Movie Mini-Review: The Devil-Doll (1936)

devil doll

The Devil-Doll is a strange little movie from Tod Browning (Dracula, Freaks) that sees Lionel Barrymore shrinking people down to doll-sized proportions, then using mind control to force them to carry out his revenge. Most movies of this sort rely on gimmicks for gimmicks’ sake, but The Devil-Doll manages to successfully incorporate its namesake as a genuine plot element. The story actually becomes about a father’s quest to redeem himself in his daughter’s eyes. The able Lionel Barrymore, grandpa of the golden age, brings a bittersweet touch to the finale. I love Barrymore, especially when he’s in drag as an elderly old woman. Unfortunately, a big chunk of this movie resorts to a paint-by-numbers approach all too common among revenge tales. There’s also something unsettling about a movie that asks us to sympathize with a character who kidnaps, miniaturizes, and zombifies his victims. Despite any setbacks, I still find The Devil-Doll more compelling than most other genre flicks from the period.

Rating: 3.25/5 ★★★¼☆ 


About Scott_S

Scott studied film and sociology at Indiana University and is currently the video producer for a large publishing company. He is the director of several independent films, including "House of Hope," "Off the Beaten Path," "The Day Joe Left," and "Found." For more about Scott, visit Scott is also one of the principal organizers of the Dark Carnival Film Festival. (

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