Black Devil Doll From Hell ~ 1984, Chester Novell Turner, USA

BlackDevilDollFromHellVHSscanNot to be confused with Black Devil Doll (2007), nor even Devil Doll (1964), Black Devil Doll From Hell is a humble, shot-on-video, exploitation fable directed by Chester Novell Turner and released in 1984. If the statements “I can handle no budget VHS exploitation” and “I don’t mind puppet rape” both apply to you, then there’s really no reason why you haven’t already seen this movie. For the rest of you, you can probably just go about your business and pass on this one.

THE PLOT~ When prudish, virginal, Christian woman Helen finds an ugly ventriloquist doll in an antique store, she finds herself transfixed by it, which is weird. Seeing this, the cashier hits Helen with her standard sales pitch; “That doll is cursed, it is not to be trifled with. If purchased it, it will grant you your heart’s true desire, but beware.” Sounds on the level. So, in a direct contradiction to her firebrand religious convictions, Helen buys the damn thing for reasons no human will ever understand, ever, and takes it home, where she proceeds to just go to sleep like she DOESN’T have a cursed ventriloquist dummy in her fucking house. Predictably, the dummy drops the act once she’s out, and begins to walk about the house freely, just like all ventriloquist dummies do. Here’s where things go all “monkey’s paw” on us; The doll grants your hearts true desire, right? Well, what does every God fearing woman truly want, beneath her well fortified façade of Christian values? Why, some red hot puppet sex, that’s what! So, our Black Devil Doll breaks her off a piece of sweet, hot, puppet lovin’ that she isn’t likely to forget anytime soon, which, initially, is just him raping her. Yep. Pretty bad. And it get’s worse, next, in an uncomfortable and blatantly sexist twist, Helen does a 180 on the whole “consent” biz and decides that she really, really loves sex with ventriloquist dummies after all. It’s like, her favorite. Hold up, though, cuz there’s another drawback waiting in the wings; Turns out the first times always free, but after that, the generosity dries up. Try as she might, Black Devil Doll just doesn’t like her that way anymore, and he soon abandons her altogether. Now irreparably damaged by puppet sex (who hasn’t been there, right?) Helen abandons her religious convictions and embarks on an ever more self-destructive quest to satiable her unquenchable lust for dong. Things don’t end well, and that’s the movie.

Horrendously offensive content aside (for now), Black Devil Doll From Hell is basically a morality play about addiction, but it also deals with the unavoidable folly of repressing your feelings and denying yourself your true desires. It’s sort of insightful, actually; Helen spent her entire life denying herself what she really wanted because of how society told her she was supposed to live, and then she got to be true to herself exactly once, and it basically destroyed her life, because she was so unprepared for it. That’s kinda heavy. Additionally, this movie addresses the many dangers of owning sexy puppets, so there’s a while lot to learn here.

It’s sort of hard to know how to feel about Black Devil Doll From Hell... This is one that has some very positive qualities, as well as some pretty glaringly negative ones. One thing is totally certain, though; as you now know, this movie is dammed offensive. We’ll touch on that more extensively in a little bit, but first, let’s briefly focus on the positive;

Every frame of Black Devil Doll From Hell basically permeates “triumph over adversity.” This is a film that was made with essentially no resources beyond the sheer dedication of Chester Novell Turner and lead actress Shirley L. Jones. It was shot on video, the music all sounds like it was composed using a Casio found in the trunk of an abandoned car, and it’s clear from start to finish that Turner was getting this done essentially on his own. From that angle, there’s a tendency to want to cheer him on, he made a movie with absolutely nothing, and back then, that was a lot harder to do than it is today. It’s also not even that terrible, all things considered, so this accomplishment certainly does deserves some credit. Black Devil Doll From Hell is a movie that exists because sometimes passion and ambition have their way over resources and adversity… We all want to believe in that message.

But here comes the hammer… Black Devil Doll From Hell is basically the one ingredient you would need if you wanted to have the average Millennial frothing at the mouth with complete and inconsolable fury. This thing exists in direct contradiction with the overly P.C. ideals that dominate the zeitgeist here in 2015, and usually, I’m all for that. In this case, however, I feel that I may have to side with the angry mob; Black Devil Doll From Hell is painfully, unforgivably sexist. It’s meant to be taken as a joke, but deep down in it’s bones, Black Devil Doll From Hell is predicated on ideas and beliefs that are damaging, and out of step with modern society

Our doll gives Helen what she truly desires, right? Well, the implication here isn’t JUST that human beings crave physical intimacy. The film also seems to imply that women crave subjugation and abuse as well, that they need a domineering male to control and belittle them. Maybe that’s not what Mr. Turner wanted to say, but that’s the message that comes across, and it’s more than a little damaging for Black Devil Doll From Hell. We can’t really rave about the movie as a technical achievement, and really, likability is the one thing this movie has going for it… So, you could see how not being very likable would be a major problem. The fact is, the strong, sexist content throughout the film essentially nullifies all or most of the goodwill Mr. Turner has earned just by getting the damn thing finished in the first place, and that leaves the film is a pretty sorry position indeed.

Unfortunately, this one is hard to recommend.


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