• Dolly Dearest (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: May 26th, 2019.
    Director: Maria Lease
    Cast: Denise Crosby, Sam Bottoms, Rip Torn, Lupe Ontiveros, Ed Gale, Chris Demetral, Candace Hutson
    Year: 1991
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    Dolly Dearest – Movie Review:

    Elliot Wade (Sam Bottoms) takes over a doll factory in Mexican and decides to bring his wife Marilyn (Denise Crosby) and their two kids, Jessica (Candace Hutson) and Jimmy (Chris Demetral) south of the border to their new digs. Elliot hopes to make a killing using the factory to mass produce the popular ‘Doll Dearest’ toy line. The relocation goes smooth enough and Elliot decides to gift young Jessica with a doll from the new factory that she is immediately quite enthralled with. You know where this is going, right?

    At any rate, they settle into their new abode and as they do, it becomes quite clear quite quickly that Jessica is more than a little bit unusually attached to her new doll. There’s an unusually large dollhouse out in the backyard where the two of them spend many of their waking hours together and this doesn’t go unnoticed by either Marilyn or Jimmy. Jessica’s family members are starting to notice some weird behavior from her, and are growing understandably concerned. As luck would have it, an archeologist named Karl Resnick (Rip Torn) has been digging around nearby and awoken an evil spirit from the Indian burial ground (no, really) he’s been exploring. This spirit has, of course, gone on to inhabit the doll that Elliot gifted to Jessica, and after doing so has gone on a bit of a murder spree. Housekeeper Camilla (Lupe Ontiveros) becomes concerned!

    Dolly Dearest has some issues. There are pacing problems in the first half of the film and it takes a little while to hit its stride. As far as the narrative goes, the movie does feel like a Child’s Play knock off at times, and you can’t help but notice some of the similarities between the two movies. On top of that, Rip Torn is a good actor, but a convincing Mexican he does not make (but is he really Mexican? What’s with the accent?). Bonus points for working over the top Mexican Catholicism into the story by way of the housekeeper, though! Why is the basement full of water?

    Still, the film has enough going for it that fans of killer doll movies will no doubt appreciate what director Maria Lease (who directed a few adult features like Expensive Tastes and the two Little Girls Blue films and who acted in a few Joe Sarno movies like All The Sins Of Sodom and Vibrations) has accomplished here. Interestingly enough, the doll is played by an uncredited Ed Gale of Howard The Duck and Child’s Play fame. It’s hard to really gauge his performance when he’s ‘all dolled up’ but he’s got a lot of energy here and he moves well in the costume, creating a creepy character that commands our attention whenever it’s on screen. Additionally, Denise Crosby is quite good here as the concerned mother (but then, I have a soft spot for her and am willing to admit that may be clouding my judgment here) and Sam Bottoms, well, he’s not very good as her husband but whatever. Candace Hutson and Chris Demetral are both better than average child actors and do decent work here.

    Dolly Dearest – Blu-ray Review:

    Vinegar Syndrome brings Dolly Dearest to Blu-ray on a 50GB disc in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed in the film’s original 1.85.1 aspect ratio taken from a new 2k scan of the film’s original interpositive and taking up just under 28Gbs of space on the 50GB disc. The transfer is indeed a strong one, showing very impressive detail and excellent color reproduction. Black levels are nice and deep and the picture shows no problematic print damage at all, while retaining a natural amount of film grain. Depth and texture are quite strong here and the transfer is, thankfully, devoid of any noticeable problems with edge enhancement or noise reduction. The healthy bit rate keep compression artifacts at bay and the end result is quite strong.

    The main audio option for the feature is a 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 track, in the film’s native English. Optional English closed captioning is provided. Dialogue is clean and clear and the track is nicely balanced. The score sounds solid enough, and there are no problems with any hiss, distortion or sibilance here at all. An English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is also included.

    Extras start off with Playing With Dolls, an interview with lead actress Denise Crosby that runs fifteen-minutes. She talks in this piece about making this film after Pet Semetary and about how horror was opening up. She talks about getting the part after meeting the director and producer and what they were like and how easy going they were, how she got along with the other cast members on the shoot including Rip Torn, the importance of bringing a female sensibility to horror, Maria Lease’s directing style and how she ‘found her way,’ working with child actors, her thoughts on the doll effects and her take on the movie overall. She comes across as quite gracious and looks back on the movie very fondly.

    A second featurette, Dressing the Part, is an interview with actor Ed Gale that clocks in at eight-minutes. He talks about how he was quite well known as the time and got called in for the part and how he wasn’t sure at first if they wanted him to stunt double the little girl or not. He then talks about playing the part of the doll in the film, how he takes pride in his work in the film (and rightly so), the benefits of his relationship with effects people in the industry, how he had a little bit of an ego during this period, his thoughts on the movie overall, shooting a commercial for Snapple around the same time, some of the humorous moments he shared with others no set, his lack of chemistry with Torn and how he feels this was a stronger film than Child’s Play. Before it’s all over, he shows off the dress he wore in the movie! Interesting stuff.

    Aside from that, we get menus and chapter selection options.

    As far as the packaging aspect goes, we get some nice reversible cover sleeve art, however, and the first 2,000 units purchased directly from Vinegar Syndrome get a very nice limited edition, creepy as fuck, embossed slip cover designed by Earl Kessler Jr.. As this is a combo pack release, a DVD version of the movie taken from the same restoration is also included.

    Dolly Dearest – The Final Word:

    Dolly Dearest might not be the most original horror film ever made but it’s a really entertaining picture with some memorable characters, solid effects work and a good cast. Vinegar Syndrome has done a very nice job bringing this to Blu-ray with an excellent presentation and two interesting featurettes. Maybe not a classic, but definitely a fun watch and a solid disc overall!

    Click on the images below for full-sized Dolly Dearest screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. funkvader's Avatar
      funkvader -
      Maria Lease - the director of this film - was one of my favorite softcore hotties. Good on her for making it to the "big time."
    1. funkvader's Avatar
      funkvader -
      I love Rip Torn. The man was all over the place.