June 12th, 1939 – Horror Films Become Colorful . . . with Blood!


Released on April 12th, 1940, filming for Dr. Cyclops began on June 12th, 1939. It was the first horror film photographed in three-strip Technicolor and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects at the 13th Academy Awards.


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, and Schoedsack took care that the special effects in color were effective.

The plot of Dr. Cyclops begins when 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.

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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 . . . and then the adventure really begins!


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