I dig into some more mad scientist movies as I continue to explore the highly enjoyable Monsters in the Movies from DK Canada, this time it’s a ‘classic’ from the 50s that sees a deranged doll-maker Mr. Franz (iconic character actor John Hoyt) creates a machine that shrinks people, something he is keen to do… you know, instead of using it to solve some of the world’s problems.
With an overly dramatic score by Albert Glasser, the film wants to be taken seriously, but one just can’t. Instead, it’s easier to settle in and enjoy the science fiction melodrama as it occurs, as Hoyt shrinks whomever he chooses, and delights in their fates.
The doll effect is quite good, and easily achieved, most of the time they are simply a photographic image of the actor placed inside a glass display canister. Simple but effective.
Trouble comes to town when Franz takes on a new executive assistant, Sally Reynolds (Julie Kenney) – I wondered what happened to the old one? – and she becomes increasingly suspicious of her new boss, and with the help of a salesman, Bob (John Agar) the pair are caught up in a horrifying scheme.
Then, when Bob disappears, Sally, who has fallen for him, is heartbroken, until she suffers the same fate… they’ve been shrunk by Franz who takes delight in their new condition.
This is a familiar story, and would later be revisited in a number of forms, including an episode of The Twilight Zone. The film is simple, with lots of scene chewing by Hoyt, but overall, a not engaging story.
The special effects, for the time, are fairly solid, though a lot of the sizes of the props are incorrect for the interactions with the shrunken folk. But, of course, they will find a way to save themselves and put paid to Franz.
There’s a couple of subplots, one including Franz’s old theater friend, Emil (Micheal Mark) who performs with marionettes and is always in need of his help, as well as one concerning a police investigation surrounding Franz about missing people, courtesy of Sgt. Paterson (Jack Kosslyn).
Franz is definitely off his rocker, and Hoyt definitely brings as much to the character that is sketched out as he can, filling him with a sense of loneliness, paired with his madness, that gives Franz a bit of depth, but the film doesn’t have too many saving graces.
Still, it’s a fun watch, and I love seeing how they improvise the changes in sizes, the props, and the combination of special effects so that Franz shares the screen with his miniaturized ‘friends’.
The reign of the mad scientist will continue when I explore another title in DK Books’ Monsters in the Movies! Pick one up today, and find something macabre to watch tonight!