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Sampo & Erhardt

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Visit our archives of the MST3K pages previously hosted by the Sci-Fi Channel's SCIFI.COM.

Goodbye Sci-Fi

Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett reflect on MST3K's final broadcast.

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Episode guide: 818- Devil Doll

Movie: (1963) The relationship between a ventriloquist and his dummy is even creepier than it seems.

First shown: 10/4/97
Opening: It’s Friday at the dorm and M&tB have a window!
Intro: Tom agrees to send the window back, but a drunken Crow smashes it; meanwhile Apearlo and Brainguyus liven up a dull Roman party with pants
Host segment 1: Crow expresses interest in Pitch’s line of devil dolls, Mike disapproves
Host segment 2: The bots set up a British pub, and it has a *very* stout ale on tap
Host segment 3: Pitch helps Crow transfer Servo’s soul, Mike disapproves.
End: Crow dresses Mike up as Hugo, Mike disapproves. Meanwhile Apearlo and Brainguys, attending Lesser God Day at the Colosseum, see a familar face!
Stinger: Hugo takes a licking and keeps on ticking
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (246 votes, average: 4.35 out of 5)


• This movie is so weird, but it’s a little dark for MST3K and I think the darkness drags the episode down a bit. Still, the riffing keeps up for the most part. Host segment-wise, it’s a mixed bag. The Roman Times stuff is good for a chuckle, but not many. I do like the bits with reasonable, affable Pitch and intemperate, outraged Mike. Paul and Mike are both terrific. The British pub sketch, however, is too long for a one-joke bit.
• This episode is included in Shout’s “Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection: Vol. XIX.”
• Paul’s take on this one is here.
• Not included in that list is “Papers, Fawlty!” which is an evocation of the gruff Colonel from the British comedy series “Fawlty Towers.”
• That’s Patrick, Beez and Paul as the “Roman day players.”
• As the Roman Times segment begins, Kevin is singing “And now to Eden” from the “Star Trek: TOS” episode “The Way to Eden.”
• A nice callback to season four with “pants” business, but it takes a while to get there. Another callback from the old days: “Does this bug you?”
• What’s fairly clear, as you watch, is that they used a lot of real-life locations, not studio sets. Example: In the first scene with William Sylvester and his assistant, it appears they are in an actual office somewhere. As he dials the phone, watch the window sill behind him. A tiny shadow goes by. At first I thought it was a mouse but then something transparent goes by, and it becomes clear that that is actual city traffic going by outside the window.
• Callbacks: The appearance of William Sylvester prompts several “Robert Denby” riffs.
• If I recall correctly, there was some trepidation when the Sci-Fi Channel’s counterpart channel in the U.K. began running the show and this episode — featuring the observation that England is populated by “chinless, jug-eared stomach eaters” — first aired. From what we heard from MSTies in the U.K., they loved it.
• Then-current reference: Warren Christopher. The former Secretary of State was an easy target because of his dour persona.
• Servo the toaster strudel riffs for an entire segment.
• Cast and crew roundup: Director Lindsay Shonteff also directed “The Million Eyes of Su-Muru.” In front of the camera, we’ll see Bryant Halliday again in “The Projected Man.” William Sylvester was also in “Riding with Death’ and “Gorgo.” Alan Gifford was also in “Phase IV.”
• CreditsWatch: Produced and directed by Kevin. Intern Dan Breyer begins a stint that will last until the end of the season.
• Fave riff: “Look! There’s the proof: There’s no God. Not a single God…” Honorable mention: “So how many hours have rotary phones added to movies over the years?”

187 Replies to “Episode guide: 818- Devil Doll”

  1. malt says:

    “Let’s all go to the lobby…”

    Great episode.


  2. MPSh says:

    DEBBIE! Come back to me, baby! I broke a window for you…..


  3. ck says:

    Hey, I love you guys! And I’ll never see you again after graduation. :cry:

    Btw, have you tried watching this movie while enjoying some assorted luncheon meats?


