Chucky’s not the only film with an evil doll. I saw The Devil Doll a while back so now it’s time for a film with a very similar name. The other one definitely had a lot more fun with the premise although this one plays it straight with actual shows on the dummy and a lot of ominous music. That said as you watch the film you have to decide if Hugo the dummy is the real threat or if something else is going on.
The film starts by introducing us to the great Vorelli and his dummy Hugo. They are quite famous nowadays with their ventriloquist shows. A local reporter named Mark is assigned to check this guy out and see if his hypnotism is for real. This guy’s not very smart so he brings his girlfriend Marianne to try this out. She ends up getting mind controlled on stage into a great dancer.
Now you may think that’s the end of it at least, but the reporter doesn’t believe it though and decides to push Marianne further by having her invite Vorelli to a party to stay the night. She reluctantly agrees after he keeps on insisting. Will this all turn out to be a huge mistake? One thing’s for sure, this is not going to be just any ole party.
Devil Doll definitely has a lot of ominous music even if it is the same track that plays over and over again. It’s an effective way to build up tension despite how overused it is and shows that the film isn’t playing around. It feels like half of Vorelli’s scenes are him staring into the camera as part of the hypnosis. Again, this makes the reporter look so bad since he knows something is fishy but puts Marianne in a bad position more than once.
I could have done without the mind control gimmick though. An evil doll/ventriloquist is already plenty of plot for any film. Do you also need this angle? Effectively Vorelli uses this to force an affair with Marianne and also enjoys his secretary. It’s definitely one way to show this guy as being a big villain but that’s definitely a plot that should have been removed. Not to mention that you should always be able to overpower mind control with pure willpower. Vorelli’s definitely got to be the worst character and as the movie goes on he hypnotizes people into doing more and more scandalous things.
As for Marianne, she’s okay I suppose but lets Mark push her around too push. She should have definitely said no to inviting Vorelli particularly since everyone is afraid of his hypnotism. It’s basically asking for trouble to have him around. It also would have been nice if she could have resisted he hypnotism or been able to tell someone when he was talking in her mind.
Then you have Hugo who doesn’t do anything for over half the film. That’s a long time with no action considering that the film is in theory based around his character. The thing is, the film’s title is a bit misleading. It should have been called the Hypnotist or something like that instead. That’s really what the film is about. Hugo does does have his own plan at the end and at least defeats someone but it’s more incidental than anything. If this was meant to be a red herring then it was effective.
That said, Hugo himself was not very smart at all. Why even let a hypnotists mess with you and a dummy? The whole thing seemed nefarious from the start so it’s no wonder that things finished the way that they did for him. Even allowing himself to be in a trick when the guy had a huge knife….all so risky. Of course, Vorelli isn’t the sharpest guy either so the tables tend to turn on him very quickly.
The writing for the film on the whole is pretty good with all of the retro dialogue and everything. It always makes for an engaging script but as a whole it couldn’t save this film. This film definitely seemed to be going for a much darker approach than most from this era. The whole hypnosis angle is really just an excuse to basically have Vorelli take advantage of everyone. The fact that Marianne is stuck in mind control for a good portion of the film by Vorelli just makes for a tiresome watch. You’re waiting for Hugo to take him out already.
Of course the reporter despite everything he knows from Hugo’s origin story to how Vorelli is acting like a hypnotist doesn’t suspect anything is up when Marianne says she will marry Vorelli. Why? Shouldn’t he suspect something or at least attack the guy? Instead he just goes to have a drink at the local bar so Hugo has to do all of the work in the climax. No worries, the reporter does return after everything is over. Why did Hugo wait so long before doing anything though? Maybe he’s not particularly powerful but he put up with a whole lot during the movie. All I can think of is perhaps the hypnosis was also working on him which is fairly embarrassing if that’s the case.
Overall, Devil Doll is not a film I would recommend. It’s one of those titles where the villain gets away with a little too much the whole time. Hypnosis can always be a rather dangerous plot element in that sense depending on how far they go with it. In this case it sours the whole experience. At least we did get an action fight scene with the Dummy though. There was a lot of actual back and forth with the characters swinging at each other. While Hugo appears as more of a hero by the end, he did straight up murder the assistant though who at best was an accomplice so there aren’t any real heroes here. Everyone is acting rather nefariously and for their own gains. Even the reporter put his story above Marianne’s safety. With nobody to root for, you almost wish Chucky had been here to put an end to things.