Sunday 4 October 2020

Devil Doll

Devil Doll 1965
'Devil Doll' is the story of ventriloquist and mesmerist 'The Great Vorelli' (Bryant Haliday) who has a fraught relationship with his dummy, a creepy little fella by the name of 'Hugo' with whom he bickers and argues in a grudging master / servant relationship and who he keeps locked in a cage when off stage which is just as well as the dummy walks, wields a knife and definitely doesn't like him.

The plot revolves around Vorelli's scheme to seduce wealthy socialite 'Marianne Horn' (Yvonne Romain) and to do something unspeakable with her soul, not to mention her body.

I'm sure many of you will already be very aware of another ventriloquist dummy named Hugo who steals the show in the fantastic 1945 Ealing horror anthology 'Dead of Night' (UK / US).  The little fella here isn't a patch on his elder namesake but still manages to exude creepy menace.  Haliday though, unlike Michael Redgrave in 'Dead of Night', isn't a damaged soul tortured by his puppet he's a sadistic, manipulative pantomime villain with no redeeming features who we are fully intended to boo and hiss. 

First time director Lindsay Shonteff gets the most out of an obviously tight budget and a fairly sparse story by '633 Squadron' author Frederick E. Smith and creates and, crucially, maintains a nicely sinister atmosphere throughout, helped no end by a suitably menacing score, all the way up to the wonderfully twisted ending.

It's by no means a classic. In the pantheon of movies featuring terrifying ventriloquist dolls named 'Hugo' it comes a definite second and like it's predecessor might well have benefitted from being part of a movie rather than the whole of one but it absolutely deserves a place in the hearts of all lovers of strange low budget horror.

Buy it here - UKUS - or watch it below.


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