Grab a good seat and don't look away from the stage, for The Great Vorelli (Bryant Haliday) is about to dazzle London with his eerie mixture of hypnotism and ventriloquism. However, there may be something a little too life... more »like about his dummy, Hugo, who has the ability to walk across the stage all by himself. Experience the haunting imagery and unforgettable twist ending of "Devil Doll," the cult horror classic from producer Richard Gordon which has chilled audiences for decades. Hailed as tense and terrifying, this gem of psychological suspense and supernatural thrills can now be enjoyed in a dazzling new transfer--so little Hugo can reach out and shock you like never before!« less
"Reporter Mark English (William Sylvester; Gorgo, 2001: A Space Odyssey) is assigned to write a story on dark, sadistic hypnotist/ventriloquist The Great Vorelli (Bryant Haliday). English convinces his girlfriend Marianne (Yvonne Romain; Curse of the Werewolf, Circus of Horrors) to volunteer to be an on-stage hypnotic subject of Vorelli?s, whose popular act also involves his sarcastic talking, walking dummy Hugo. Determined to discover the secret of the dummy?s animation, Mark indirectly arranges to have Vorelli perform at Marianne?s aunt?s charity ball, to which Vorelli readily agrees since he?s become obsessed with Marianne. While staying over at the aunt?s after the ball, Vorelli puts Marianne in a strange, lingering trance and Hugo himself gives Mark a clue to as to his ?secret.? Further plot threads, which shouldn?t be disclosed, are interwoven, leading ultimately to an open-ended yet satisfying ?twist? ending. Haliday, in his finest hour, is terrific as Vorelli, intense and creepy, in a makeup reminiscent of Barrymore?s Svengali, if a bit better groomed. Lindsay Shonteff?s direction (closely ?supervised? by Sidney J. Furie) is also better than usual here (try watching Shonteff?s Curse of the Voodoo sometime), utilizing lots of expressionistic low camera angles and a few avant-garde-ish negative image inserts. The (part electronic?) soundtrack is also surprisingly effective, especially since it?s made up entirely of ?library? cues, some of them scored by the likes of Malcolm Lockyer (Dr. Who and the Daleks, Island of Terror). The story moves along briskly, there is some brief, mild gore and nudity, and the acting is generally of high caliber (Yvonne Romain displays some surprising chops, and the little person inside Hugo very convincingly assays the shambling gait of a living doll). The overall effect is that of an excellent extended Anglicized episode of Twilight Zone or Thriller (and that?s meant as a compliment) with echoes of both Dead of Night and Svengali for good measure. Both the original English/American version of the film and the ?hot? continental version are included on the DVD. Purists will probably prefer the English cut, especially as the continental version completely replaces a key dialogue scene between Vorelli and his assistant Magda (Sandra Dorne) with a relatively unerotic and superfluous striptease number. This cut completely removes the motivation for the following scene and creates needless confusion, particularly for the first-time viewer. Definitely watch the English version first if you?ve never seen the film before. The other two scenes with added nudity (bared breasts) were reshot for the continental version, hence don?t affect the story line or running time.
Source prints for both versions are virtually pristine. Physical damage is limited to some very light speckling; black level, brightness, contrast, sharpness, and shadow/highlight detail are uniformly excellent. The digitally remastered transfers are matted at 1.66:1 and anamorphically enhanced. A lightly speckled but fairly sharp trailer with very good to excellent tonal values is included, as well as a nicely done gallery of approximately 95 stills, ad mats, and posters. The liner notes by Tom Weaver consist primarily of an interview with Frederick E. West, who wrote the original short story upon which the film was based. The audio commentary by producer Richard Gordon, with Weaver, (who also paired for Criterion?s terrific Fiend without a Face DVD) is, as usual, exhaustively informative, although they do not directly comment on the on-screen action a great deal. I?ve always believed Devil Doll to be one of the underrated gems of non-Hammer British horror (along with Circus of Horrors) and this DVD is the ultimate tribute. Highly recommended."
STRANGE LITTLE CHILLER
Mark Norvell | HOUSTON | 09/07/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this on tv as a teenager and remembered it as just being a weird movie and I felt sorry for the little dummy but couldn't remember why. Having now purchased "DEVIL DOLL" and sat down and watched it again I now remember. Image has done another fine job of lovingly presenting a rare film to be re-appreciated by a target audience. It features beautiful, crisp black & white photography and clear soundtrack. Seeing it now must be what it was like seeing it on it's release in 1964. It also features the stunning Yvonne Romain ("Circus of Horrors" and Hammer's "Curse of the Werewolf") as the girl-in-peril and you can't take your eyes off her. Another added feature is the "hot continental version" that I'll get around to watching one day. In the meantime, I'm completely satisfied with it as it is. The performances are good--especially Britisher Bryant Haliday as the evil Vorelli. He makes the predicament of Hugo the dummy truly sinister and you want Hugo to break free...but how? I have to admit, as jaded a horror film fan as I am, I did not see the shock ending coming. I recommend this little gem to anyone fond of obscure black & white shockers as a satisfying staple of their DVD collection. I certainly have. Enjoy."
O. Khan | Cambridge, England United Kingdom | 06/21/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"masterly performances especially by Halliday as Vorelli the ventriloquist. This is undoubtedly the finest of the psychotic Ventriloquist movies along with Dead of Night. There is a quality to the film that makes it compelling viewing.........the scenes where Vorelli is performing on stage are chilling to the bone. Its an fantastic little film - not one to be missed by horror fans. The person below isnt the only person to have ordered two copies of this great film........I too have had to place two orders in my total devotion to this film. The release has been delayed till august........one waits patiently! Bravo to image for putting an obscure classic like this out on DVD."
"That Dummy Talked To Me Last Night"
Brian E. Erland | Brea, CA - USA | 01/01/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The '64 black and white horror film 'Devil Doll' is a decidedly unnerving feature that has the feel of an extended episode of the old television series 'The Twilight Zone.' The camera work is expertly done adding to an surreal feel to the film already established by the hypnotic voice of magician, sorcerer Bryant Haliday (the Great Vorelli) and his scary little possessed dummy Hugo. The storyline is also well conceived, highly original for the time and will hold your attention from beginning to end.
One final accolade for this obsure all but forgotten film is the presence of the irresistible and exotic looking Yvonne Romain. She is definitely one of the most beautiful actresses of the sixties, why some intelligent producer or director didn't take her under his wing and make her an international star is a mystery to me.
My Rating: -4 1/2 Stars-."
Nifty little thriller
Nicholas F. Dandrea | bellmore ny 11710, new york United States | 06/20/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"hey guys this is a awsome little black and white thriller about a wooden dummy named hugo. i don't want to give the plot away but i'll tell you that i bought three copies of this one on dvd. this is the movie i waited for 25 years. i bought three of them just to have spare copies. the movie is exactly 80 minutes long. FANTASTIC FANTASTIC FANTASTIC."