The Devil-Doll (1936)

70 or 79 mins | Science fiction, Melodrama | 10 January 1936

Director:

Tod Browning

Producer:

Edward J. Mannix

Cinematographer:

Leonard Smith

Production Designer:

Cedric Gibbons

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

The film's working title was The Witch of Timbuctoo . Some televised airings of the film end after the exlposion of the toy shop. According to HR , this was the last film completed by Henry B. Walthall before his death. Walthall died while working on his next film, China Clipper (see above). Actress Grace Ford made her motion picture debut in The Devil-Doll . The Var reviewer pointed out the similarity of the sequences in the film in which Lionel Barrymore's character, "Paul Lavond," pretends to be the elderly top shop proprietress "Mme. Mandelip," to aspects of the 1925 film The Unholy Three (see below), also directed by Tod Browning for M-G-M. In the earlier film, Lon Chaney's character disguised himself as the elderly proprietress of a bird ... More Less

The film's working title was The Witch of Timbuctoo . Some televised airings of the film end after the exlposion of the toy shop. According to HR , this was the last film completed by Henry B. Walthall before his death. Walthall died while working on his next film, China Clipper (see above). Actress Grace Ford made her motion picture debut in The Devil-Doll . The Var reviewer pointed out the similarity of the sequences in the film in which Lionel Barrymore's character, "Paul Lavond," pretends to be the elderly top shop proprietress "Mme. Mandelip," to aspects of the 1925 film The Unholy Three (see below), also directed by Tod Browning for M-G-M. In the earlier film, Lon Chaney's character disguised himself as the elderly proprietress of a bird shop. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
3 Jul 36
p. 3.
Film Daily
7 Jul 36
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Jan 36
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Mar 36
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Mar 36
p. 6.
Motion Picture Daily
6 Jul 36
p. 8.
Motion Picture Herald
6 Jun 36
p. 43.
Motion Picture Herald
11 Jul 36
p. 108.
New York Times
8 Aug 36
p. 5.
Variety
12 Aug 36
p. 18.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Tod Browning Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Story
Contr to dial
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir assoc
Art dir assoc
FILM EDITOR
COSTUMES
Ward
MUSIC
Mus score
SOUND
Rec dir
DANCE
Apache dance
STAND INS
Double for Arthur Hohl
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Burn, Witch, Burn! by Abraham Merritt (New York, 1933).
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Witch of Timbuctoo
Release Date:
10 January 1936
Production Date:
late March--29 April 1936
Copyright Claimant:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Copyright Date:
7 July 1936
Copyright Number:
LP6486
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
70 or 79
Length(in reels):
8
Country:
United States
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

Paul Lavond, wrongly convicted of robbing his own Parisian bank and killing a night watchman more than seventeen years previously, escapes from Devil's Island with Marcel, an old scientist who is near death. Marcel yearns for his wife Malita and a continuation of his work, while Paul lives for vengeance that he has promised against the three partners who framed him for their crime. On the night that Paul and Marcel reach Malita's home, Marcel and Malita secretly conduct an experiment on Lachna, a young serving girl who works for Malita. Previously, Malita had been able to shrink living animals into a miniature size. After performing the experiment on Lachna, the girl is reduced to the size of a little doll, whose actions are stimulated by hypnotic thought processes. Marcel dies soon after the experiment, but Malita wants to continue with her work. Paul sees the doll-like creature as a way to exact his revenge and, though Malita is more interested in science, she agrees to go with him to Paris. Paul disguises himself as Mme. Mandelip, an old woman who owns a toy shop and, through the use of drugs, captures others who are then reduced in size by Malita. When he secretly visits his mother, she tells him that, after his wife's death, his daughter Lorraine grew up in poverty and hatred of her father, whom she believed to be guilty, and now works very hard as a laundress in a wash house. More resolved than ever to enact his plan against his former partners, Paul goes to his first victim, Victor Radin, whom Paul visits disguised as Mme. Mandelip. ... +


Paul Lavond, wrongly convicted of robbing his own Parisian bank and killing a night watchman more than seventeen years previously, escapes from Devil's Island with Marcel, an old scientist who is near death. Marcel yearns for his wife Malita and a continuation of his work, while Paul lives for vengeance that he has promised against the three partners who framed him for their crime. On the night that Paul and Marcel reach Malita's home, Marcel and Malita secretly conduct an experiment on Lachna, a young serving girl who works for Malita. Previously, Malita had been able to shrink living animals into a miniature size. After performing the experiment on Lachna, the girl is reduced to the size of a little doll, whose actions are stimulated by hypnotic thought processes. Marcel dies soon after the experiment, but Malita wants to continue with her work. Paul sees the doll-like creature as a way to exact his revenge and, though Malita is more interested in science, she agrees to go with him to Paris. Paul disguises himself as Mme. Mandelip, an old woman who owns a toy shop and, through the use of drugs, captures others who are then reduced in size by Malita. When he secretly visits his mother, she tells him that, after his wife's death, his daughter Lorraine grew up in poverty and hatred of her father, whom she believed to be guilty, and now works very hard as a laundress in a wash house. More resolved than ever to enact his plan against his former partners, Paul goes to his first victim, Victor Radin, whom Paul visits disguised as Mme. Mandelip. Paul shows Radin one of the "animated" animal dolls and Radin is so impressed that he agrees to invest in Mme. Mandelip's invention. One night, when Radin visits the toy shop, he too, is turned into a doll. When Emil Coulvet learns that Radin is missing, he becomes terrified that Paul is finally getting his revenge and asks the police for help, but Paul's disguise enables him to elude capture. As Mme. Mandelip, Paul sells a doll to Coulvet's wife and, by means of thought transference, is able to instruct the doll to steal Mme. Coulvet's jewels and throw them into the street where Paul is waiting in his disguise. He next instructs the doll to inject Coulvet with a drug that causes him to become completely paralyzed. Meanwhile, Paul has met his daughter as Mme. Mandelip and learns that she is a lovely, though bitter young woman, who is engaged to a taxi driver named Toto. After Coulvet's paralysis, Charles Matin, the third partner, becomes so frightened that he calls the police to seek their assistance. The police then come to Matin's house to protect him. Unknown to them, Radin, now doll-size, has been been hidden as an ornament on Matin's Christmas tree. Under the control of Paul's thoughts, Radin slips down from the tree and sneaks under the furniture. He is about to stab Matin in the leg when the terrified man jumps to his feet and confesses all his crimes in the hope of saving himself from Paul's vengeance. With his revenge now complete, Paul wants to stop the experiments, but Malita angrily insists that they continue Marcel's work. The two argue, and Malita causes an explosion that destroys the doll shop. Unable to save Malita, Paul escapes into the night. The next day, in the ruble of the shop, the police conclude that Mme. Mandelip is, indeed, the person responsible for the devil dolls. Later, Paul hires Toto's taxi and as they drive through Paris, reveals his identity. Wanting to speak privately, the men go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, where Paul explains that he must disappear forever because of the crimes he has committed. Paul explains that his only purpose was to have the Lavond family's reputation restored and make sure that the money stolen from him will go to Lorraine and his mother. Despite Toto's urging to stay, Paul starts to leave but hesitates when Lorraine, whom Toto had forgotten was to meet him there, arrives on the tower's elevator. Paul then tells Lorraine that he escaped from Devil's Island with her father, who died. After telling her of her father's unfaltering love for her, Paul says goodbye and enters the tower elevator as Toto and Lorraine lovingly embrace. On the way down, Paul smiles as he tells the elevator operator that this has been the greatest evening of his life. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.