  4. snell says:

    I loved that Mike completely loses it. Watch after the line “You know, you don’t buy ham, only rent it.” It looks like he doubled over, trying to supress laughter. Or maybe he just dropped his pencil…


  5. bartcow says:

    Drink the wine

    Having just discovered that song for myself, I enjoyed quite a chuckle at that one.

    And the Debbie bit is among my all-time favorite host segments.


  6. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    >>>The appearance of William Sylvester prompts several “Robert Denby” riffs.

    Yet oddly enough they missed the most obvious opportunity, when Mark refers to “the ELUSIVE Mr. Garrett” (emphasis added). Perhaps its very obviousness was a turnoff.


  7. MPSh says:

    “You are an ugly, smelly puppet, Mike-O; a puppet who will never have ham! At least unless he gets it himself!”

    The random silliness of the Debbie bit, and bits like this that directly reference the movie are part of what made this show so delightful.

    And I love the idea of Lesser God Day. As well the fact that Kevin’s Roman guy is called Callipygeas (“beautiful arse” in Latin).


  8. Atomic Womble says:

    As one of the chinless jug eared stomach eaters, may I say I loved this ep, as Crow says at least we’re not French, so we’ve got that going for us………

    The movie was dark but in a goofy sort of way. MST does do ‘dark’ really well. If you want a post-war British movie with a geniunely creepy ventriloquist doll may I suggest DEAD OF NIGHT.

    Well, off to flip on Monday Night Cricket now. BTW what the hell was the deal with the stick-on beard?


  9. DON3k says:

    Bill’s Crow is really perfected by this episode. His puppetry has really come around, and the Crow personality fully developed. He was ‘getting there’ more and more each episode, but it really seems to show, here.

    As for the movie. Wow. Horror? Na. Exciting? Anything but!

    Oh, let’s go see the most depressing performance ever! Vorelli!!!

    So he made a man think he was about to be shot in the head. How lovely! At least with the woman, it was just dancing. Surprised he didn’t have her flash back to some bizarre rape scene.

    More! More! We’re not depressed enough yet! I need more!! I don’t quite want to kill myself after seeing your act! More!!!!

    And wouldn’t everyone just automatically assume there’s a little man in the Hugo costume, rather than that Vorelli actually possessing some type of powers?

    I also like that our ‘hero?’ doesn’t really even question that his girl dumps him for Vorelli.

    Really, there’s about a billion holes in this movie’s plot.

    Overall, funny, but it’s pretty tough to keep viewers laughing throughout. But Mike and the Bots to a good job. A few times where there’s a little too much movie and not enough comments, but not enough to ruin the experiment.

    4 Stars, I say.


  10. Joseph Nebus says:

    There’s a 1936 movie by the same name, with a wholly different plot, starring Lionel Barrymore as a man falsely convicted of bank robbery who uses a combination shrinking potion/zombie powder/mind control thingy to take his revenge while dressing as a widower toymaker. It’s really quite good. Turns up on Turner Classic Movies now and then, and I recommend watching it.

    Meanwhile, this movie, I keep coming back to a core motivational question: Reporter Guy won’t stop seeking the elusive secret of how Evil Ventriloquist manages to create such a tension-filled atmosphere between his creepily realistic dummy and himself.

    Yet his editor, his co-workers, his girlfriend, even Evil Ventriloquist Guy don’t point out to him what would in the real world be obvious: he’s a *performer*. He’s *supposed* to create stunning illusions. And it’s not a reporter’s job to reveal how an impressive stage performance was one, unless his job is one of spoiling performer’s hard-developed secret techniques. I don’t follow British papers of the Depressing 60s closely; were there regular Spoiling Performers’ Tricks columns back then?

    By the way, apart from Edgar Bergen, has there ever been a *non*-evil or at minimum crazy ventriloquist in any movie or TV show?


  11. ck says:

    This movie also is another with the non-surprise surprise ending (see Space Mutiny and Werewolf).

    “Come on, dead people know what’s going to happen”


  12. warp_10 says:

    actually, the song from the star trek episode is “headin out to Eden”. just fyi


  13. Joseph Nebus says:

    I should clarify I mean a non-evil ventriloquist character, rather than performer. I know there have been non-evil ventriloquist performers for many movies and TV shows, like … uh … erm … Edgar Bergen, and … uhm …


  14. ck says:


    Shari Lewis! of course, Crow might go for Lambchop on the rebound from Debbie.


