Living Doll

Living Doll

Like most of our older readers, I have to confess when it comes to movies I'm a bit of a hoarder. Case in point I have to admit that whilst I love the DVD format there's the large collection of horror movies on VHS video that will always fall under the category of not being popular enough to ever see justification in getting a DVD release. Obscure Brit horror flick 'Living Doll' has for me always fell under that category - so imagine my (welcome) astonishment when I heard that the wonderful people at Mondo Macabro where not only unleashing 'Living Doll' onto DVD but they where planning to give this wee exploitation obscurity the special edition treatment.

'Living Doll' has for many years held a special place in my heart. One of those truly bizarre movies that can neither appeal to the mainstream market, nor for some unknown reason ever be recognised for its true place within the horror genre. Perhaps now though with this Mondo Macabro release it will indeed earn its place in horror history?

The story flows around ex-pat loner Howard (mark Jax) as he works through his medical degree at the mortuary in a New York hospital. When not washing down corpses he spends most of his free time stalking weak willed flower shop assistant Christine and building a rather unhealthy appetite for his unrequited love (shown by his growing collection of candid snaps of Christine adorning his fleapit apartment walls).

One day he arrives at the morgue to find the latest corpse arrival is in fact the girl he has been watching from afar for so long. Now rather than mourn the loss of Christine, cut his losses and move on - he chooses to later dig up her body from her resting place and take her home to enact the relationship that was never meant to be (well hey, at least now she wont say 'no').

After some undead romancing, he and his slowly decaying love enact their marriage vows before hoping to move on with a pleasant long-term romantic relationship. And whilst you would think Howard will have enough on his hands with a love that just keeps festering and decomposing, he doesn't realise that this relationship is going to be a lot more complicated than he ever could have realised.

One of the final films from the stable of exploitation movie guru Dick Randall, 'Living Doll' is without doubt the most accomplished and undervalued film from his line. Whilst the film is yet another low budget venture, it ignores any such financial restraints and chooses to completely avoid any mainstream plot nuances to be a grim and unrestrained genre classic.

None of the characters involved are particularly likeable; our lovelorn lead is a creepy lowlife with a penchant for stalking and necrophilia, his amour when living was a bullied and submissive non entity in a doomed relationship, the support characters range from the almost likeable light relief best friend who has an eye for group sex with gullible nurses to a ridiculously over the top stereotyped transsexual who lurks in dark alleyways trying to pick up hapless lonely blokes. The fact though that none of the ensemble characters are particularly likeable actually adds to the enjoyment of the movie as it clearly removes any hope of a mainstream audience and firmly places the film in the category of being for exploitation fans only - a positive in my book every time.

By all accounts, it looks very much like producer Randall was happy to give the writers, cast and effects team pretty much a free hand in delivering this long ignored necrophilia gem. I've no doubt some readers will question the terming of 'Living Doll' as a necrophilia classic but on revisiting and after consideration you will find that it actually is. Whilst many can't see past the like of Jorg Buttgereit's 'Nekromantik' (agreed, 'the' ultimate necro movie) it can't be denied that for some Buttgereit's films are perhaps sometimes just too art house to be accessible to all genre viewers, 'Living Doll' whilst too dark for the mainstream viewer is very much accessible to any fan of the horror genre. And whilst the film isn't ladened with gore it does benefit greatly from some excellent moments of decomposed corpses and grue (including a stunning face peeling); along with the hilarious use of the Cliff Richard pop classic theme this truly is a deranged delight.

Mondo Macabro with this long overdue DVD debut have not only done the film proud but have acted above and beyond the call of duty with one of the best underplayed special editions they have delivered to date, in fact this could be their strongest release yet.

As well as a respectful presentation of the film itself (with solid strong image in anamorphic widescreen created from the original camera negative) the disc comes with a stunning host of extra features. Now Mondo Macabro have long built a deserved good reputation amongst genre fans for their splendid informative documentaries and with 'Living Doll' they give us just about everything but the kitchen sink. Kicking things off we get interviews with lead Mark Jax and writer Paul Hart-Wilden; both of which are very relaxed, informative and genuinely entertaining through their candidness. Hart-Wilden in particular will trigger fond memories for British viewers with his recollections of late night BBC Universal Horror viewing (well at least this reviewer managed to stay up late to see the monsters in action, he he).

SGM favourite David McGillivray makes a welcome appearance too as he reads sections from his personal diary from around the time he associated with producer Dick Randall; McGillivray is always a joy to listen to and here is in top form delivering a sort of blackly humorous Jackanory trip down memory lane. And after all that reminiscing about veteran producer Randall what better way to wrap things up than the inclusion of a hilariously entertaining promo short of Randall himself hamming it up with great gusto as he adorns himself with some scantily clad retro babes. And if all this overwhelming goodness is not enough then we also get the original short film predecessor 'HorrorShow' that has rarely been seen outside of the odd festival screening decades ago and the films original trailer (alongside the always reliable collection of production stills, promo material and the Mondo Macabro showreel of their catalogue).

With this very welcome Mondo Macabro release no genre fan should miss the opportunity to discover this oft-ignored necrophilia classic. It's just a great shame that Dick Randall isn't around to see this stunningly packaged release and soak up the resurgence of his career amongst the genre community, rightly he would be proud. A great movie and perhaps Mondo Macabro's finest but most understated release to date - essential!

Review by Alan Simpson

For ordering info visit the Mondo Macabro website by clicking here.

Released by Mondo Macabro
Not Rated - Region All (NTSC)
Extras :
see main review