The Horror of The Doll of Satan!
Elizabeth’s (Erna Schurer) uncle has died and it seems he has passed on his crumbling countryside castle estate for her to inherit. She takes a trip out there with her boyfriend, soon to be joined by a couple of her swinging friends, to stay at the castle and figure out if she wants to keep it or sell it. There she meets the governess of the estate, as well as the servants and the long-thought dead wife of a colleague of her uncle, who is now a mute, wheelchair-bound madwoman. Strange things start to happen around the chateau. Elizabeth has nightmares of being bound and taken to the torture chambers in the recesses of the castle. The governess is scheming behind her back, and the locals seem much too interested in whether she is going to sell the manor or not. And then there’s the lurking, stalking figure in black…
The Doll of Satan is a real hodge-podge of genres all rolled up into one. Most consider it a giallo, which is fair given its convoluted plot and its eventual resolution (the whole mess turns into a Scooby-Doo story), but there’s also the decaying castle setting, the gothic aspects, the freewheeling 60s vibe, and the Poe references. This one kind of bundles it all together in one package. And while this sounds like a good time, and the movie does have its moments, the whole thing is held together by tedious scenes of parlor room politics, moments with no dramatic tension or forward momentum. These segments don’t ruin the movie but they do hold it back from becoming a classic. Still, there is enough here to recommend to giallo fans and those that love the gothic Italian castle films of the 1960s.
In the end, your interest in this film will depend on how patient you are and how much you want to see obscure Italian horror movies. There’s a smattering of nudity, which helps, and you’ve got to dig the groovy tunes and the “teens” dancing to the music at the local pub. There’s also a number of smoldering beauties on display, the kind who wear super-thick black eyeliner and smoke cigarettes as big around as their fingers. So yeah, this is decent, if underwhelming, but a good way to pass an hour or so.