  15. beth563 says:

    No horror movie genre really scares me, but talking evil dolls really creep the hell out of me.


  16. Dave says:

    So many great lines so little time:

    “Did I just see somebody come in amd paw my puppet?”

    “All right everybody thrill as I get my own onion dip.”

    “You think he likes ham, wait till you see me like ham.”


  17. klisch says:

    Boy I really disliked this episode. I’ve seen it once and once was enough. Sorry to be such a downer but really, I don’t recall laughing much. Yawning, yes. Laughing, no.


  18. M "Wait Til You See ME Like Ham!" Sipher says:

    I’m a little foggy on Vorelli’s plan here. He’s uncovered this awesome power, the ability to transfer souls, something he’s willing to do to UNwilling victims, and he’ll murder people who inconvenience them and he… puts on a stage show with it? Really, Vorelli? The criminal underworld and sex-change venues didn’t even occur to you, did they?

    I’m also wondering about his apparent plan to plunk Vacuous Girl’s soul into an ugly puppet like he did Hugo’s. What is he going to gain there? Wouldn’t he need a living VG to get a hold of her fortune? Was she THAT bad in bed?

    One of the things I always loved about MST is their wordplay. Particularly the nonsensical wordplay, like “I’m gonna ____ the HELL out of it!”. “Wait til you see ME like ham!” remains one of my all-time favorites.

    And the more subtle jokes underlying… I love how Pitch tells Crow that a soul transfer may take longer depending on the quality of the soul, and BOOM, Servo’s almost instantly in the puppet.


  19. MC says:

    Man, a pretty lukewarm review for what I always thought was a great episode! The movie is dark, sure, but it’s also completely absurd and there’s so much sheer randomness – like ham. Why ham? Why would that be in the act?! Why would any of this happen? Why would anyone go see Vorelli?! And the fake beard reveal halfway through the movie! Why?!

    Some of my favorite host segs too – Friday afternoon at the dorm, Debbie (which is one of my all-time faves), Tom as toaster strudel (“caution, my filling may be hot!”), and Mike as Hugo getting mocked with random taunts.

    I think when the movies are a little darker it gives them license to be a little harsher in their riffs. Yeah, I love this one.

    “Who wants to see my CAN?”


  20. Criswell says:

    Favorite Devil Doll movie moment? A modest twist!


  21. Roman Martel says:

    Heywood Floyd is back and this time he’s facing a demonic doll. And that makes it sound more exciting than it really is.

    “Devil Doll” is another episode I haven’t seen since the 90’s. I remember my brother in law having this episode on tape and watching it while I was over a few times. What I remembered best was the obsession with Hugo eating ham, and the general abuse heaped up on Hugo. So, I was pretty keen to revisit it.

    The movie is another slow one, with the obvious twist just taking its time to come around. Half way through, my wife asks, “Didn’t they do this in ‘The Twilight Zone’?” Yeah pretty much. It was also revisted in an episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and both of those episodes were better than “Devil Doll”. The drab and dreary photography doesn’t help matters either. The movie as a whole doesn’t scare, or thrill or anything. Sure Hugo is kinda creepy looking, but he’s just not convincing as something scary.

    Mike and bots have a lot to work with and there are some great lines in the episode, but the slowness of the film is difficult to overcome. Kinda reminds me of a Corman flick actually. The riffs involving ham and other lunch meats provide a great hook as does the “outfit” Vorelli’s assistant wears. But in the end the movie’s slow pace makes the whole episode drag a bit.

    The host segments work a bit better this time around, especially when Pitch shows up. I love that Tom turns into a toaster strudel and his new legs. And the ending with the revelation of Bobo as The Mad Goth was funny as well. So, that gives the episode a boost.

    No deal with the devil can help this one completely, but I’d say an above average episode, 3 and a half stars, or four if I’m in the perfect mood for it.


