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DEVIL DOLL (Video Dungeon) 1964. Horror. 80 minutes. Black & white. Rated PG. Mark, an American investigative reporter based in England, is assigned to write a story about The Great Vorelli, a popular hypnotist and ventriloquist. Not wanting to take in a Vorelli show alone, Mark brings along the lovely, and filthy rich, Marianne. During the show, Vorelli asks for an audience member to come up and be hypnotized and Marianne reluctantly agrees. Not only does Vorelli hypnotize Marianne into becoming an expert at “The Twist,” he also plants the seeds for a more treacherous future. After finishing with the hypnosis part of his show, Vorelli breaks out his ventriloquist doll Hugo. Not only does Vorelli make Hugo talk, he also makes him get up and walk! Astounded, Mark asks Marianne to invite Vorelli to perform at a scheduled benefit function so he can snoop around Hugo to see how he walks. Marianne agrees and Vorelli accepts. At the function, Vorelli hypnotizes Marianne into falling in love with him and the diabolical plan has begun it’s course. As Vorelli continues with his plan, Hugo plots a plan of his own and unbelievable secrets are revealed that lead up to a surprise ending.
         Although not a gem, Devil Doll is an adequate horror story.  There is no violence, but smart camera shooting delivers the horror and creepiness in a cool suggestive manner. The biggest beef I have with this movie is the title because it is kind of misleading. Not only is he not the devil, Hugo can’t even be called the bad guy! Remember the sympathy you felt for Frankenstein’s Monster? You’ll feel that same sympathy for Hugo.  The main reason I wanted to review this movie is because dolls, especially ventriloquist dolls, freak me out in the worst way. However, Hugo’s looks failed to freak me out because he reminded me of Alfalfa from The Little Rascals. The premise behind Hugo, and even seeing him walk, was kind of creepy, but the vision of him will not keep me awake at night. Bryant Haliday (Vorelli), who was known more for his stage work than movies, comes across as a poor man’s Christopher Lee. Yvonne Romain (Marianne) is one sexy 60’s bird baby (ok, read that using your best Austin Powers voice). Few notables about the movie: Vorelli uses his powers to bed women like no tomorrow, we do get a brief sideshot of boobie (kind of uncommon for 1964), and Vorelli’s assistant refers to Marianne as “that little Bitch!” (yikes, such language). On the amusing side, whenever Vorelli uses his hypnotic powers, we are treated to close up shots of his searing eyes or the screen turns into a reverse negative for sci-fi effect. There are a few dialog heavy slow spots, but for the most part, Devil Doll is a pretty good long lost ventriloquist flic. – Denis Sheehan

 

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