June 12, 1939: Dr. Cyclops, The First Technicolor Horror Film Begins Production

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A Brief History

On June 12, 1939, for the first time production began an a horror film filmed in “three strip” Technicolor.  At this time, color movies were just beginning to reach the masses and were still quite a novelty, so Dr. Cyclops was expected to make quite a stir.

Digging Deeper

The plot centers around a mad scientist (Dr. Thorkel) deep in the South American jungle that sends for several other scientists.  When they arrive, he has them look at samples under a microscope, is delighted by what they see, and then asks them to leave.

Irritated that they traveled so far just to be dismissed, the scientists snoop around and find the Dr. Thorkel has apparently discovered rich deposits of radioactive material.  To their shock, they also find that he has discovered a way to shrink living things, a fact revealed by Dr. Thorkel under pressure from the others.  Thorkel then tricks the other scientists into his radiation chamber and shrinks them down to about a foot tall.  When they attempt to flee, Thorkel’s cat menaces them and they are saved by a dog.  (Which is why dogs are man’s best friend, not cats.) When one of the scientists attempts to reason with Thorkel, Thorkel discovers the scientist is growing, meaning the shrinking effect is temporary.  Thorkel then kills the little man, while the others attempt to escape through the jungle, having little people adventures along the way. The fugitive scientists sneak their way back to Thorkel’s lab and manage to smash a lens of his eyeglasses, hence the moniker, Dr. Cyclops.  As Thorkel/Cyclops chases the 3 remaining scientist into a mine, he breaks through a board and dangles by a rope.  The relieved scientists cut the rope, causing the evil Dr. Thorkel to fall to his death.  In true Hollywood fashion, 2 of the surviving American scientists grow back to regular size and fall in love. The film was directed by Ernest Schoedsack, the man that directed King Kong.  It was nominated for an Academy Award for special effects.  Not the blockbuster that King Kong was, at least the film maintains a somewhat positive rating by Rotten Tomatoes and the IMDb. If you are a horror movie fan, or if you are in the mood for a few good laughs at the expense of pre-World War II Hollywood, watch this film.  Without all of today’s graphic gore it is hard to believe this movie terrified audiences back then, but of course times were different.  If you watch it, please share your opinions.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Garth, Will and Philip J. Riley.  Dr. Cyclops.  BearManor Media, 2013.

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About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.