  22. Sitting Duck says:

    The Word Detective recently (so recently that it’s not yet posted on his web site) explained the origin of the word ventriloquism, and it’s a bit unsettling. I’ll provide a link once he posts it.


  23. RPG says:

    “I’m driving with my MIIIIIND!!”

    Having seen both this and Projected Man, every time I hear Vorelli say “When the music begins…” I can’t help but add “Press this”.


  24. creepygirl says:

    @#17 & Sampo:

    I totally agree with you both on the fact that this episode kind of drags in my book too. Like every episode there are some great riffs and host bits, but over all I’ve given this episode a long break. I believe I’ve seen it twice, maybe three times and for now that’s enough. I’ll wait for it on Shout! when and if they get rights.


  25. sauron says:

    For those who didn’t find this funny,much less one of mst’s classic episodes,you are not a fan.There,I said it and I feel a sense of relief.
    How a film where a large man puts his hand up a smaller mans rear end and then is successfully plumbed for humor doesn’t endear the viewer is beyond me.
    Still, Devil Doll is a pretty good horror film unriffed as well.


  26. Ator In Flight says:

    I would say Hugo looks more like a Mod than a Rocker.


  27. Cabbage Patch Elvis says:

    “You ugly little dummy.” What more can be said. I really like this one a lot. Dark, true, but some really great riffing.

    #6 – I know what you mean about William Sylvester calling up the ELUSIVE Mr. Garret. Was that his personal stamp in his movies? I don’t recall that from 2001….

    I know it’s a bit childish, but I always lose it when the doctor steps on the creaky floorboard in the hallway, causing Crow to ask “Did he just toot?” I’m giggling just thinking about it.

    I love all the petty banter between Hugo and Vorelli at the party. Much like the whole premise of his stage act, is this REALLY entertaining to his audience? “I want some wine give me some wine.” “You’re a dummy, Hugo.” Great stuff.

    On a side note, I like to quote this episode during Holiday meals. “You think he likes ham. Wait till you see ME like ham.” Nobody ever gets it, and I never explain it.


  28. M "Here's The Pipe. You Take It" Sipher says:

    My copy of this, I accidentally recorded over a chunk of the third movie segment. So a DVD release would make me quite happy.

    Man. Imagine the road show if Vorelli and Carlo Lombardi teamed up. EXCITEMENT AHOY, let me tell you.


  29. Ah, the last episode in both season 8 and in the series’ order that I have not seen. Can’t wait for Neptune Men next week.


  30. Tim says:

    The third host segment marks the point at which I realized I loved this show. “Bite me, I’m a toaster strudel!”


  31. Loran Alan Davis says:

    The delightful second part of our three-part salute to William Sylvester, and the first of our Bryant Haliday double feature. Fun all around.


  32. H says:

    It’s good. Admittedly it drags at times but still a good episode. Movie’s fine, I’ve never been one for evil dummies but M&TB do a good job with it. The host segments are good. I especially love Servo as a toaster strudel.


  33. The Fawlty Towers reference Sampo mentioned is the first one I can think of since The Brain that Wouldn’t Die.

    Oh, and he wasn’t a colonel, he was a major.


  34. Kouban says:

    This is hands-down one of my favorite MST3K eps, and one which I wish would come out on DVD already (especially since my tape is wearing out). DEBBIIIIIIIIIE! is a fantastic sketch, and Pitch is always a delight. As for the movie, I love how much mileage they get out of Heywood Floyd’s chain-smoking, and I can’t think of ham anymore without grinning like a silly person.


  35. Loran Alan Davis says:

    By the way, Devil Doll is the 8th of 10 Mistied films from England. Still to come: The Projected Man and Gorgo.


  36. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    >>>He’s uncovered this awesome power, the ability to transfer souls

    Well, yeah, but only into PUPPETS. How many people really want to turn into puppets?

    Hugo’s the one who managed to switch two souls at once, instead of one soul and the null/void of a puppet, and even then one soul still ended up in a puppet. There’s work to be done yet…


  37. Kouban says:

    Also, in my most recent watching of this episode, I thought that Kevin was singing a filk of Death of a Salesman, what with “eat the fruit and throw away the rind.” Then I looked up the actual answer and was deeply embarassed.


