Blood Dolls (1999)
WRITER: Charles Band
DIRECTOR: Charles Band
STARRING: Jack Maturin as Virgil Travis
Debra Mayer as Moira Yulin
William Paul Burns as Mascaro
Warren Draper as Harrison Yulin
Nicholas Worth as George Warbeck
Jodie Coady as Mercy Shaw
Phil Fondacaro as Hylas
Naomi McClure as Cindy Agami
Jason Pace as Howard Loftus
Venesa Talor as Cotton Baby
Yvette Lera as Razor Baby
Persia White as Black Baby
QUICK CUT: After a failed attempt at ruining reclusive and eccentric businessman Virgil Travis, the man takes it upon himself to seek revenge. With living, killer dolls. As one does. Oh, and also, he has his own private girl band he keeps in a cage.
Virgil Travis - a reclusive business man, who has a cold heart, a ruthless business attitude, and a penchant for finding strange objects. Like living killer dolls.
Moira Yulin - If Virgil is ruthless, Moira is that times 10. And on top of that, she's the smartest person in the entire movie. Everyone assumes she's just the quiet, doting wife of Virgil's rival, Harrison, but she's the real puppet master...wait, wrong series...
Mascaro - If Virgil is eccentric, Mascaro is that times 100. The dude wanders through the entire movie wearing clown makeup, assured in his belief that it is his true face. He's Virgil's butler, servant, and hired assassin. When he's not using living, killer dolls.
THE GUTS: Okay, okay yes, I know it's another Full Moon movie already, but I've also had this one written down for months and months. I've been dying to get to this movie since before Trisk even began. It was one of the movies on my shelf already that made me say, YES I need to share this with others.
The main thing that kept it waiting is, I didn't want to do this killer toy movie while I was neck deep in Puppet Master movies. And then other factors, but largely the Puppet Master films. Since I've finished up the boxed set and had it end in tragedy, it was long past time to finally take a look at Blood Dolls
This is my Valentines Day movie for the year, and any long time reader knows that makes this not your typical Valentines movie.
But it is absolutely a love story. No, really. Bear with me. Let's roll!
Get ready and brace yourselves, because this movie is not subtle, it's very weird, and the movie shoots out of the gate running. We quickly learn that eccentric businessman Virgil Travis is under some hot water for anti-trust dealings, and he's meeting with his lawyers. Wait for it, we're getting to the weird.
We see a mask being picked up which we soon learn that Mr. Travis always wears for some Mysterious Reason, and the junior lawyer gets warned to not be surprised if there's a dwarf inside the mansion.
Or if he sees a clown.
Oh, and there may also be an all-female rock band playing.
In a cage.
That actually doesn't seem so surprising after everything else they threw at us.
No, wait, still fucking weird. And we're not even into the first five minutes of the movie. If you can survive meeting Mr. Mascaro with only minor bouts of "WTF?!" you are in for a hell of a ride.
Lawyer Loftus almost runs into the aforementioned dwarf, and YAY, Trisk favourite Phil Fondacaro! Wearing a tux. And an eyepatch. Y'know, they try and brace you for it by SAYING "clown and dwarf" but it STILL just does not prepare you for actually seeing them.
We wrap up the tour with the promised girl band in a cage, because they were not joking in one tiny bit and everything they promised they delivered.
Before Travis sits down to do business, he tells his dwarf Hylas to have the girls play some music while they get to it. Now, he COULD just have them play, but not in the House of Virgil. Here, they must be bellowed at by a little person, *and electrocuted* in their cell when they don't snap right to it.
At this point, your mind should be reeling and been primed to handle anything else the movie might throw out at us.
Even if the next thing that happens is Travis pulling out some of the dolls he's recently acquired, a pimp daddy doll, and a musclebound oaf with tattoos and piercings. More affectionately known as Pimp and Sideshow.
At least Travis cops to his blatant racism. Oh, and Loftus hangs the necessary lampshade on things by saying the dolls look familiar. SHHH, that was a different series of movies!
Travis is not at all happy at his minions losing him billions of dollars, and he activates some restraints to tie down his lawyers. That's one way to make sure no one walks out of the movie.
He lays out the plot that three competitors are responsible for ruining his company, and just as a guess, I'm gonna say he'll be dealing with them through doll justice.
Virgil decides he only needs ONE of the lawyers to carry out his plans, so activates a device that will randomly kill one of them.
And it's poor Mr. Loftus that draws the short straw, and discovers his chair has been rigged with a drill under the seat that swings out to show that lawyers really do have a heart.
I guess Charles Band was missing Tunneler in his puppet doll movie. And to muffle the screaming, the band gets electrocuted some more to play louder. Dude, just by a radio with a normal volume control.
And at long last, Travis decides to remove his mask, and reveal his horrible condition! Which I'm sure will be cut away from at the last second, to leave us hanging. Because that's an end of the movie reveal right there.
