OF THE DOLL PEOPLE
(1965), B/W, 83 minutes
distributed by Trans-International Films
produced at Soundlab, Coral Gables, Fla.
Produced by K. Gordon Murray
Directed by Paul Nagel (as “Paul Nagle”)
black and white, mono, fullscreen, 83 minutes. DVD-R comes packaged as shown in color DVD case wrapped in plastic!
THE CURSE OF THE DOLL PEOPLE is a powerful, highly effective horror-fantasy. From the opening titles, superimposed over a scene of a pile of ugly dolls, we sense that this is not going to be a mere horror film, but also a sexually perverse fairy tale of sorts, and we are right.
The film is a strange mixture of horror, fable and occult drama, brimming with spooky images and crackling with voluptuous dialogue. Much of this film is terribly creepy, proving that Mexican cinema knew how to churn out a good horror film when they set their minds to it.
The film, with its premise of puppets brought to life to murder, reminds one of such evil-midget classics as DEAD OF NIGHT, DEVIL DOLL, DR. CYCLOPS, DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK, and TRILGOY OF TERROR.
The title “dolls” are creepy, hideous things, with their great, mask-like faces, stiff movements and little suits, looking like an army of arthritic Jerry Mahoneys from Hell.
One bespectacled doll, which looks like a shrunken-head version of Elvis Costello, crawls into bed with an attractive 12 year-old girl, in a scene which borders on the truly perverse.
The witch doctor looks like Kent McCord from TV’s “Adam-12” as a hippie guru. And his zombie henchman Sabood is a gruesome walking wreck with a wonderful face-mask. The ritual scenes with doctor and zombie in their cool pentagram studio are excellent, and include one amazing, ethereal shot of a disembodied spirit rising to the heavens.
There are strong subtexts here involving discipline, torture, sadomasochism and fetishism. And there is a lot of sexual tension in the film.
In one scene, a sexy wife walks around in a negligee, with her hair down, as the doll people peep at her. Later, a little girl walks downstairs in her nightie, while the demon dwarfs glare at her from behind curtains. As the child sips a drink of water, presciently aware she is being watched, the horrid little perverts stare at her longingly, in a scene which starts off as suspense and becomes purely sexual in a seedy, voyeuristic way.
And a most incredible scene occurs when the doll people finally attack Karen in her room; she lays, seductively paralyzed on her bed, as the evil midgets crawl towards the woman, silently, ever so slowly. We are frustrated that Karen doesn’t move; she seems to be waiting for them to pounce on her. When we realize her immobility is due to fear, the sight of the dolls creeping closer, ever closer, becomes almost unbearable. This is a hell of a scene, dripping with perverse implications.
The film also has some great horror f/x. The doll autopsy scene is quite grotesque, with “Dr. Karen” chopping off the doll’s head and then crushing it beneath her high heel! One might also view this scene as strongly anti-child, especially as the “child”-killer is a woman.
A truly unnerving scene occurs late in the film, when “Dr. Karen” is in Bokos’ lair. As she exits the joint, one of the doll people reaches out its arms and cries for her, obviously in unbearable spiritual pain to be a helpless, undead tool of evil. Karen gives him a look of pity and horror, but can do nothing, as she is still under the witch doctor’s evil hypnotic spell. As she leaves him, the pathetic little critter cries after her in a most disturbing way, subverting the very notion of the sacred mother-child bond, and underscoring its extreme fragility.
And the final scene, featuring generous shots of burning corpses, is remarkably grisly for a 60’s Mexican horror.
The atmospheric, largely angular photography lends a bonafide veneer of terror to this strange and wonderful film.
And the film seems pure K. Gordon Murray, dealing as it does with freaks and magicians and midgets. It’s almost like the former carny man’s own personal “Horror Circus”. At any rate, this weird and haunting exercise in psycho-sexual terror may be Murray’s best horror film.