Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Dolls (aka The Doll) (1987, USA)

Directed by: Stuart Gordon
Produced by: Charles Band, Brian Yuzna
Written by: Ed Naha
Starring: Stephen Lee, Guy Rolfe, Hilary Mason, Ian Patrick Williams, Carolyn Purdy Gordon, Cassie Stuart, Bunty Bailey, Carrie Lorraine
Music by: Fuzzbee Morse, Victor Spiegel
Cinematography: Mac Ahlberg
Editing by: Lee Percy
Distributed by: Empire Pictures, Vestron Pictures
Release dates: March 6, 1987
Running time: 77 min
Country: United States, Italy
Language: English
Budget: Unknown
Box office: Unknown
Plot: A group of travelers spend the night in the mansion of an elderly couple who are dollmakers.
However, one of the travelers' children discovers that the dolls the couple makes are actually humans that the couple has miniaturized and turned into tools for their evil plans.
Info: Dolls is a 1987 Italian-American horror film directed by Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, From Beyond). The film was shot in Italy in 1985 and released in 1987. Also known as The Doll in Italy. Stuart Gordon was, at one point, very interested in directing a sequel to this film. The initial storyline would have followed Judy and Ralph back to Boston, where Ralph would have indeed married Judy's mother and they would all become a family. One day Judy would receive a box sent from England that would contain the toy makers, Gabriel and Hilary, as dolls. Unfortunately, the said sequel never happened. Considering, Dolls was a very entertaining movie. I would have like to saw a sequel.

Reception: Critical reception for Dolls has been positive, with the movie holding a 63% "fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Ain't It Cool News reviewed the DVD, calling it "a movie that really stands above the type of film you might expect from this era, with this subject matter." Roger Ebert panned the film, writing "At some point Dolls remains only an idea, a concept. It doesn't become an engine to shock and involve us." HorrorNews.net's Jeff Colebank listed the toymaking couple as one of the "13 Best Horror Movie Couples", stating that Rolfe was "the creepiest toymaker of them all." Allmovie's review of the film was favorable, calling it "a serious-minded, lovingly-crafted modern fairy tale that only misses classic status by a few clumsy, low-budget moments." From the Mind of Tatlock rated it positive, having this to say "The dolls are creepy and the storyline is barebones and to the point. There are plenty of fun scenes, which are both humorous and creepy (more so humorous, thanks to the acting)."



Dolls original 1987 trailer.

Film Facts: This film was actually shot before Stuart Gordon's next film, From Beyond (1986), and was shot on the same sets, but released almost a year afterwards due to all the doll effects in post-production.

The whispering sounds of the dolls were done by a group of Stuart Gordon's friends and family, including his kids and his wife, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon.

The close-up shot of Enid grabbing her "Boy Toy" belt was actually Carolyn Purdy-Gordon's niece filling in for Cassie Stuart, who was not available at the time for the shoot.

For the scenes in the attic, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon portrayed the character of Isabel. Bunty Bailey had already been let go by the time the attic sequences were shot.

The beginning credits have various doll faces materialize on the screen in an eerie way.

Guy Rolfe had to bleach his hair white for this film. He wasn't particularly happy when his hair originally came out yellow.


Promotional photo for the 1987 horror movie Dolls. The photo is titled 'Doll Eyes'. This doll is featured as the movie poster artwork; same as the photo. She is holding her eyeballs.

Because Empire Pictures wanted the film to be more like Stuart Gordon's previous film, Re-Animator (1985), additional gore footage was shot for the death of Rosemary. They wanted the film to be more gorier. One shot was filmed where one doll used a pitchfork to pull out some of her intestines. The footage was eventually scrapped when the filmmakers decided that the scene didn't really fit the tone of the film.

The character of Grizzly Teddy (Demonic Toys, 1992) is inspired by Judy's Teddy from Dolls. Also, some of the dolls, including the Sailor Boy doll and the Clown doll, appear in the climax.

In Puppet Master II (1991) Mr. Punch (Dolls, 1987) is sitting on the top shelf of Andre Toulon's cabinet in his workshop.

Six  Shooter (Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge, 1991) seems to be inspirated by a doll in this movie, both shoot with guns and use lassos to get their victims. Also the actor Guy Rolfe is starring as a Puppet Master in both films.


Dolls 1987 VHS distributed by Vestron Pictures.

Gordon, who directed the entertaining "Re-animator" and perverse "From Beyond" brings a deliciously eerie and playful tone to this novel story of a group of adults who are sentenced to death for losing the child-like aspects of their personalities. The "dolls" of the title are the executioners and they love their bloody work, which is depicted in fine, crimson detail.

The special effects sequences featuring the dolls are realized with stop motion animation and puppetry. For the most part, they are extraordinarily convincing. A scene in which various doll characters huddle together to discreetly discuss the fate of a human character is priceless.

Remember horror movies that had a "moral code?" Where lots of nasty things happen but ultimately the good guys, the people who demonstrate courage and honor, "win," and those who are rude, unpleasant and nasty, "lose?" You don't see that much anymore, even Gordon's films aren't usually so "moral," for want of a better word. It's refreshing now and then--"Dolls" is even inspirational in a way. I won't spoil the message but there is one, and it's not a bad one.

Dolls is a excellent movie, one of the best Empire picks and a great entry in the tiny terrors genre. Stuart Gordon was the best thing that ever happened to Empire and Full Moon Pictures.


Promotional photo for the 1987 horror movie Dolls.

Anybody who thinks Chucky is state-of-the-art when it comes to walking, talking, murderous toys needs to check out the effects created by Giancarlo Del Brocco and John and Vivian Brunner. A lot of stop-motion combined with mechanics, (courtesy of the legendary David Allen) but you got to appreciate the subtleties. Got creeps? Less is definitely more.

This movie is too minor and too short (runs only 77 minutes) to escape the two-star rating category, but it's still recommended to any casual horror fan. Entertaining, well-made and well-written (especially regarding the ultimate fate of all the victims), it's filled with characters that are (intentionally) so dislikable you can't wait to see them killed, and yet the dolls are so vicious that you won't be rooting for them, either.

luvs88keys: I saw this movie when I was 6 years old in 1988, and for the next I'd say, oh, 7 years or so I had serious issues! I couldn't sleep at night because I was scared my dolls would come down out of my closet and attack me in my sleep. I thought that when I would get out of bed there would be a doll with a saw just waiting to take of my leg! My mom would have to come and fall asleep with me all the time for many years! I seriously lived in fear of being alone in my room, day or night, and having to open my closet door, look under my bed, fall asleep, etc. because I was so scared of my dolls. I am 23 years old now but still kinda scared to watch it again! But maybe it would help me deal with my past issues. Anyway, moral of the story, don't watch this or show it to anyone if you ever want to be able to enjoy your dolls again!!

Released by MGM Home Entertainment. Dolls 1987 DVD. This DVD is considered RARE and OOP (out of print).
 

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