“Devil Doll” will creep you out in unexpected ways.
There will be SPOILERS!
Do ventriloquist dummies freak you out? If you’re like anyone else, your answer is yes. They’re not the most appealing things to me, but for some reason I keep coming back to the movies. Even though they’re scary things, I find them fascinating. I like the dummy movies, because it’s interesting to see so many people develop their own idea that deals with such a simple concept. That concept is dummies who kill.
I watched a film from 1964 called, “Devil Doll” and is directed by Lindsay Shonteff. The plot is simple, “An evil hypnotist/ventriloquist plots to gain an heiress’ millions” – IMDb. To me, this describes more of a crime/thriller film, which in a way was. But there was a lot more horror, and a lot less crime which was great.
I must admit, I wasn’t the biggest fan at first. I mean there were cool aspects, like I really enjoyed the ventriloquist act in the beginning. But then I got this vibe, where it was going to be about a failing performer, who needs money so he uses the dummy as a split personality. That would be interesting, but wouldn’t entice me enough to watch. So I stuck with it for a bit, kept watching and I was very happy I did. The film completely did the opposite of what I expected.
There’s a scene where the main character, The Great Vorelli is performing with his dummy, Hugo. I should also mention that besides ventriloquism, he has a hypnosis act as well. To end the show, The Great Vorelli tells Hugo to walk to the front of the stage, take a bow and say thank you. Naturally, you would expect the man to have some sort of physical control over the dummy. It would be un-realistic and ridiculous if the dummy did things on their own. Also, there’s always some sort of camera angle to show the dummy is moving, but you can’t see their legs (actually moving). In this film, you see Hugo stand up, and walk to the front of the stage by himself. This was unsettling and uncomfortable for me to watch; it was also amazing. This is the first time I’ve ever seen a film where they show a dummy moving in whole. Obviously there was an actor portraying Hugo. They did a great job, as it looked like he was made of wood, based on how he walked. He then said thank you to the crowd. This was another confusing bit. How would a dummy speak when the puppeteer wasn’t even near it. Once this occurred in the film, I was hooked. Something new, different and I couldn’t wait to watch more!
We then see the backstage scenes featuring Vorelli and Hugo. Vorelli keeps Hugo in a cage, because who wouldn’t when your dummy takes a walk and speaks. But there was still no reason. Nothing bad had happened, and there was no sign of a killer dummy. After a little bit, we learn that Hugo could, and is a real person. He can think, speak, move, and express emotions. At this point in the film, I was thinking witchcraft, alien or something supernatural. You almost feel bad for Hugo, but it’s hard to say that since he’s not the best looking dummy out there. In fact, he’s quite a scary looking dummy. You want anything but for him to come alive, so immediately, you’re afraid of him.
As the film goes on, The Great Vorelli meets a woman, Marianne Horn, who has a good fortune. Horn is the wealthiest woman around, so he asks he if he could perform at her upcoming ball. He wants to perform, and then seduce her to make her his wife, as he’s after her money. He ends up using his hypnosis to get Marianne’s affection. She then falls into a deep coma. We then find out that [back in the day] Vorelli would hypnotize a human Hugo to feel no pain, and would stab him repeatedly. One night, he kills Hugo and uses black magic to transfer his soul into a dummy, as he made the death look like an accident. In present day, to get Horn’s money, Vorelli would marry her, kill her, and then transfer her soul into a dummy. This would ensure he would receive all of the cash, as well as successfully finding Hugo a dummy girlfriend. Hugo escapes from his cage, destroys the female doll, and kills Vorelli. Now Hugo and Vorelli are switched, Vorelli is inside the dummy.
I love this aspect because of it’s originality. I love how Vorelli didn’t want to just kill others, but transfer their souls into ventriloquist dummies. To me he’s a serial killer who likes to a sort of trophy from his victims; that trophy, is them. This makes it scarier, because there’s actually someone INSIDE the dummy. It’s not just a demon possessed dummy (which is still scary). What’s also ironic about this is that you are rooting for the dummy by the end. You realize that Vorelli is the real antagonist, and you don’t him to succeed. I feel in most cases for dummy movies, you are rooting against them because their terrifying.
At the end, I was happy I watched this film. There were things rare for the 60’s like the camera angles and themes. It’s nice to add another solid 60’s movie to list, as my recommendations build. It’s definitely something to check out if you’re looking for a scary supernatural film!