Sunday, March 26
VenueWalter Reade Theater
An unsung gem among Browning’s late-career work, the director’s penultimate film is a hilariously loony horror-fantasy loosely based on the novel Burn, Witch, Burn! by Abraham Merritt. Lionel Barrymore plays Paul Lavond, a former banker wrongfully convicted of murder who escapes from prison and happens upon technology that turns living things into perfectly shrunken homunculi that can be controlled telepathically. Lavond decides to use this mechanism to exact revenge on his crooked associates—but his scheme requires him to assume the disguise of an old woman for almost the entire film. This imaginative, Dumasian revenge tale finds Browning returning to pet themes of mesmeric influence and parental estrangement, but the film’s carnivalesque spectacle of double-exposure techniques and gigantically oversized sets—plus Barrymore’s totally committed drag performance—nearly turn The Devil-Doll into all-out farce. 35mm print preserved by George Eastman Museum.