...Or, or Charles Band, movie making genius and rebel that he is, could just plough forward and show it to us anyways. Because who needs rules?
And really, at this stage of the game, pulling off the mask and revealing that Virgil Travis has a head the size of an orange isn't that much of a surprise. It's just one more piece of WTF on the WTF cake they're serving. After clown butlers, pirate dwarves, caged up bands and pimp dolls, you give me a guy with a wee little head? Sigh, whatever.
How the heck do you manage to get away with THIS much bizarreness in a single movie? In a single ten minutes?? I am reeling from one scene of WHAT?! after another.
I honestly do not know which is more weird; teeny headed Travis, or the mask he wears to hide it.
Cindy gets taken away down to one of Virgil's labs and stuck in a tube that looks like it escaped from Cosmo's spaceship. The mad genius says it is designed to compress people, and reveals that the other puppets are actually the judge and federal prosecutor that were ruining his company, which also gives us the first shots of the dolls moving. Ohh, that's why they look familiar. Not because they're Blade and Pinhead with the serial numbers filed off.
And because we haven't had enough rock band abuse, we get some more electricity enduced music from the girls in the cage to accompany the lawyer's transformation into a doll.
Once Miss Agami has been transformed into Miss Fortune, we cut to the three people responsibile for Virgil's downfall, and the wife of one of the masterminds. They're gloating about their victory while Travis and Lance Clownricksen listen in.
The celebration winds down as the Yulins are getting tired, and Harrison needs his rest. We also get told that Virgil can't spy on the upstairs because some kind of countermeasures, but he doesn't really care why they block him spying there, but allow the downstairs watching.
We find out exactly why, when we cut to the Yulins upstairs, and learn that Harris, the supposed mastermind behind all of Virgil's troubles, is actually a meek, VERY submissive to his wife and an utter tool, and actually pretty useless. So, it was just scheming to hide the real puppet master...er. You know what I mean!
Moira Yulin knows Travis has some larger scheme, believing he's murdered the judge and prosecutor, and her husband doesn't think he'd go THAT far. Which is true! He only went so far as to turn them into living dolls. But Moira tells her husband THEY have murdered people...which he was unawares of.
See, the S&M stuff may be over the top, but it does *really* show how much more in control she is over Harrison. I do wonder if he could REALLY keep up the act of being the brains of this operation though.
So, Virgil and Mascaro plot their next move, and he's of course saving the brilliant Yulin for last, because he'll see what's coming and...wait. Wouldn't that be a reason to go first? Ah, whatever. Anyways, Mascaro gets sent off on his mission with his new weapons of mass dollstruction, and gets into a disguise.
I was largely expecting him to keep the clown makeup and put on a silly hat. I am pleasantly surprised with an actual disguise. The...the makeup actually serves a purpose.
So, Mascaro takes control of the electrical systems at one of the guy's homes, knocks out the power, and intercepts the call so he can drive in as an electrician to repair things. And sneak the dolls in for an electrocutional.
Warbeck waits for the Clown Prince of Electricians to fix things, but the dolls seem to be keeping him entertained in the meantime.
The puppets rough him up, while Mascaro kills the guard watching him not fix the electricity, and the other guard is killed shortly after finding Warbeck's crushed skull.
We cut back to Travis's mansion, where Mascaro is putting his true face back on, and telling his boss that he's already set up a drifter as a scapegoat for the murders at Warbeck's. Well, that's a surprisingly nice attention to detail, since otherwise I was gonna say...
Mascaro ponders their next move, and it's pretty obvious the next target is the woman, Mercy Fisher. He's also nicely impressed by the dolls, now that he's seen them get all stabby and shooty.
The next day, Harrison Dorf meets with Mercy, and because he's a dunce in Armani, he actually buys the story about the drifter. Mercy reveals her plan to run away and hide, and has no problem leaving her business, since she's made more money than she'll ever spend.
Hey, someone in this movie is smart.
Moira is also smart, and sees an opportunity, instructing her husband via headset to offer to buy out Fisher's company, to make themselves all the more rich and powerful.
But Harrison makes the mistake of talking directly to his wife once he's alone, but our freaknamic duo are watching. Virgil doesn't quite get it yet though, so maybe he's not as smart as he thinks.
Moira is also your typical corporate raider type, so had Warbeck's place bugged with a camera, and skims through the footage she just got. Which reveals the dolls, much to her astonishment and amazement.
Back at Casa Del Strange, Travis is getting shaven by the Clown Prince of Butlers, and pondering his next move. Which ends up being, "Kill Mercy, would you?" And because it's been awhile, they also have the band start playing again, after the usual electrocouragement.
I'll say this, it may be weird as hell, and it may be padding, but they're at least making good use of THIS musical group, unlike Bad Channels. And the music is actually pretty good. This was actually an attempt to create a band, and market them, but they sadly never went anywhere. There may be behind the scenes lawyering and shenanigans that stopped it from happening.
