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Film / Devil Doll

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Devil Doll is a 1964 British film about hypnotist-cum-ventriloquist "The Great Vorelli" (Bryant Halliday) in his struggle to prove to the people who laughed at him long ago that yes, he can transfer a mind into the body of a wooden vent figure. At one show, by what seems to be pure serendipity, the "good guy" Mark English (William Sylvester, before 2001: A Space Odyssey) ropes his girlfriend Marianne (Yvonne Romain) into volunteering for Vorelli's act. English's obsessive skepticism results in acquisition of expert testimony and even an impromptu, depressing trip to Germany. Along the way, minds are controlled, people are menaced with knives, and dummies are insulted. Somehow, Vorelli's dummy turns the tables at the close of the movie, and everything ends.

For the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version, please go to the episode recap page.


Not to be confused with 1936 film The Devil-Doll. Also not to be confused with the Slovenian/Italian band Devil Doll (who named themselves after the 1936 film). And for the love of God, do not confuse this movie with Black Devil Doll from Hell. You will thank us later.

Devil Doll provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Vorelli on Marianne, especially considering his real plans for her.
  • And I Must Scream: Hugo, after having his soul transferred into the dummy. For a long time he couldn't even move or speak, though he did eventually develop that ability.
  • Beard of Evil: Vorelli has one, which totally makes him look like the devil. It's a fake beard, meaning this pretty much has to be intentional.
  • Demonic Dummy: Hugo. Subverted, though. Hugo is actually a good person unfairly trapped in the body of a ventriloquist dummy by the evil Vorelli. Once he gets the chance to escape he takes his revenge with gusto.
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  • Dull Surprise: Marianne, most of the time, even when she's NOT being mind-controlled by Vorelli, has a rather creepy blank stare.
  • Fanservice: Magda's... revealing costume.
  • Glass of Chianti: Vorelli drinks Sangue Di La Vergine - "Blood of the Virgin"
  • Gold Digger: Vorelli, whose plan is to stage Marianne's death and transfer her soul to a doll once he's tired of her, taking her fortune for himself and giving Hugo an "ugly wooden companion".
  • Grand Theft Me: A rare heroic example— at the end of the film Hugo forcibly swaps bodies with Vorelli, trapping the magician in the body of the doll.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Vorelli's Karmic Transformation at the film's Twist Ending.
  • Hotter and Sexier: The international version has a decent amount of nudity, with a topless scene from Magda, a woman is hypnotized into doing a striptease on stage, eventually going topless, and a topless scene from a woman in the background.
  • Jerkass: Vorelli. He even uses it in his stage act, which at one point involves hypnotizing a guy into believing he's being shot in the head. At another point he forces a woman from the audience to do a striptease in front of the entire audience And in the good old days, he used to hypnotize the human Hugo to not bleed when he was stabbed. Most of the time, it worked.
  • Large Ham: Vorelli, so much so that Hugo literally calls him one when he eats ham on stage.
  • Magicians Are Wizards: Ventriloquist Vorelli is really a soul-manipulating hypnotist.
  • Male Gaze: The introduction of Grace, the Replacement Lovely Assistant.
  • Mind Rape:
    • Almost literally. Vorelli uses hypnotism to force a girl to get naked in front of an entire audience.
    • Vorelli does it again to Marianne, having sex with her while she's hypnotized.
  • Misapplied Phlebotinum:
    • So you have vast and fearsome powers over the human mind. You're capable of hypnotizing people to do your will with a mere glance, forcing them to live their darkest nightmares, re-writing their personalities, or even taking their very souls from their bodies — and you use these powers to perform in a stage show? One could argue that Vorelli gets off on being a Devil in Plain Sight and that it's not about material gain, except that the entire movie is about him using his power to get his hands on Marianne's money. Sure that's something, but he's still settling for grand theft when power like this could easily let him rule his own country if not the entire world. Even when he's performing overtly criminal acts he still aims low.
    • Then again, Vorelli might not have the administrative skills or the interest in rulership (Vorelli may be able to transfer souls but can he balance a nation's economy?), plus it would make him a target. If word got out that a man could control anyone's mind and transfer their souls to inanimate objects, everyone would either be out to either kill him or force him to serve their interests. CIA would want him, so would the KGB, and either would kill him to keep out of the other one's hands. Organized crime figures would be very interested in hiring Vorelli, and wouldn't take no for an answer. And absolutely no one would feel safe. With hypnotism, Vorelli can just take what he desires (money, sex) without the hassle or the responsibility, and he has Hugo to do his dirty work. To quote Lord of Illusions "Illusionists get Vegas contracts. Wizards get burned at the stake".
  • My God, What Have I Done?: English, upon realizing his actions have allowed Hugo to swap bodies with Vorelli.
  • Non-Indicative Title: Hugo isn't a devil. He's not really even evil. Though you could say this applies at the end when the very evil Vorelli gets trapped in the doll.
  • Obviously Evil: Vorelli, oh so much. For instance, during the flashback to Vorelli's Start of Darkness:
    Vorelli: (To Human Hugo) This time, Hugo... you're going to die!
  • Power Perversion Potential: Vorelli is well aware of the perversion he can pull off with his hypnotism.
  • Pretty in Mink: We immediately know Marianne has money since she has a white fox wrapped draped over her chair when she first appears.
  • He Knows Too Much: She knows too much bout Vorelli's sordid past, so Magda has to go.
  • Soul Jar: Hugo is stuck in the body of a puppet.
  • Spanner in the Works: Grace, Vorelli's replacement assistant; she interrupts him in the last scene before he can reinforce the Mind Control on Hugo — and after he opens the door to Hugo's cage, allowing the puppet to destroy the plans of the Great Vorelli.
  • Useless Protagonist: English in no way facilitates the resolution of all that's made wrong...not even his urgent trip to Berlin, nor the consultations with the experts. Because of this, it makes Hugo The Hero.
  • Who's Laughing Now?: Vorelli does this constantly to Hugo, and Hugo does it right back at the end.
  • Wimp Fight: Vorelli gets his ass kicked by a puppet!
  • Your Soul is Mine!: Vorelli can manipulate souls to transfer them back and forth between different bodies or even inanimate objects.


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