Mr. Franz, played by John Hoyt, likes dolls. A lot. Hoyt does a great job as the crazy toymaker who would rather be around miniature people than normal everyday humans. He plays the role straight up, like everything is just the same as it ever was, but when looking at his new collection of dolls, they are startlingly life-like compared to all the others. Hoyt could be Mr. Rogers, the nice guy next door and you would never bat an eye or think twice about the man.
It becomes apparent that the reason Franz is so obsessed with making people small is because of the way he was made to feel small when his wife left him for an acrobat and as a result, how his career as a puppeteer failed. Being left for a more agile man is never an easy thing. It happens to many a hard-working man the world over. Agility – the bane of married men everywhere! Still, not a really valid reason to lose your marbles and start playing with dolls, plastic or living.
June Kenney who plays Sally Reynolds, the secretary of Mr. Franz, knows there is something wrong with the man. She can see through the fake exterior that he puts up, can see the sinister beneath the surface. When he finally shrinks her down, she can say without a doubt that her boss is, if not evil, at least mentally damaged in some way. The moment also provides a little bit of creepiness for the viewer, and more than likely for her, that Franz has also seen her naked as she comes to, wrapped up in a tiny towel and him also offering to dress her.
Soon, some of the other dolls are introduced and it is funny how the rest of them are so accepting of the fact that they have been shrunk down, even wanting to party and have a good time. But all is not what it seems to be and it is not that they do not seem to want to do anything about it, they are simply just biding their time until they can. What follows are some fun scenes with the miniatures trying to use the phone, climbing tables and cords and various other things.
The effects are decent. They are not the greatest to ever appear on film, but they do the job they were meant to which was to differentiate the size between the shrunken people and everything around them. During the moments where Franz had to appear with the smaller cast, it did look a little disjointed, but really a minor thing in the larger scheme. The paper dolls in the glass tubes did not look utterly horrible if held at the right angle, but when they were not, it was obvious that it was simply just a piece of paper used for representation.
John Agar, who played Bob as the lead of the film and Sally’s fiancée, was almost overshadowed by both Hoyt and Kenney. He did a great job in the role as he did in every film he was in, but when up against the pathological Hoyt or the beautiful blonde, both of whom seemed to have more screen time, he just did not stand a chance. If his role were a big larger, it probably would have helped the film, giving it that little extra bit of ‘hero’ time. The one standout moment for Agar was facing off against the dog which was a nice little bit of camera trickery and an action-packed moment amongst the drama and tension of the picture.
When all is said and done, it really is a good little film. Written by Bert I. Gordon and George Worthing Yates and directed by Gordon as well, it is a nice entry into the canon of science-fiction films from the era, with the added extra bit of horror thrown in to make it a little frightful. It is not the best reviewed film nor a movie looked favourably upon by time, and stacked up against other films of the genre, it does pale in comparison. But on its own, as campy and ultimately, as silly as it might be, it was fun and entertaining.
4 out of 5