• The Killer Of Dolls (Mondo Macabro) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Mondo Macabro
    Released on: October 22nd, 2019.
    Director: Miguel Madrid (as Michael Skaife)
    Cast: David Rocha, Helga Liné, Inma de Santis, Elisenda Ribas Marina Ferri, Lupe Rocha
    Year: 1975
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    The Killer Of Dolls – Movie Review:

    Miguel Madrid’s 1975 film The Killer Of Dolls tells the seriously strange story of a young man named Paul (David Rocha). He’s flunked out of medical school – he’s freaked out by blood, we learn - and gone home to Montpellier in France to live with his parents at the massive estate owned by the lovely Countess Olivia (Helga Liné). Here, Paul’s father works as a gardener. Without much to do to occupy his time, Paul winds up befriending a weird little kid named Robert (Rafael 'Indio' González Jr.) and, as they get to know one another, we realize that Paul’s more than just a little weird.

    As the story progresses, Paul and Olivia’s lovely daughter Audrey (Inma de Santis), start to fall for one another. When his parents go on vacation, however, Olivia, who clearly lusts after the young man, starts getting more aggressive with him. While all of this is going on, a killer wearing a wig and white porcelain doll’s mask is running about killing people – could this have anything to do with Paul’s penchant for dolls or the unorthodox way in which his parents raised him as a child?

    We know very early on in this twisted little gem of a film that Paul is damaged goods when we see him destroying a doll – not that it isn’t okay to destroy dolls, they’re creepy and deserving of our spite, but the way in which Paul does this clearly indicates to the viewer that he might be a little off his rocker. David Rocha, who had a small role in Luis Buñuel’s That Obscure Object of Desire only two years later and who had a supporting part in Paul Naschy’s 1981 picture Night Of The Werewolf, plays this role very well. He’s got a strange, twitchiness to his on-screen persona that proves very effective in bringing Paul’s broken character to life and there’s just something deeply unsettling about his work here. It’s a bold performance, he doesn’t shy away from a bit of nudity or pull back during a few of the film’s more memorable set pieces, and he definitely delivers some stand out work here.

    Helga Liné, of Horror Rises From The Tomb and The Mummy’s Revenge, is also great in her supporting role. She’s an attractive woman to be sure, quite alluring, but she’s got some legitimate screen presence and she uses that trait well as the snooty Countess Olivia, a woman very clearly used to getting what she wants when she wants it. She slinks about the film with a strange mix of elegance and perversion about her. Inma De Santis, of Devil’s Exorcist, is well-cast as Olivia’s pretty, and fairly innocent, daughter. While we can’t necessarily relate to why she, or her mother, are so attracted to Paul De Santis is nevertheless good in the part.

    The movie is nicely paced and quite suspenseful. The use of dolls throughout the film to conjure up eerie imagery is very effective and the murder set pieces are quite stylish and impactful. Alfonso Santisteban’s score is a good one, heightening tension and drama when called for, while the cinematography from Pablo Ripoll, who shot Tombs Of The Blind Dead and White Fang, is very strong and does a great job of capturing the beautiful and strange estate where so much of the film’s action is set.

    Interestingly enough, Madrid himself appears in the intro to the film, where he viciously destroys a doll for our enjoyment.

    The Killer Of Dolls – Blu-ray Review:

    Mondo Macabro gives The Killer Of Dolls its official North American home video premiere with this Blu-ray release, which is taken from a brand new 4k transfer of the film’s original 35mm negative and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.85.1 widescreen on a 50GB disc. While there is a brief segment taken from an upscaled analogue source, by and large this transfer looks quite nice. Clearly Mondo Macabro was working with less than perfect elements here as some print damage is visible here and there but the image is stable and shows solid detail and texture. Color reproduction looks quite good, especially the bold, bright red hues, and black levels are pretty solid. The image is very filmic looking, expect some natural film grain, and never looks overly processed. As such, no problems with any noise reduction or edge enhancement and the disc is free of noticeable compression artifacts.

    The Spanish language DTS-HD Mono track, which comes with optional English subtitles, sounds fine. Dialogue is clean and clear, the track is properly balanced. There aren’t any problems with any hiss or distortion and the score sounds quite good here.

