Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Dummy Connection

Last night, as part of our Halloween film festival, Theresa and I watched a neat British thriller called DEVIL DOLL. (It's not to be confused with the 30's Lionel Barrymore movie with a very similar title in which, if I recall correctly, Barrymore dresses in drag and commands a gang of six-inch tall burglars.) Our DEVIL DOLL was made in the 60s, and has something in common with British films like Schelisnger's BILLY LIAR, Richardson's THE ENTERTAINER (with which it shares a tawdry backstage setting), and Lester's A HARD DAY'S NIGHT - sharply contrasting black-and-white, disorienting handheld close-ups, and jump cuts borrowed from the French new wave. It's about an evil ventriloquist's dummy. Well - SPOILER ALERT!!!! - the dummy is not so much evil as he is understandably surly, let's say. But he does wield a knife in a couple of scenes. And DEVIL DOLL has - by the unanimous vote of the film festival committee - the MOST AWESOME FINAL FIVE MINUTES OF ANY MOVIE EVER! Apparently, the Mystery Science Theater boys had a good laugh at DEVIL DOLL's expense, but they might have had more fun watching it for non-ironic pleasure. We miss out on a lot when we place ourselves above the weird, crazy, and cheap. Sometimes, it turns out, we are not as smart as we think we are! Anyway, it struck me as quite a coincidence that Wesley Stace is reading on the Thacker Mountain program tonight, because he is British AND his new novel BY GEORGE is told in part from the POV of a ventriloquist's dummy - though a benign one, I have been led to believe. (Note: I used to have a nice still of DEVIL DOLL with this "post." But the saucy British scalawags on whose "web" site I found that still replaced it at some point with a picture of a lady with no clothes on through their computer knowledge and enjoyment of trickery. So I'm sorry if you saw this "post" during the unknown amount of time in which it had a naughty picture from British scalawags on it!)