Bryant Haliday portrays “The Great Vorelli”, a renowned ventriloquist and hypnotist with charisma oozing out of his pores. Seriously, I felt like this guy was hypnotizing me during his performances. His showstopping finale involves his dummy Hugo, who looks like evil personified and talks with a funny New York accent. Hugo is not your typical dummy. It appears as though he is a cognizant being capable of talking (and walking!) on his own. Is it all part of the act or is something supernatural going on?
The next night Vorelli hypnotizes a wealthy inheritor named Marianne into performing a rousing rendition of the twist even though she had no prior dance experience. Later that evening he uses his hypnotic powers to seduce her and they make sweet booty love together. When his current assistant and mistress discovers the indiscretion and threatens to expose his scandalous behavior he enlists the help of Hugo to solve his problem… with deadly results!
Marianne’s boyfriend Mark is an American reporter and he is solely responsible for all of the boring scenes. Like Jack McGee to the Hulk, Mark is irrationally obsessed with Vorelli to the point of where it’s the only subject he ever talks about. It is slightly fun to watch Mark piece together the puzzle and draw conclusions from thin air, but for the most part he serves as a complete buzzkill.
The complex and nuanced relationship between is Vorelli and Hugo is what drives the movie. What I loved about Devil Doll is that both onstage and off, Hugo and Vorelli are engaged in a bitter power struggle and the true nature of their association is eventually revealed. They both have strong wills and compelling personalities; it’s almost as if they are competing for your attention. Vorelli is a snobbish and condescending man who exerts his power over Hugo at every available opportunity. Hugo in turn is mysterious, vulnerable and menacing.
Despite the fact that it was mocked on MST3K (I haven’t seen it) Devil Doll is better than your average 60’s B-movie.