As you can probably tell one of the issues is that the plot has no depth. It’s never revealed why Thorkell wants to shrink things and it’s made clear from the start that it’s not his intention to shrink the team, he merely wanted their help in assisting his work. There are one or two lines about power but it never goes anywhere- Thorkell just seems to do the whole mad scientist thing because he wants too. I also question as to why it’s been given the jungle setting as it’s not utilised at all. There’s a fight scene with a crocodile but literally that’s it, the rest of it takes place within the camp- in fact the Cat seems to be the primary animal antagonist! You could move the whole movie to the Desert and switch the Crocodile for a Scorpion and it wouldn’t make much different. It seems a shame that this is from the same guy who directed King Kong (1933) one of the greatest jungle horror movies ever, if not the greatest! Even the title has little relevance, a character states that Thorkell is like Cyclops because he believes size to be better than intellectual might. Now if you’d been paying attention to the plot at all up until this point (Personally if you have I think you should get some kind of award) you would realise that Thorkell is one of the world’s greatest scientists, so this insult makes no sense! The other meaning is of course related to his poor vision but even then it feels like it’s just been shoehorned in a gimmicky fashion.
Dr Cyclops always seems to get praised for its early use of Technicolor but if anything, I thought it was wasted here. I always imagine that had it been shot in Black and White this could have come across as genuinely creepy, after all being shrunk down to tiny size by a mad scientist can hardly be a pleasant experience! Instead however with its bright and vibrant colours it comes across as jolly and happy, almost as if the Wizard of Oz was a science fiction film. It is nice to see a rare example of colour in a 30’s/40’s horror but I can’t help but feel that it just gives the film completely the wrong atmosphere. Colour had been used effectively in the horror genre up until this point, for example Mystery of the Wax Museum (1935) and Doctor X (1932) using the much creepier Two-Colour process. Now Technicolor would be utilised to great extent in the future (see my review of the Curse of Frankenstein) but here it’s just far too bright! Any creepiness that could have been generated is lost. Speaking of completely the wrong atmosphere, I haven’t even begun to discuss the soundtrack yet. Personally I felt that there was just too much music and completely the wrong sort as well. Like the colour it takes a plot that could be incredibly creepy and disturbing and just ruins it! Too jolly, quick etc!
It’s not all terrible however, as I mentioned earlier- Dekker really is fantastic as the mad scientist Thorkell. I genuinely found him quite threatening; something which isn’t easy to do when one is playing a character whose vision is hardly ideal. Any other actor could have made Thorkell seem vulnerable but somehow Dekker makes the audience believe that this is Thorkell’s only weakness and even then it is not one that leaves him entirely helpless. The films second strength is that the effects are admittedly rather well done. Admittedly I’m not a big fan of the whole “Shrunken Man” sub-genre; I think it’s a bit of a one-trick pony, if you’ve seen The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) I don’t think you need to see anymore. However, if you like this stuff then give it a watch, as an early example of this type of film it’s extremely interesting.
I really can’t recommend Dr Cyclops. With so many other great 30’s and 40’s gems to check out, this one really doesn’t seem to deserve the amount of attention it gets. If you’re a big fan of either this era of horror or “Shrunken Man films” then give it a go, if not then stay away. There are so many other much better early horror films out there, not to mention early horror’s that use the added bonus of colour to much greater effect.