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Sampo & Erhardt

Sci-Fi Archives

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. Cabbage Patch Elvis says:

    For the stinger, I would have used the “professional dancer” twisting with Marianne, or maybe Hugo begging for wine. Ugly little dummy.


  2. Loran Alan Davis says:

    #45 – Thanks! Make that 11 British films.


  3. mataglap says:

    #39, I always thought the pipe referenced in lines like “boy did we take the pipe” meant a gas pipe, i.e. their performance was comparable to killing themselves. Are there other interpretations?

    This episode was on a lot during the Saturday morning Scifi run. I like the part where Crow is reciting the marketing description of the window he’s bought, and Mike at one point says, “That’s a nice feature” before he catches himself.


  4. Loran Alan Davis says:

    Here are the 11 British films:

    K09 – Phase IV
    K10 – Cosmic Princess
    K18 – The Million Eyes of Su-Maru
    101 – The Crawling Eye
    111 – Moon Zero Two
    323 – The Castle of Fu Manchu
    416 – Fire Maidens of Outer Space
    818 – Devil Doll
    901 – The Projected Man
    905 – The Deadly Bees
    909 – Gorgo


  5. DON3k says:

    When Vorelli is first doing his transference practice, on his assistant in the flashback, it was just begging for Mike to say, in his best Vorelli, “Do you think I’m Dale?”

    Oh, and for the record, I love the SOL segments of this episode. Bill’s Crow, as the drunken frat-boy, is great, and the whole Debbie bit was hilarious. Mike laughing at Crow, and his bandaged hand, was a nice change. Much better having Tom be upset about the window, and not Mike, as we usually see, when the Bots use his credit card to order expensive items.

    Still, how was that window paid for? Hmmm…


  6. MC says:

    It’s double hung!


  7. DON3k says:

    Clean it from the inside? Well, that’s a nice feature….


  8. fish eye no miko says:

    #53: _Phase IV_ isn’t British. It takes place in an Arizona desert, for one thing.
    (If you didn’t wanna play with the ants, why did you go over to their house?)

    As other have said, this is a dark film… eesh. I like the episode, though. Well, I’m still no fan of the Roman Times stuff, but all the other host segs are good.


  9. Loran Alan Davis says:

    #57: Phase IV was a British film. It was made by Alced productions which is based in London. The interiors were shot at Pinewood Studios in London, and most of the actors and crew are British. The film takes place in America, and was released by Paramount, but is a British-made film.


  10. norgavue says:

    Like this episode just because the movie is really dark. And of course the lucheon meats and the not leaving alone of robert denby.


  11. pablum says:

    Very dreary British film. Heywood Floyd just can’t prop up a film by himself and Hugo is no replacement for a star baby. Depressed villain Vorelli just can’t seem to come up with any effective evil use of his amazing powers rather than abusing a dummy. Which makes it even sadder.

    Riffing was okay. Host segments were okay. Overall an okay episode. Okay?


  12. ck says:


    I would imagine the bots used the Wayback Machine to go from Roman Times to travel forward to muse Mike’s credit cards and order stuff. Brain Guy could whip up some gold bullion to pay off Mike’s everincreasing debt (and they haven’t even gotten to TS’s fetish for PPTV thank you gifts).


  13. ck says:

    Make that use (not muse :roll: ) Mike’s credit cards

    And, of course, their Wayback Machine is the one used to go to the cheese coop, etc.


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

    I thought “take the pipe” was maybe a British expression meaning essentially the same thing as “we really bombed out there.”


  15. rcfagnan says:

    “Modern architecture: efficient and beauty-free!” “How many hours have rotary phones added to movies over the years?” “Thrill as he doesn’t talk and I don’t move my lips!” A great episode. “I’m the god of quit yapping and get on with it!” “The god of Brevity!” Contrary to popular opinion, I loved the Roman Times stuff. Of course, I liked the whole Endless Chase stuff much better than Castle Forrester, but that’s just me…


  16. Spector says:

    As I’ve noted before the Brains do their best with “dark” movies but ultimately it drags down their best efforts. Not that there isn’t some good material to work with on this one, I mean, the premise is absurd, but ultimately the plodding plot and dark themes makes it a tough slog.


  17. Colossus Prime says:

    Just on the point of the story line host segments in general: Over all I liked them and think they helped add a lot of emotion to the characters and in the end made the last episode all the more touching.


  18. Gorn Captain says:

    #10 Jay Johnson and his little wooden friend on “SOAP” were a little crazy, but otherwise non-evil members of the Campbell family.

    Ronn Lucas played a non-evil ventriloquist once or twice on “Night Court”.

    On the flip side of the same coin, David Strassman has been mining the “evil soul stealing dummy” stereotype in his stage act for years!


