byproduct of scientific zeal but a deliberate choice of action. The special effects deserve a mention, being ingeniously contrived and rather convincing, but the film is also noteworthy for its two unintentional references to the war that was about to engulf the world and end with the prospect of a nuclear apocalypse - Thorkel draws the power for his device from a 'radium mine' and, with his shaven head and thick, round glasses, he resembles the wartime caricature of the 'beastly Jap.'" [4]


  1. ^ This Month in Horror: April 1940
  2. ^ "The 13th Academy Awards (1941) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2013-06-18. 
  3. ^ http://www.tcm.com/this-month/article/145282%7C0/Dr-Cyclops.html
  4. '^ John Brosnan. The Primal Screen: A History of Science Fiction Film. UK: Orbit Books, 1991, p. 30.

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