A historical television series that focuses on the impact of the Underground Railroad during the 19th century, "Underground" offers viewers a message of social progress that's just as relevant in 2017.
A man in a gleaming white suit comes to a small Southern town on the eve of integration. He calls himself a social reformer. But what he does is stir up trouble--trouble he soon finds he can't control.
Jon Lansdale is a comic book artist who loses his right hand in a car accident. The hand was not found at the scene of the accident, but it soon returns by itself to follow Jon around, and ... See full summary »
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 »
A beautifully-crafted low budget shocker which has unfortunately been overlooked in view of the classic 'Ventriloquist's Dummy' episode from the horror compendium film, DEAD OF NIGHT (1945; episode directed by Alberto Cavalcanti). Actually, it bears very few similarities to it: the dummy may be called Hugo as in the earlier film (though DEVIL DOLL was in fact based on a short story written by Frederick E. Smith), but here we have the ventriloquist who is doing the mind-controlling and the dummy who is subservient to him, whereas in the 1945 film it was the other way around.
Some dated elements like the dance number early in the film (couldn't they have thought of something more sinister as a way of making the heroine, Yvonne Romain, fall under the hypnotist's spell?) are not enough to spoil DEVIL DOLL's very effective suspense sequences, especially whenever The Great Vorelli and Hugo get to share the screen. Performances are generally adequate (including William Sylvester as the requisite American 'star') but Bryant Halliday obviously dominates the film as the villainous Vorelli. Reminiscent of John Barrymore in SVENGALI (1931), his sheer magnetic presence makes one wish he had made more films of the caliber of DEVIL DOLL. (On a side note, we DVD Maniacs should also feel obligated towards him for his capacity as co-founder of Janus Films, 'home owner' of The Criterion Collection!)
Some critics find the film a bit flat, almost like a made-for-TV film: it does have a tendency towards showing the actors in close-up but this, as explained in the commentary, was more due to budgetary limitations than to a conscious choice of film-making style adopted by the director; furthermore, the plot's very dependence on various states of emotion on the characters' part makes the intimacy of it all entirely appropriate!
Which brings us to the ending: though unconvincing in detail (Vorelli's transference of souls gradually took place over a period of months but here it happens in a flash!), the impact of it is undeniable and makes for a hugely satisfying climax to a wonderful little film, a genuine sleeper and now regaining some well-deserved momentum with Image Entertainment's excellent DVD release.
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