  38. mdwileygrl says:

    Re #15 Beth – me too! If I walked into my house when I knew no one was home…and there was a ventriloquist’s dummy sitting in my kitchen or something….I would run screaming out the door at the speed of light. I saw “Magic” when I was about 10 years old and it ruined me. I am now 40 and these things still freak me out.

    Having said that…I do like this episode, much more than I thought I would. Hell, i didn’t think I’d be able to get thru it at all due to my phobia. But M&TB are just so freaking funny, they helped me ignore the creepy doll. Still gave me the heebs, though.

    And for the record…I freaking HATE “Child’s Play.” I hope Chuckie gets wood-boring worms.


  39. monoceros4 says:

    Probably the worst episode of the 8th season and I’m not forgetting The Leech Woman and The She Creature. In fact this is one of the very few MST3K episodes I’ve never watched more than once.

    Bryant Haliday deserves a lot of the blame–maybe. I suppose it could be the direction and not his acting that are responsible for his performance. Whatever the reason, Haliday plays the entire movie with the same two facial expressions and the same monochromatic delivery which sounds like every word is separated with a full stop. Whether he’s supposed to be seductive or scared Haliday looks and sounds exactly the same. Maybe he was really a life-sized dummy? I’m with the War of the Colossal MST3K Fan Guide here. Hedonism, the way Vorelli practices it, seems like a depressing chore. So is riffing this mess.

    Why would Vorelli’s act get audiences and applause? When he isn’t hypnotizing people into thinking they’re about to be killed he’s spending the bulk of his time heaping insults in a flat monotone on a ventriloquist’s dummy. This doesn’t exactly shout “Entertainment” to me but everyone in the movie is wowed, so much so that it gives the pathetic excuse of a hero some pathetic excuse for a plot.


  40. Finnias Jones says:

    “Hmm, wonder if Paul and Linda got that pot yet?”

    “Well, we took the pipe again,” “Oh, did we take the pipe,” “Here’s the pipe, you take it.” (Does this mean what I think it means?)

    “I command you to shake that money-maker!”

    In relation to our recent weekend discussion topic, this film features a character, The Great Vorelli, who has a lousy attitude towards women. But the film and film-maker (Lindsay Shonteff) do not. They portray Vorelli as a jerk, while heroine Yvonne Romain (mrrrowr!) repeatedly warns her erstwhile hero/boyfriend William Sylvester that she (to paraphrase Star Wars) “has a bad feeling about this.” Vorelli’s female ass-baring assistant Magda is also sympathetic, witness to her master’s newest conquest with a fear for her own usefulness to him. i used to find this episode dull because of its oppressive atmosphere, but now I enjoy the levity Mike & the Bots add to this dark experience.

    Bryant Halliday plays an excellent arrogant douchebag, which he pulled off less well in Season Nine’s opener “The Projected Man”, which is a lesser film anyways. “Devil Doll” actually works as a movie (I’ve seen it unriffed) and is even creepier without the MST3K treatment. And anyone who hasn’t seen Yvonne Romain in Hammer’s “The Curse of the Werewolf” starring Oliver Reed (he of the epic liver) should remedy that right now.

    Surveying various MST web-critics ratings of this episode, opinions vary from A- to D+. Sampo’s Theorem in action, I’d say….

    “Did I just see someone walk in and paw my puppet?”


  41. mikek says:

    After watching this episode again I have concluded that the Great Vorelli is the single most repulsive villain in any MSTed movie. He makes Carlo Lombardi look kind and gentle.

    I like the riffing, but this is one of those cases where the movie brings things down for me, like The Beast of Yucca Flats. The goofy host segments help, though. Paul Chaplin, once again, does a great job as Pitch. Bill’s version of Crow really does shine in this episode. I couldn’t Trace’s Crow doing what this Crow does. “A dummy who will never have ham. At least not unless he gets it himself. In fact, you can’t have any luncheon meats. Not bologna or thirrenger. Not even cotto salami.”
    The Roman Times segments are okay, but not as good as in the last episode.


