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Vorelli is a ventriloquist & hypnotist, with an amazing dummy, Hugo. Vorelli meets and pursues a beautiful heiress (Marianne); he mesmerizes her, and induces a baffling coma. His buxom mistress (Magda) fears he'll dump her for the younger woman, and threatens to expose him. Vorelli tricks Hugo into killing Magda while he's safely elsewhere. Marianne's boyfriend Mark investigates. He discovers another killing in Vorelli's past, of a man called Hugo. The girl wakes from her coma, and announces she will marry the hypnotist. When the triumphant Vorelli tells Hugo his plans for Marianne and a new, female dummy, a final confrontation yields surprising results. Written by
Mike Rogers <MICHAELPEM@aol.com>
According to executive producer Richard Gordon, the theater in which The Great Vorelli performs was not open to the public at the time and was scheduled to be demolished. The film crew was able to shoot inside the theater for the show and backstage scenes before the deadline for the building's demolition. See more »
When Hugo walks toward the audience the back of his jacket is intact. When he walks back to his seat there is a hole in his back jacket for the hand to control him. See more »
The great Vorelli is a well known hypnotist and ventures a bit into ventriloquism as well, he's that popular most of the time he's performing a sell out show. What amazes the people most about his show, is that of his dummy, Hugo. There's just something too life-like about Hugo! During one of his shows, a sceptical reporter Mark English convinces his good friend Marianne to volunteer to go under his spell. When Vorelli first spotted Marianne he took a shine to her straight away, so he sets out to make her fall in love and marry him through hypnotism to get to her million dollar inheritance. So, Mark who's worried about Marianne tries to dig up the history of Vorelli and discovers some startling facts about Hugo.
I picked up this particular film knowing zilch about it, but the plot's outline sounded like it could be good fun and maybe even a hidden little gem. The DVD I purchased had two different versions, the theatrical release and Continental version. I got around to watching the continental release which is supposedly more raunchy than the original release. These added moments seemed to be a lot of topless nudity, I guess. Now I'm definitely interested in seeing how much of a difference between the two, just in case any details amongst the plot is missing from the continental version. So, from what I watched, I was reasonably surprised by the strong production that it held, but the story was a bit uninspired and performances were competent enough. But really I thought this was going to be a lot worse after visiting it's page on IMDb and reading a lot negative views about it and especially since MST3K had fun at it expense. C'mon, silly it is, but I couldn't bear to bag it, because I didn't find it that extremely bad at all slowly paced, yeah pointless sequences, definitely too much talk, yeah hardly intense, too right. But somehow I was wrapped in its curiously bizarre awe.
Additionally the production was solid, indeed. There was great use of the rattling score that added to proceedings, but the fluent cinematography really stood out with the zooms that truly brought out the plot's mysterious tone and some uncanny techniques were used also, like freeze frame. Hugo, the dummy looked pretty good and some scenes definitely inspired "Child's Play" to some point, like shots involving the dummy's feet when moving. Sometimes Hugo might have moved to smoothly, but for its time, it rather soundly done with the person in costume. Performances were you could say limp, but somehow that was the nature of the film. It was grim, but the monotone acting suited it. Bryant Haliday was tremendously good as the crooked Vorelli, especially in appearance. William Sylvester added charm to his character Mark English and Yvonne Romain was radiant as Marianne. Working with that was a well drawn-up script, which I thought maybe it was a tad too thick, but nonetheless had fine touches and sharp wit. No real atmosphere was staged, colourless is the best way of putting it, excuse the unintended pun since film is shot in black and white.
Like many dummy film's it owes a lot to the classier "Dead of Night", which that particular ventriloquist story has never been beaten, nor matched. Although, why it differs from the likes of "Dead of Night" and also "Magic" is that the dummy, Hugo is the victim of its manipulative master, which was the opposite way around in those other films. Just don't go in with expectations this going to be a effective first-rate thriller, as surely you'll be disappointed. But also don't expect gallons of dummy action and violence, because it does feel like they just threw the dummy story into the stew. Really it's all about The Great, but menacing Vorelli doing his tricks and a reporter learning about his maniac past. Sometimes it spends too long concentrating on some hypnotise sequences to space out the story, which after awhile became either tedious, or hugely ridiculous. Like that dance number and odd striptease scene! But anyhow, the show must go on!
Plot wise, it goes for more of a mystery vibe (which it kinda benefits from) and the narrative very much reminded me of the brilliant "Curse of the Demon". But at times it felt like it didn't know what direction it wanted to go. Like I typed early, it centres more on the master than the doll, which Hugo does come across as a gimmick especially that the title of the feature could be classed a little misleading. But through Vorelli we learn more about Hugo. You just want to know more about this freaky looking dummy. Who sure is ugly! Don't forget this is a slow burner that builds on its underlying cruel mood. Obviously since I found the film mostly silly, there's no real sustained tension, maybe two or three chills, but it was completely hard to be unnerved when there's small pockets of air in plot. That climax added to that, plenty gusto went into it but at the same time it was a real riot. It just finishes with a how can that be ending? You could say it was a bit too convenient, but still I was satisfied with it as it does knock you off guard.
To cut to the jib, it's a adequate, odd little British horror flick, which on a whole is more a curiosity piece than entertaining.
P.s Also the DVD transfer of film (Continental version) is top-notch, the image looks crisp and the audio rather clean.
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