Devil Doll (1964)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 17-Oct-2005

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Audio
Alternative Version-Continental Version
Audio Commentary-Richard Gordon ( Producer) And Tom Weaver (Film Historian)
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-The Beast Must Die!, Fiend Without A Face, Magic
Trailer-And Now The Screaming Starts
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1964
Running Time 80:47
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Lindsay Shonteff
Sidney J. Furie
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Bryant Haliday
William Sylvester
Yvonne Romain
Sandra Dorne
Nora Nicholson
Alan Gifford
Karel Stepanek
Francis De Wolff
Phillip Ray
David Charlesworth
Guy Deghy
Ray Landor
Case PUSH-1 (Opaque)
RPI $24.95 Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The ability to create sounds and speak so it appears to emanate from another source is a skill that has been around for thousands of years. Language scholars believe early tribesmen used the art of voice-throwing to communicate with supernatural forces, while some theologians have argued that biblical prophets and divine oracles were in actual fact, ventriloquists.

    As society became more enlightened, scientific rationality and the industrial revolution displaced the mystical aspects of voice-throwing. Ventriloquism evolved into a lucrative stage act and reached its peak of popularity in the late 19th century during the heady days of Vaudeville. Artists like Jules Vernon, Fred Russell and The Great Lester kept audiences enthralled with the verbal antics of their wooden dolls, which seemed to possess an uncanny life of their own.

    Filmmakers were quick to pick up on the inherent creepiness of a human-looking wooden doll and the underlying potential of madness (split personality) within the psyche of its controller. The Great Gabbo (1929) explored such a theme as did the marvellous Ventriloquist’s Dummy segment in Dead of Night (1945) and the often overlooked Magic (1978).

    Devil Doll (1964) is a remarkably intimate, intense film focused on angst-ridden Ventriloquist The Great Vorelli (Bryant Halliday) and his brow-beaten wooden sidekick Hugo. As the story progresses, we learn the relationship between Vorelli and Hugo is much more than simply a master-and-servant stage act. It transpires that behind the unblinking glass eyes and hinged mouth there is an independent, vengeful will waiting to take action - a cursory glance in the dark, or a slight parting of lips suggest that the doll is more than the sum of its lacquered parts.

    Bryant Halliday is terrific as the intense Vorelli. His hypnotic stage act is as cruel and demeaning as the humiliation he heaps on Hugo. During one particular sequence, Vorelli hypnotises an audience member into believing he is about to be executed by a quick gunshot to the back of the head. He brings the man out of the trance just as he pulls an imaginary trigger. And later Vorelli has a hypnotised woman perform a striptease to the delight of the male spectators.

    The incredibly tight, intimate close-ups of the characters’ faces is voyeuristic and alarming. It’s matched superbly by the intoxicating hum of the soundtrack and clever use of silence. Add to this a number of odd camera angles and you have a remarkably lurid production that has collected a legion of fans over the years.

    Note: My review is based on the slightly longer, sexed-up “Continental” version of the film, which is included as a bonus feature on this DVD. The striptease sequence mentioned does not appear in the ‘tamer’ UK version.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    Considering the age and relative obscurity of the film, the black and white rendering here is surprisingly good.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1. It is also 16x9 enhanced.

    Blacks are fairly deep, displaying only minor instances of low level noise, while shadow detail clarity is generally well-defined and penetrating. Print fuzziness does creep into the transfer now and again, and grain is of particular concern during the opening title sequence.

    The print is definitely showing its age as a fair amount of damage such as fine hair-line scratches and white speckling pops up frequently.

    The layer change is not an issue as the 'continental' version is wisely recorded onto the second layer.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The English-only Dolby Digital 2.0 mono mix is satisfactory. The use of dramatic violins and trumpet orchestrations in the opening theme strikingly sets the tone.

    The throbbing whoom, whoom effects and shrieking Theremin-like notes are highly effective in creating tension and drama.

    Dialogue is generally clear and easily understood, but voices can sound a little distorted such as at 42:20 when the characters shout.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Continental Version

    Running for approximately 15 seconds longer than the United Kingdom version, this racier version contains the striptease by the female audience member and a few other scenes of naked breasts. A couple of scenes have been cropped from the ‘tamer’ version to make room for the striptease and additional nude scenes, so having both features on the one disc is definitely a welcome bonus.

Audio Commentary with Producer Richard Gordon and film historian Tom Weaver

    Interestingly, Tom Weaver’s voice comes out of the centre-right channel, while Gordon’s very British voice comes through crystal clear out of the centre-left channel. This gives the impression that you’re sitting in between them.

    This is a terrific commentary track. Weaver, who certainly knows his stuff, extracts some fascinating facts and interesting bits of trivia from the legendary Gordon.

Stills Gallery

    A series of 27 badly scanned behind-the-scenes production, advertising and publicity stills. When transferring these images to DVD, a little more care could have been taken to smooth out the focus and pixelization problems.

Theatrical trailer

    What is the strange, terrifying, evil secret of the dummy?

Umbrella trailers

    The Beast Must Die

    Fiend without a Face


    And Now the Screaming Starts

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 Image Entertainment edition is virtually identical to our own. The only major difference is that the Region 1 contains a very interesting illustrated booklet that has a text interview with Frederick E. West, who wrote the original short story.

    The DVD retails for $24.95 USD, while in Australia it has a recommended price of $24.95. Considering currency conversion rates and international postage costs, non-cash-strapped collectors will want the Region 1 for the booklet, but the budget conscious will find our local release a very good buy.


    Devil Doll effectively toys with narrative themes of possession and madness. For what it lacks in production gloss and budget it certainly makes up for with a creeping, quiet intensity that exponentially builds to a satisfying climax.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Robert Winter (read my dead sexy bio)
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDYamaha DVR-S200 (it came free with the plasma), using S-Video output
DisplayYamaha 106cm Plasma. Calibrated with Sound & Home Theater Tune Up. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt into amplifier. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
Amplificationget a marshall stack, and crank it up.
Speakers2 x Bose Speakers and 4 NX-S200 Yamaha mini-speakers.

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE