Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Doll of Satan (1969)

Perhaps better known by its original title, La Bambola di Satana, this Italian Gothic Horror movie has never really gotten much respect.  The director, Ferruccio Casapinta, never directed again - described by an actress as "an idiot who couldn't do anything", and apparently the assistant director had to do everything and cover for his sorry ass.

Naturally, I'm intrigued.  I love the vibe of Italian Gothic Horror films; it will be interesting to see one incompetently done, and whether that's even a fair assessment.  Let's have a look...

Elizabeth's (Erna Schurer) uncle has died.  Now she's returned to his castle to collect the inheritance. It's the standard setup for untold number of gothic horror tales.

As you can see, Liz is kinda pissed - the governess, Carol (Aurora Bautista), has just told her she may be S.O.L., as the castle will likely be sold rather than go to her inheritance.

Carol is played by Aurora Batista, which has to be one of the best names I've ever heard.  S

Carol is the governess of the estate, and she immediately conflicts with the younger Elizabeth. She comes off as this overly dour and straight-laced woman... which couldn't be further from the truth....

It turns out, she's actually a minx in disguise.  What other tricks does she have up her sleeve?

Also in the castle is Jennifer....

YIKES!  Truly a frightening scene.  Jennifer is this creepy chick who sits in a darkened room.  She was the secretary of Elizabeth's late uncle.

But it's all good.  At the reading of the will, we learn that Elizabeth does inherit the castle, and Carol can keep her job as governess.  End of movie - they all live happily ever after.

Oh, shit!  Maybe things aren't so happy after all.  Some mysterious shenanigans are going down at the castle.  Someone's walking around at night, a dark figure with a flashlight that's clearly up to no good.

Carol gives Elizabeth and the gang a tour of the dark and musty catacombs beneath the castle - including a torture room.

Elizabeth confides in her fiance, Jack (Roland Carey), that she's suspicious of Carol, and there's some funny business going down in this place.

Carol and a mysterious whispering man are putting drugs in Elizabeth's drinks to drive the poor girl crazy.  Tonight she has a hallucination of...

...herself naked?  I guess it's a sly way to get in some gratuitous nudity... but then, we don't really get to see any nudity, so I'm a bit confused.

Let's hop over to the local happenin' jukebox joint where all the cool kids dance awkwardly to muzak. But who's that lurking in the corner?  Could it be the mysterious whispering fella working with Carol on getting the castle away from Elizabeth?

After dining out (and drinking some more hallucinogens), Elizabeth has another acid attack.

For some reason, whatever drug Carol and the whisperer are slipping her, keeps causing Liz to get aroused and picture herself naked.

And here she is, at it again.  The music is just a pre-synthesizer noise with a slow drumbeat.  It's pretty effective - Erna Schurer is gorgeous and we can feel her world fade into a sexy acid trip from hell.

The next day, Elizabeth is back to normal chatting with the help.  Of course, they're once again talking about what to do with this damn castle.  And this is ultimately what's wrong with this flick: too much boring filler between the good scenes.  And when I say boring, I mean "looking for the right printer cartridge at Office Max" level of boringness.  I get it - not every scene needs to have action, be horrifying or sexy... but it doesn't have to be this level of dull!

But let's focus on the positive....

The scenes of Elizabeth alone, having fantasies or getting the bejeezus scared out of her, are truly compelling.  I must admit, I'm impressed with Erna Schurer; she's not only easy on the eyes, she can convey emotion really well without saying a word.

A masked figure breaks into Elizabeth's room, chloroforms her and steals her away to the dungeons below the castle.

She's then shackled to dungeon wall and tortured.  Oh, the horror!... but wait, it turns out to be just another one of Elizabeth's acid trips.  (I hate when movies make you think something's real, only to have it be just a dream.  Bummer.)

Elizabeth finally learns what the hell is going on.  Remember creepy Jennifer?  She befriends Elizabeth by telling her all that she's witnessed.  (Unfortunately, Jennifer is subsequently killed.)

So, what exactly is going down?

Well, there's a uranium mine below the castle. Yes, a uranium mine [above, Jack discovers a secret lab processing the uranium].  WTF?  Elizabeth and her whispering boyfriend were wanting to get the castle and exploit the riches of the uranium.

This is just too lame for words, and definitely has no business being in an Italian Gothic tale.

In the end, I guess I'll have to agree with the critics of this film.  It is indeed a piece o' shit.  Erna Schurer is hot, to be sure, but otherwise I can't fathom a reason to see this film.  Skip it.

★ (3/10)

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