Earlier today I lost all track of time staring into the shaving mirror. I was there for an age, lost in a trance. Christ, this place is boring.
Anyway, this led to me reminiscing of the last time I tried a spot of hypnotism. Namely, on the foreman of the jury at my trial, as he stood up and prepared to deliver the verdict on me.
Previously I had been swinging my solid silver pocket watch to and fro, and it had caught his eye several times.
“Not guilty! Not guilty!! Not guilty!!!” I commanded in silence as our eyes met once again.
Staring intently at me, he stood and paused, seemingly lost for words. Then, as if in a daze he falteringly said: “Guilty! On 20 counts of murder! Guilty on murder #1. Guilty on #2. Definitely guilty of #3 and #4. Oh, and of #5 certainly. As for #6, #7, #8 and #9, guilty. Guilty on #10…”
“Bollocks.” I muttered and put away my solid silver pocket watch as he droned on and on…
DEVIL DOLL (1964)
Ventriloquist dummies are a fine subject for a horror movie. They’re scary. Scary as hell. But there’s something much scarier, my friend! Look again. Look at the bigger picture – look at who is pulling the strings…
Okay, so ventriloquist dummies don’t have strings – but what I'm trying to say (without being too graphic) is look carefully at the one with his hand up the dummy’s arse - the ventriloquist! For a man who has devoted his life to making a wooden dummy look like it’s talking is far more scarier than a wooden dummy. No matter how freakily the eyebrows have been fashioned.
Or as Charlton Heston would say, Dummies don’t kill people. Ventriloquists do.
Devil Doll – a very classy, noirish looking British horror from the 60’s - illustrates my point beautifully. Hugo (great name for a dummy) is a spooky little fecker but he’s not evil, far from it. He’s merely an innocent soul trapped in a dummy’s body by the real baddy – The Great Vorelli!
The Great Vorelli is a wonderful baddy, with a voice uncannily like Sideshow Bob. Bryant Haliday is the fine actor playing the part, and I was quite surprised to read that he didn’t really act a great deal after this, as he gives a very enjoyable and accomplished performance.
William Sylvester plays the good guy, an American called Mark English (a name that Alanis Morrissette would no doubt call ironic). The fact that he's American does at least allow other characters to deliver lines like, “I’ll certainly try and keep – as you Americans would say - an open mind.”
And let’s not forget Yvonne Romain as the gorgeous love interest with wonderful 60s eyes that they don’t make anymore.
Vorelli – being a complete dickhead – puts lovely Yvonne into a trance as part of his diabolical scheme to marry her, steal her cash and then transfer her soul into a female dummy.
And he would have got away with it too, until Hugo leaps into action (okay, maybe not leaps. This is a wooden dummy we’re talking about here) and battles Vorelli in a wonderful climactic fight scene which rather coolly ends in a freeze-frame that turns into a negative. Far out!
There's a final twist that wraps things up rather neatly, and if you don’t jump up and shout “Hurrah!” then you must have a wooden heart. And - it follows - a psychopath’s hand up yer bum.
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