    There are two audio commentary tracks on the disc, the first of which is from Kat Ellinger. She speaks about Miguel Madrid’s background, how he started out as a painter, other credits that he has in the Spanish film industry, and his tendency to take things into avant garde territory and how enigmatic he is given that there really isn’t a lot of information about him out there. She also talks up seeing the film for the first time and her initial thoughts on it and having to torrent fan subs for it, Rocha’s tendency to use ‘experimental theater type acting’ in the picture and the intensity it brings to the picture, how it’s hard to pigeonhole the film into one specific genre, it’s giallo-esque qualities, the way that sexuality is used in the picture, the film’s ties to Lady Chatterly’s Lover, the objectification of Paul in the film, how certain scenes tend to use dream logic, Helga Liné’s character traits, the bizarre pop video sequence that shows up in the second half of the movie and quite a bit more. Like a lot of Ellinger’s commentary tracks, it tends to delve more into themes and concepts explored by the film, but she still relays a lot of information alongside the dissection of the picture.

    The second audio commentary is from Robert Monell and Rod Barnett. They talk about how Madrid’s cameo in the beginning posits him as a bit of a psychoanalyst, how the mannequins and dolls featured in the film work as a metaphor for objectification, Spanish censorship issues around the time that this picture was made and how the release of Werewolf Shadow changed all of that, particularly once Franco died. There’s talk here about the distinction between classes with Paul’s character and the Countess, how and why Paul kills when and where he does, how the film does make you pity Paul thanks to Rocha’s excellent performance, the different ways that you can read parts of the film, the film’s connections and similarities to other Spanish genre pictures made around the same time, Madrid’s directing style, how this picture compares to the director’s earlier Graveyard Of Horrors (a.k.a. Butcher Of Binbrook, a.k.a. Necorophagus), how the film demonstrates Paul’s problems as a larger issue within Spanish culture of the day and the character’s sexuality and lots, lots more. These guys know their stuff and have quite a bit to say about the film.

    As far as featurettes go, the disc holds a very interesting interview with actor David Rocha, the quirky thespian who plays the lead in the film. Here, over the span of twenty-five-minutes, he speaks about how much he enjoyed working on the film, how and why he took the name David Rocha, how the nude scenes in the film caused controversy in the film’s homeland, how much he enjoyed working with Elisenda Ribas (who played his mother in the film), how he got along with some of the other cast members including Liné, the controversy that surrounded her character having sex with a black man out of spite, how you can see his actual blood in a scene where he cuts himself, how Inma De Santis passed away at a young age in an accident, why he looks so thin in certain scenes but healthier in others, how he committed to killing himself around the time that the film was made and much more. Rocha is balanced and sane here, but he’s got some genuinely nutty stories to tell – definitely make sure you take the time to check this out.

    Mondo Macabro also supplies a two-part interview with Dr. Antonio Lázaro-Reboll, the first part, which is twenty-eight-minutes, covers Spanish Horror and the second, which is twenty-one-minutes, narrows in on The Killer Of Dolls. In the first part he covers various famous Spanish horror pictures, how the country’s output started to compete with other European countries’ output at the time, the importance of certain pictures like the Blind Dead pictures, how some of the country’s output could be considered arthouse as much as it could be horror, different genres that were explored during the boom years and more. In the second part, he talks about Madrid’s background and how very little is known about him, how there was an outrage among the press when Necorophagus was to be given an award, how Killer Of Dolls is an anomaly the same way that much of Jess Franco’s output is, the quality of the cinematography in Killer Of Dolls and the themes that it plays around with, other projects that people involved with the film have been involved with since and loads more. These are both quite in-depth and detailed.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc is the ever-expanding Mondo Macabro preview reel, menus and chapter selection.

    The Killer Of Dolls – The Final Word:

    The Killer Of Dolls is an effectively weird film, but it’s quite well-made. The performances are strong across the board and the production values really solid. There’s good suspense here, and enough surprises in store to keep most viewers engaged. Mondo Macabro are to be commended to taking a chance on this obscurity and bringing it to Blu-ray in a fine presentation with a host of extra features. Highly recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized The Killer Of Dolls Blu-ray screen caps!