  19. Cabbage Patch Elvis says:

    One thought that keeps coming back to me as I think about Devil Doll is just how creepy Bill is as the Great Vorelli. Much like he does later on in Bloodwaters of Dr Z, he brings a real sense of menace to his performance. The way he says the word bologna (ba-lone-ya) is truly chilling.


  20. JCC says:

    One of the few episodes that I actively avoided watching again, although I did watch it a couple of days ago and quite enjoyed it(IN THEATER). May bust it out more often.

    “I always enjoy when some alteration of a character from a host segment continues into the theater, as it does in this episode, where Servo the toaster strudel riffs for an entire segment.”
    I actually cant stand when they do this. I feel like it distracts from the riffing which should be the main focus. Toaster Strudel Servo is very cute, though.


  21. JCC says:

    And for anyone wanting this on (non-official)DVD check out DAPCentral. You have to use torrents but it’s totally worth it, until they’re officially released.


  22. I'm not a medium, I'm a petite says:

    I am fairly certain that you will find that ‘Taking the Pipe’ is synonomus ( literally ) with ‘Sucking’. Said ‘pipe’ being well… I won’t draw you a picture, but you can use your imaginaton :)


  23. Tim S. Turner says:

    After “Dog and Bear”, Crow’s version of Vorelli is Bill’s best Crow moment. “You ugly little dummy. A dummy who will never have ham, because too much of it will make the sawdust in your stomach explode.”


  24. I'm not a medium, I'm a petite says:

    Sampo: Heller in Pink Tights may be a better known film that you think. Though not much admired, it certainly has some pedigree: Goerge Cukor directing Sophia Loren and Anthony Quinn, from a novel by Louis L’Amour.

    For some reason I’ve ‘always’ known of it’s existence, I seem to remeber it running on TV a lot in the 70’s.


  25. Fart Bargo says:

    Dark episode but I loved it. Torturing thralls with hypnosis was a very dark twist indeed but it was all made better by the audience’s laughter and applause! Vorelli was definately in need of that show biz agent that Lombardi had. Also, I am Italian and despite the fact that all evil hypnotists have italian names, (Estrella, Lombardi, Vorelli)I do not know of any Italian that is a hypnotist or is in possession of a demon doll (mortal sin).

    Roman times segs debate-I see what folks mean when they say the Roman skits are flat in some spots but I think Bridgett saves the day for them. I had hoped that Bridgett was featured more frequently. She and Mary Jo had great chem and hoped that they would write her an ongoing character sort of a “Frank” to her Pearl.

    I liked the host segs and thought the riffing was extra sharp, puppet haters comment gives me the stiches. I give this a 4.75.


  26. big61al says:

    Puppets? Where are the puppets? I ain’t see no puppets? :roll:


  27. Incredible Horrible Mr Limpet says:

    What I love about Mike is his display of comedy strength through some of the most low-key deliveries ever. For instance, when Mark phones Marianne, we get to sit through the laborious dialing process plus the even longer wait time for someone to answer. Mark finally inquires, “Hello. May I please speak with Marianne?” (Long pause). Mike as Mark: “Um…Uh are you still thinking about whether I can speak to Marianne?”.


  28. Shinola says:

    @#50 – Yes! I always liked that riff.

    I think one commenter once compared the aesthetic of San Francisco International to an orange-brown sludge all over the print. I would posit Devil Doll, She Creature and a few others suffered the same malady in grayscale.

    This print looks so gry and washed out that it’s hard to tell what’s going on at times.


  29. John Seavey says:

    A dreary, ugly little film livened by some great riffing. “Go on, drink the blood of the virgin! Or am I coming off as creepy?” “I have here an expert in modern dance. Would you rather see that?” “Hugo…you’re going to die. ‘Of course, at that point, there were a few hints…'” “We love your cruelty!” And, of course, “You think he likes ham! Wait until you see me like ham!”

    As to the sketches…I enjoyed seeing Bridget play an evil character. She always seemed to have the perky, happy roles, so it was nice to see her play against type. (And of course, more specific to this episode, Paul Chaplin _is_ Pitch. Man nails that part every time.)


  30. adoptadog says:

    good god….Barrymore, Barrymore, Barrymore…I want my pretty mind back! Oh, wait, wrong ep…


  31. My favorite riffs:

    “I can’t understand why they called this the Wacky Fun Time Review.”

    “Ah! Modern architecture. Efficient and beauty free.”

    “The puppet haters society approves.”

    “The other day I said the word ‘damn’.”

    “A man who has never eaten a vegetable in his life.”

    “I’ve seen baptists who can dance better than her.”

    “I’m driving with my MIIIIIINNNND!”

    “If this guy could juggle he’d rule England.”

    And of course “Look. Theres no God. No. Not a single solitary god. All goodness and joy in the universe just died.”


