DEVIL DOLL (1964)
Article 1824 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-13-2006
Posting Date: 8-10-2006
Directed by Lindsay Shonteff and Sidney J. Furie
Featuring Bryant Haliday, William Sylvester, Yvonne Romain
A reporter investigates the strange relationship between a ventriloquist and his almost human dummy, Hugo.
The concept of a ventriloquist and his evil dummy is a pretty clever idea; it is, however, one of those ideas that can only be used once before losing a lot of its impact. That’s how it is for me, anyway, and I generally have little use for ventriloquist-and-dummy tales after the idea was used in DEAD OF NIGHT . Fortunately, this movie is playing a somewhat different game, which becomes clear at about the halfway point when the dummy visits a reporter, asks for help and passes on vague information for the reporter to follow. From here on out, the details unfold in a very different way indeed. The movie also benefits from some extremely moody photography and some clever camerawork; notice how quite a few of the scenes seem to be shot with a low camera angle, giving us a subtle but inadvertent attachment to the only character who would see things from that angle – Hugo the dummy. I do wonder just how successful the Great Vorelli’s ventriloquist act would be; sure, it’s an amazing act, but it’s humorless and depressingly uncomfortable much of the time. The movie does have a couple of problems; the story isn’t quite long enough to fill up its running time, and the very serious and somber tone of the story only falters in the very last moments of the movie, giving the final scene just a twinge of campiness that undermines it a little. Still, for those who get caught up in the movie’s strengths, this last problem will serve as no real impediment.