The original VHS box art
The truly perplexing “film” that is Black Devil Doll from Hell would be on a lot more of those “100 Worst Movies of All Time” lists if only more
bad shitty cinema buffs were aware of its existence. Still in recent years hardcore trash culture vultures and aficionados of WTF filmmaking have managed to raise its profile higher than might’ve ever been expected. The New York Times of all places even published a feature article on Black Devil Doll from Hell and its place in the trash film firmament (or cinematic sewer if you prefer). Few seem more surprised about the film’s unexpected, long-fuse fairytale ending than the director himself.
Made on a VHS camcorder in Chicago in 1984 for a buck or two ($3 tops) by a character named Chester Novell Turner, Black Devil Doll from Hell is an obvious—and absurdly brain-damaged—rip-off of the cult classic TV movie Trilogy of Terror starring Karen Black. Apparently the original title was “The Puppet” but the name changed to Black Devil Doll from Hell due to the demands of the video distributor, obviously a man with dollar signs in his eyes. (I think his instincts were right on. “The Puppet” just doesn’t cut it. Not for this.)
The plot, if there can be said to be one, revolves around a virginal church-going good girl (Turner’s girlfriend at the time Shirley L. Jones) who buys what appears to be a Charlie McCarthy ventriloquist dummy in blackface and dreadlocks—allegedly a “tribute” to Rick James. (The Black devil doll says “bitch” A LOT, but he unfortunately never says “I’m Rick James bitch.”) He is demonically possessed, comes alive and does bad tings to her. Sexual tings! The crappy text-only opening credits last for nearly eight minutes! And the fucking music, don’t get me started on the music. (The Times charitably described the soundtrack as “Kraftwerk with an R&B swagger.” Try the sound a farting Casiotone would make!)
Detail from the VHS box cover
The so-bad-that-it’s-just-absurdly-bad Black Devil Doll from Hell is something that came and went without much… fanfare, first as “midnight movie” fodder in video rental shops, then on the tape trading underground scene, before VHS originals eventually started selling on eBay for several hundred dollars. In 2010, a devoted fan of Black Devil Doll from Hell released a deluxe DVD with a limited edition 3-D lenticular cover. A 2007 porno parody was even produced because… they’re seriously running out of ideas?
After the jump, watch ‘Black Devil Doll from Hell’