  42. Chris says:

    I, personally, don’t care for the movie too much. It’s very, very dark. And it falls into the classic movie trap of having a protagonist who doesn’t really do anything. He just kind of stumbles into stuff, and, through sheer luck, comes out ahead, in the end.

    Vorelli is actually my favorite part of the movie. Everything that comes out of his mouth is so random, it’s hilarious. And I think he’s supposed to be menacing, but I never got that. Just hilarity.

    That being said, the riffing is great. Mike and The Bots work this one over, pretty well. And it’s good times.

    But, it’s the host segments that sell it for me. Especially, Crow and DEEEBIIIIEEEE! I especially like Mike’s reaction to it all. “Give me your keys. Wait, what am I saying?”

    And then, Crow berating Hugo-Mike at the end is hilarious.

    I think I may actually go as far as to say that Crow is the real star of this episode.


  43. Ang says:

    Drink the blood of the virgin!!

    I love it when they say a line and it looks like that is exactly what the person is thinking. The “paw my puppet” riff is one of those lines and it cracks me up even just thinking about it.

    Finnias Jones: I have ‘Curse of the Werewolf’ but haven’t watched it in a long time. I’ll have to watch it again. You want to talk about ham, Oliver Reed was hammier than any sandwich Hugo was ever taunted with. :mrgreen:


  44. trickymutha says:

    Two things that happen to me because of this film:

    To paraphrase: “Hugo you’re a dummy stuffed with sawdust.” Everytime I’m around any lumber being cut and spy sawdust, this line pops in my head.

    Plus: “They’ll be no ham, no luncheon meats…”
    When in Meijer (or any grocery store) and I purchase processed Ham (for the cats) this line pops in my head.

    It is difficult to explain this- in light of not being to afford therapy at this moment, this post will do to nurse my mstie sickness.


  45. Colossus Prime says:

    I constantly non-sequitor, “I punched a window in for you, baby,” because of this movie. Seriously, for no reason what so ever, I’ll say it in a drunken slur.

    That and the closing host segment of Crow just rambling his insane taunts are hallarious.

    The riffing is absolutely top notch transfering from flat out jokes to commenting on just how creepy the movie is.

    Favorite Riff:
    Tom – “Sold Out”? Must have run out of “Cancelled” stickers.


  46. Cabbage Patch Elvis says:

    #34 – Don’t forget the Deadly Bees!


  47. adoptadog says:

    Joseph Nebus, #10, I’m glad you mentioned the Lionel Barry movie of the same name. I was lucky enough to catch it one morning on TCM, and was hooked…far superior to this version of Devil Doll (and, hey: Lionel Barrymore). Also, was going to answer your question about evil ventriloqual figures, but Roman Martel beat me to it w/the Buffy ep and its demon-hunting ventriloquist’s dummy. Everyone is so on the ball today!

    Decent ep, not one of my favorites, but watchable for the host segments & some fine riffing.


  48. M "Help Me Inspect The Dummy" Sipher says:

    #5 – Well, yeah, but only into PUPPETS. How many people really want to turn into puppets?

    Well, we’ve only seen him do it with *A* puppet. I can’t imagine it’d be much harder to try it with, say, a Foreman Grill, let alone another body. (And how’d Hugo figure that out, anyway?)

    And why are we trying to figure this out?

    Why are there clouds in space?

    Daddy, what’s Vietnam?


  49. mikek says:

    I like two things that the ‘bots say to Mike in the theater. One is early into the movie, in reference to puppets turning against their master.

    Servo: “It may. Soon.”

    The second one is at the end.

    Crow: “Why don’t you give us ham?”

    Speaking of ends, I think the stinger should have been the shot of Vorelli fixing his false beard. I don’t know why the dummy getting up and walking is supposed to be odd? We already saw him walking. Mike and the ‘bots are genuinely surprised when the see Vorelli lift part of his beard and apply spirit gum to his skin.


  50. MC says:

    “All I want is my fair share! All I want is what’s coming to me!”


Comments are closed.