  32. Nicias says:

    An okay episode which, as many have pointed out, drags a bit. The drab greyness of the film starts to take it’s toll on one’s soul. And Vorelli is just plain gross; his sallow visage and rasping voice likens him to some sort of half-decayed, undead ghoul. As #39 argues, and as I’ve mentioned before, it is utterly implausible for an audience to greet Vorelli’s tepid on-stage performance with thunderous applause. No one is that starved for entertainment. Out of a cast of thoroughly gross characters, I guess Marianne is the “best” character.


  33. Clint says:

    My favorite riff: “You think you like wine? Wait until you see me like wine.”


  34. Jacob says:

    I hate to be picky, especially since I don’t like the “Roman Times” stuff either, but Callipygean is from Greek kallipygos, from kalli- + pyg? , meaning “beautiful buttocks”. Not Latin.


  35. Pixiesnix says:

    I really, really hate this episode. It’s not that the theater riffs weren’t funny, they were. It’s not that the host segments weren’t good, they were.

    It’s the scene where Vorelli hypnotizes and rapes the heroine. It’s so prolonged and disgusting and just dripping with oil and filth that even Mike and the Bots can’t save it. I guess I could watch it and fast-forward through that scene, but man, it really brings the whole thing down for me.


  36. Watch-out-for-Snakes says:

    You know, that really is an ugly little doll.



  37. monoceros4 says:

    #84 I hate to be picky, especially since I don’t like the “Roman Times” stuff either, but Callipygean is from Greek kallipygos, from kalli- + pyg? , meaning “beautiful buttocks”. Not Latin.

    You’re absolutely right, although that wouldn’t forbid some transliteration of the word popping up as a “Greek loan word”, to employ a euphemism.


  38. Tim_Servo says:

    One of the weirdest most bizzare(but funnist) experiments.
    I just finished watching “2001” a little while ago tonight. I can only see Heywood Floyd as the “guy from Devil Doll” now! AAARG!
    no ham for you!


  39. Tim_Servo says:


    I guess if you get the “original” version of this you get to see “butt ladies” gazongas for about a second (during the “time hiccup”)
    segment. Was back when brit film allowed such nonsense for their “certificate X” movies.


  40. Wampa Joe says:

    This is the kind of episode I feel was tailor-made for Bill’s Crow. I really can’t see Trace’s take on the character slowly twisting into a Satanic soul-transferring ham-taunter, but it works perfectly here.


  41. MPSh says:

    I hate to be picky, especially since I don’t like the “Roman Times” stuff either, but Callipygean is from Greek kallipygos, from kalli- + pyg? , meaning “beautiful buttocks”. Not Latin.

    OK, probably true, but I’m willing to bet the word came into English via Latin ;^)


  42. Rich says:

    OH MY GAWD! DEVIL DOLL! This is one of my personal “lost episodes”. Either I didn’t record it at all when I saw it or it’s on VHS somewhere. BTW, follows an account of her life and death:


  43. afrgarga says:

    Oh wow, I had never noticed that one Transylvanian was Hugo!


  44. Rich says:

    Bill has certain…dark…qualities that manifest now and again that Trace hasn’t imagined. Not that I’m knocking Trace. I LOVE Dr. F and sort-of identify with him a bit.


  45. Sitting Duck says:

    For anyone who cares, here’s an excerpt from the Word Detective column whioch gives an explanation of the original ventriloquists (which, interestingly enough, involves Ancient Rome):

    It was believed by the Ancient Greeks (who called the phenomenon “eggastrimuthos”) and Romans that noises emanating from a person’s belly could be the voices of the spirits of the dead or, in the worst-case scenario, a sign of demonic possession. A “ventriloquist” (later called a “gastromancer”) was a seer or psychic who interpreted the sounds coming from the person’s abdomen and, depending on the supposed source, passed along predictions of the future, messages from great-grandma, or bad news about the spiritual future of the patient.


  46. a four star for me – good but not great.

    that said “debbie” is one of my favorite sol bits – “you don’t even know anyone named debbie!”

    agree with the assessment of the ’36 barrymore DD – good movie!


  47. Cabbage Patch Elvis says:

    I recently got the dvd set with the ’36 Devil Doll on it along with a slew of other great old horror films….at the local thrift store. I don’t know what gets into some people. While I haven’t watched it yet, the set has one of my all-time favorites – Mad Love starring Peter Lorre. He’s supremely creepy as Dr. Gogol.


  48. losingmydignity says:

    Too dark? Come on, that’s what makes this ep great! In fact, my fav moments are all pretty dark and include the Hugo “molesting” scene and the climax of the film. There’s something I really like about this gray drab film as well, and the riffing is consistent.

    There is also a song by X called :evil: Doll, but it has nothing to do with either of the films. Just thought I’d throw that in here…


  49. losingmydignity says:

    Hotchka! I forgot my grade!



  50. Dip says:

    This is one of my “addicted to” episodes. I never, ever get tired of it. I don’t know why;
    most of my repeat and repeat episodes aren’t the classic favorite ones.

    “Butt lady! Butt lady!”


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