krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
After "Devil Fish," I'm on the other "devil" movie in the latest Mystery Science Theater 3000 box set, "Devil Doll." Titles aside, the two movies aren't that similar, but this one is also fun in its own way.

Hypnotist and ventriloquist "the Great Vorelli" is attracting attention in London ("Sold Out? They must have run out of Cancelled stickers."), and journalist Mark English (played by William Sylvester, who inspires a few mentions by the "riffers" back to "Riding With Death") decides to investigate. The Great Vorelli's dark and threatening hypnotism is nevertheless a big hit with the audience ("Keep clapping; he may not get to his act!"), and then it's on to his dummy Hugo, who can not only talk but also walk on his own. The only problem is that he's not quite getting along with his ventriloquist any more, which just makes the act darker and more threatening yet. The Great Vorelli takes a shine to Mark English's attractive companion Marianne and starts pulling her into his web, using Hugo to kill off his current assistant. In the meantime, Mark English has flown Pan Am (or stock footage of it) to Berlin, where he learns the dark secret about the Great Vorelli and Hugo's early days. Then, in the nick of time (and without Mark English quite having to do anything beyond show up after it's all over), the crisis between ventriloquist and dummy reaches a head ("I am disciplining my puppet, all right?"), and everything is fine.

There was plenty of solid, entertaining "riffing" in this episode for me, and it also sort of seemed to the episode's benefit that the Great Vorelli and Hugo's act was allowed to "hang itself" without making too many easy cracks at all ventriloquists. The "host segments" involve the characters being in "Roman times," a part of the eighth season I haven't quite otherwise covered yet (beyond that they leave it during "Space Mutiny"); Pearl's attempt to throw a wild "toga party" don't quite work, but a "pants party" is more successful. In keeping with the name of the movie, the devil Pitch (who first appeared in "Santa Claus") returns twice, and Tom's soul is transferred first to a crude replica of himself and then to a toaster strudel. Rounding out the DVD, there's an interview with the executive producer of the movie Richard Gordon, but as he only discusses the movie itself and not it winding up on Mystery Science Theater there's something a little odd about it; I suppose some sort of object lesson might be generated about Mystery Science Theater fans having to come to terms with the idea that not everyone sees the movies in the show's canon the way they do. However, there's also a sort of "hidden" special feature where Joel Hodgson discusses "movie sign," talking about how it was a good, easy way to end any "host segment" but not going on to the "door sequences."

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