Thursday, 20 March 2014

Dolls (1987)

Just released on DVD and Blu-ray by 101 Films is this Stuart Gordon-directed curio from 1987. 
      Little Judy Bower (Carrie Lorraine) and her awful parents (Carolyn Purdy-Gordon and Ian Patrick Williams) break down in the middle of nowhere, only to spot the kind of house you should never go near in these films through the trees. Pausing only to throw away Judy’s favourite teddy bear (which then comes back giant-sized to tear off Purdy-Gordon’s arm in a weird fantasy bit) the three of them break into the house, only to be confronted by its owners, Gabriel and Hilary Hartwicke (Guy Rolfe and Hilary Mason, effortlessly showing up all the other ‘actors’ in this film). 
      Gabriel is a toymaker whose dolls exhibit very special properties indeed, including giving Charles Band the idea for at least another twenty or so movies based on the concept. Before you can say ‘we need more Doll fodder’ traveling salesman Ralph Morris (Stephen Lee) has turned up with two of the absolute worst actresses in living memory, whose English accents have one yearning for the far more accurate tones of Dick van Dyke. Soon the dolls are chasing people around the house, popping out eyeballs and causing general mischief, before Stephen and Judy have a final confrontation with the dolls, and the more unpleasant members of the cast end up as part of the doll collection, possibly as a punishment for not being able to act terribly well.
Filmed before Stuart Gordon’s FROM BEYOND but released after because of the amount of post-production animation that was required, DOLLS was a curious follow-up to the director’s previous REANIMATOR. Produced by exploitation legend  (and tiny people movie enthusiast) Charles Band at a time when the long-running PUPPET MASTER series and its multitude of spin-offs were still a twinkle in his eye, DOLLS does at least have one thing in common with all the future Full Moon product that was to follow, in that it’s only 77 minutes long. Even at that length it still drags a bit, although once the animated dolls start doing their stuff it actually becomes quite disturbing for a couple of minutes. Sadly we get little explanation for why Rolfe and Mason would want to trap people and turn them into dolls, which is a shame as it’s not as if this film is overlong and some fleshing out of their characters (and some more screen time) would have been most welcome.

101 Films’ presentation of DOLLS on Blu-ray looks very nice. There are some scratches on the print at the start but other than that it’s nice and clean. The only extra is a director’s commentary.

101 Films released Stuart Gordon's DOLLS on Blu-ray and DVD on 17th February 2014

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