Saturday, October 24, 2020

DR. CYCLOPS, I PRESUME?


Albert Dekker played Dr. Thorkel in Paramount's 1940 scifi-thriller, DR. CYCLOPS, the tale of a mad scientist who would stop at nothing to complete his experiments with radioactivity! Despite the best efforts of producer Merian C. Cooper, director Ernest B. Schoedsack (both who had contributed greatly to KING KONG for RKO just seven years before) and the technical wizardry of a talented special effects team, it was nevertheless released to mixed critical reception, mainly as a result of Tom Kilpatrick's weak script. It did however, garner a nomination for Best Visual Effects at the 13th Oscars (losing to THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD). As a side note, the multi-talented Charlie Gemora was the uncredited makeup artist.

Of further interest is that the story of Dr. Cyclops also appeared in a pulp magazine as a "novelization" of the film, written by a member of the so-called Lovecraft Circle of authors. At the time of publication in THRILLING WONDER STORIES (Vol. 16 No. 3, June 1940), Henry Kuttner had already made a name for himself among the most popular science fiction writers, so there is little doubt that he was selected to pen the novelette based on his ability to write, well, thrilling stories. The wonderful cover art seen above is by Howard V. Brown.

It is also interesting to note that a number of today's writers mistakenly assume that the movie is based on the novelette. Why? Well, the movie was released in the U.S. on April 12, 1940 with Tom Kilpatrick credited with the original screenplay. It's hard to say when it came out on the newsstands, but Kuttner's version didn't come out until the June 1940 issue of THRILLING WONDER STORIES. There are even two photos from the movie included. Even though the magazine might have appeared before the movie (as the title page blurb states), it would be highly unlikely for the movie to have been produced in a month's time.

Kuttner was one of the multitude of writers who corresponded with H.P. Lovecraft. He cut his teeth as a weird fiction writer and his first professional sale was the story, "The Graveyard Rats" for WEIRD TALES (March 1936). He also collaborated with his wife, C.L. Moore who wrote the female-forward Sword and Sorcery series featuring Jirel of Joirey. Kuttner also tried his hand at S&S with his Elak of Atlantis tales. The celebrated science fiction writer Marion Zimmer Bradley counted Kuttner as one of her influences. He was good friends with Richard Matheson (he dedicated his famous book, "I Am Legend" to him), and Bradbury was quoted as saying that he was a "pomegranate writer popping with seeds -- full of ideas". One wonders how different -- or better -- the film would have been if Kuttner could have taken a stab at it.

Here is the complete story of Henry Kuttner's DR. CYCLOPS as it appeared in THRILLING WONDER STORIES.



















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