Dr. Cyclops


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Dr. Cyclops

(pop culture)
Is there any sinister superweapon more popular than the shrinking ray? The study of doll-sized humans has transfixed power-mad maniacs from Brainiac, who collected shrunken cities in bottles, to Dr. Doom, known to reduce his foes upon occasion. But the master of miniaturization was Dr. Cyclops, star of the self-titled 1940 film from Paramount Pictures directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack (a 1940 novelization of the movie was penned by author Will Garth). Dr. Cyclops is actually Dr. Alexander Thorkel, a stereotypical mad scientist: bald and stocky with thick-lensed, round-framed glasses, toiling from his remote laboratory (in Peru), always clad in a lab coat. Setting up shop in the jungle after the Manhattan science community frowns upon his eccentric methodology, Thorkel taps into a nearby radium reserve and perfects a miniaturization device he tests upon animals. As if his experiments were not already encroaching upon nature's order, he next reduces his housekeeper Mira to the size of a pygmy. She dies, causing Thorkel no compunction— it's merely a minor setback. Some time later, when his former colleagues visit Thorkel's lab upon his invitation, their repulsion at his experiments earns them a ticket to tiny-land, followed by dramatically staged cat-and-mouse chases. Thorkel relishes tyrannizing his minuscule captives, and when one of them smashes a lens of the eyeglasses he depends upon, the squinting, “oneeyed” madman's nom de supervillainy is coined. Dr. Cyclops was revolutionary for its day, wowing audiences with special effects vastly superior to Schoedsack's better-known earlier effort, King Kong (which he co-directed with Merian C. Cooper in 1933), screen marvels magnified by an early use of Technicolor. But actor Albert Dekker as Thorkel makes the film—his forceful presence and mushrooming obsession drive the story.