Curse of the Doll People/Muñecos infernales (1960)

Curse_of_the_Doll_People_(1960)‘You’re trying to avoid my gaze. How stupid! Don’t you know you can’t fight these eyes!’

A Haitian voodoo priest uses killer dolls to take revenge on the desecrators of his temple, and to retrieve the sacred idol they have stolen. A pair of doctors join up with associates of the victims to bring him to justice, but will his hypnotic powers and strange magic prove too much for them?

This Mexican Voodoo thriller came out of the country on the wave of homegrown horror inspired by the runaway success of ‘El Vampiro’ (1957). Whereas that film had been a fairly predictable take on the old ‘Dracula’ scenario, this one focuses instead on the power of the occult, and ancient magical rites. Idiotic tourists are the initial target of high priest Quintin Bulnes’ killing spree with expedition leader Jorge Mandragón dying of a mysterious heart attack moments after finding a Voodoo fetish. Bulnes then animates a doll with Mondragón’s captive spirit, and the killings go on…

This is a fairly typical example of the early 1960s Mexican horror genre for the most part; the only real notable departure being that the lead protagonist is the female half of our heroic medicos. She’s played by Elvira Quintana with a pleasing conviction, especially when her partner Ramón Gay is initially sceptical of her insistence on the involvement of the black arts. He soon sees the error of his ways as the evidence piles up, and events culminate in a disappointing face off in the gloomy residence of the evil Bulnes.

Curse of the Doll People (1960)

‘Excuse me, can you tell me the way to the train station?’

The most notable aspect of the production is the appearance of the dolls themselves. As the murder spree progresses, Bulnes recruits the subsequent victims to his small army of homicidal dolls, and they all take on the faces of the spirits of the murdered men they contain. This is achieved through the simple application of stiff, cardboard masks to the faces of dwarf actors, but seeing them creeping around flourishing long, thin needles is undeniably quite effective.

This was another film from south of the border imported stateside by legendary film distributor K Gordon Murray, who turned the Spanish dialogue into English at his Miami studios. The dubbing is a bit random here, with lots of clumsy, over-explanatory conversations, but it’s fairly unlikely that Murray and his cohorts were in possession of the original script.

This was still early days in the Mexican Horror film cycle so this is really a straight revenge thriller with an obvious strong supernatural element. More outlandish movies were just around the corner!

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