Defying all rational explanation, and spitting in the face of common sense, there is in the pantheon of cinema a woeful lack of films about evil ventriloquist dummies. Why? I truly don't know, as it is a genre that is full of possibilities. Considering there are countless films about animated farting rodents, you'd think there'd be more than a handful of titles about menacing dummies. But I digress...
In Devil Doll, famed mesmerist and ventriloquist The Great Vorelli descends upon London to play a string of sold-out shows. Vorelli is an odd man with a shady past and a glued-on beard. He's a Count Rugen prototype who sounds too much like the guy who narrates the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland. His dummy, Hugo, is decidedly surly, with a penchant for knifing people.
The two put on quite a show. Vorelli hypnotizes audience members, turning men into blubbering cowards and women into groovy dancers. Hugo, he whines a bit, and, to everyone’s amazement, walks the stage unattended.
Mark English is an American (oh that's clever!) reporter working in London intrigued by Hugo's performance. Wanting a closer look at Hugo, Mark comes up with a plan to lure Vorelli into his clutches. Using his socialite girlfriend as bait, Mark arranges to have Vorelli perform at a charity ball at her estate.
Intuition not being one of his finer attributes, Mark can't understand how after throwing his gilrfriend in front of Vorelli he ends up single. Vorelli's tricks as a hypnotist have her immediately under his spell. Mark can't really figure it out, which may explain why he's been reduced to covering puppet shows for the paper, and the doctors don’t seem too concerned when she drops into a sudden coma.
An inspection of Hugo reveals he's nothing more than a wooden doll. So, how's he walk? And how'd he pick up that knife he was waving around earlier? Maybe there is more to little Hugo than meets the eye. When the puppet visits Mark's room in the middle of the night and spews out a cryptic message, he's quite sure something weird is going on.
Let me tell you, something weird is going on. Vorelli has figured a way to transfer the souls of the living into wooden dummies. So, whatever could have in mind for the young Marianne and his newest dummy? Oh, I think you know.
The question is can Mark figure it out? And if so, can he stop Vorelli? Or, failing that, can he get a decent article out of the whole ordeal?
Directed by Lindsay Shonteff & Sidney J. Furie • Unrated • 1964 • 81 minutes