The Curse of the Doll People

Director: Benito Alazraki
Year: 1961
Rating: 6.5
Country: Mexico

What I know about Mexican films could fit in a thimble. A small one. From time to time I come across a blurb or review of ones from the 1950's and 60's but I have no idea what their film industry consisted of. I am sure there was a serious artistic aspect to it but I generally only read of very genre based films - horror, masked wrestlers, monsters, witches and so on. And the common theme that I hear is how weird and cheap they are which has kept me at a distance because weird and cheap don't on their own make me itch to see them. But I came across this one - The Curse of the Doll People a.k.a. Munecos Infernales which I guess would be translated as Devil Doll. And it is pretty good.

If I had watched it without knowing, I would have placed this in the 1940's - it has that black and white shadowy look to it and the violence is graphically toned down and the sex is non-existant. In fact, if it had been in English I might have thought it was a missing RKO Val Lewton film - in the same creepy neighborhood and style of I Walked with a Zombie or The Seventh Victim. Down dark threatening streets, full of ritual and superstition, unexplained deaths and an atmosphere of impending doom.

These four nitwits gather a group of friends around them at a dinner party to tell them that while in Haiti they broke into a secret Voodoo temple and stole a very important sacred figure. Yikes. Rule number 1. Leave the voodoo to the voodoo practicioners. Never interfere. But too late now. The voodoo priest has sent them a warning. They will begin dying at midnight. Ha ha ha. Well one of them does and even then they go - oh it must have been an accident - another dies and they go maybe he was sick. No. Get out of town. But they don't of course.

Only the girlfriend of a doctor (the lovely Elvira Quintana) knows what is going on. These killings are being carried out by these doll people brought to life to kill - either midgets or children - wearing masks that resemble people that have died. The production cost of these masks must have run $10 but the effect is quite chilling and wonderful as they slowly - oh so slowly - move on their targets with these needle blades. Little creeps. There is also a hideous impossible to kill zombie as well - it is a voodoo film. Quite enjoyable with a lot of stabbing and perhaps too much dialogue - but good enough to make me want to seek out a few more like this.

The actress Elvira Quintana is good in this - understated and at times terrified. She was a big star in Mexico by way of being a refugee from the Spanish Civil War and also a popular recording star. But she tragically passed away in 1968 at the age of 32.