Mercy is not screwing around, as she's surrounded by a security team that is taking their job very seriously, as she tries to get out of the country and retire to a nice beach somewhere. Unfortunately, one of the guards makes the very specific line of, "Don't worry, nothing human can touch you."
Good news for the dolls then...
Fisher gets in the elevator with two guards, but the power immediately goes out, and we hear the stabfest going on, before it reaches the bottom. Not until the doors open again do we see the three dead bodies, and another of Travis's rivals taken care of.
We go back to the Yulins, where the dolls are all watching, and man did they get there fast. We cut to the Yulin's bedroom, where Harrison is strung up in leather, and his wife is wearing yet another bit of lingerie.
She doesn't so much have 'outfits' as 'corsets' in this movie, does she? It's just one bit of stockings and basque after another. Not that I'm *complaining* but...for a secretive businesswoman, she sure does spend a lot of time half naked in the bedroom. But then, if I could get away with that, I would too.
Moira explains what's going on to her dunce of a husband, while he hangs there and takes his 50 Shades of punishment. She feels secure in her own home, and has 'taken steps' against the dolls. Well, that should be interesting.
She also doesn't seem too concerned at the possibility of her husband being killed, because she's not to blame for Travis's troubles, and will go on, with control of her husband's company. Which is really all she cares about.
Meanwhile, the puppets try sneaking in, and those steps Moira referred to try to charbroil the Pimpbot 5000.
Travis tends to repairing the crispy puppet, and the humans realise the flamethrowers were put there specifically to target the dolls. So they know that Moira knows that they know that she knows and... Or any invading ankles, but probably the dolls. Also, the defenses are pretty imrpegnable without sending in an armed squad of mercenaries.
And that's when Mrs. Yulin shows up to have a meeting with Virgil, since she's seen as non-threatening. He also uses the opportunity to sneak the dolls into her vehicle and past the security.
So, Travis meets with her, and speaks glowingly about Harrison. Now, she says everyone else sees him as buffoon. Which he IS. And yet, and YET...Virgil is fooled by it?! Who's the real buffoon here??
Moira pleads with Travis to call things off, try and find some peace, and she tries to appeal to his heart. The two discuss French existential philosophy and desire, and...and I don't know how they do it, but they manage to have some sexual tension between these two, and a growing, mutual attraction.
Travis also promises that so long as Moira stays out of the way, and doesn't fight against him, he will keep her safe. If you could draw heart eyes on the screen with these two, now would be the time.
Oh, and it's nice that Moira actually put some clothes on for this.
So the puppets are off to do more murdery things, and while Virgil waits, he turns on some music. Y'know, if the women would just *play* once in awhile, they might get a few less shocks. But when every time they tell Hylas no, and then he turns on the juice, well...I start to think they like it.
Meanwhile, Moira heads home where her husband is still tied into the torture frame, and I wonder if he's been there all day, just hanging around? She's added a few extra wires now, so it looks more like a thing to slice hard boiled eggs. Oh, oops, that may have spoiled things.
She talks about her encounter with Virgil, and how she didn't get a vibe off him of lust, but genuine love and affection. Well, I'm sure your husband loves hearing THAT.
As she tightens her husband into the frame, he still wonders why she went over to visit Virgil, and it becomes rapidly clear that she KNEW he'd send the dolls home with her, and she's disposing of Harrison deliberately.
She also describes using him as her own personal ventriloquist dummy, and I like that her and Travis both use 'dolls' to do the work for them.
Harrison hangs there as the puppets show up to tighten things up, and he thinks it's all part of the S&M games, until he opens his eyes and actually sees the puppets doing their work.
As the puppets try and escape, Moira captures them in a hallway in...a sequence they can't be bothered to show us, and instead just have a wireframe display on a computer screen while she clicks keys. So, guess where the money ran out!
Moira calls up Travis, acting like she's being attacked by the dolls, until he panicks and orders his creations to stop. At which point she plays back his words, that are pretty much an admission that he A) made the dolls and B) sent them to murder people.
Travis realises he's been outplayed, and he finally pieces all the clues together that Harrison WAS a tool, and Moira was the real, devious brains of the operation.
He's alternately impressed and terrified and heartbroken AND even more in love with her, I think. But ultimately, he's not ready to give up just yet, and ends up more infuriated than anything. The expressions that shift over his face are actually quite stunning.
So, the next day, Virgil calls Moira to set up a meeting to discuss terms of his surrender. She won't meet at a public place, and the poor little pinhead is confused by everything.
Instead, she's coming to Virgil's home, and he just doesn't understand why, because that just makes it easier to kill her. Women are a mysterious lot, yes.
She shows up later, with the puppets in tow, and explains just why the heck she'd risk everything to be there.
Moira presents Virgil with his dolls, the pile of tapes and evidence she has against him, and documents to turn over Harrison's company to him, as well as a confession saying she did the murders.
Virgil is sceptical of all this, thinking it's just a ploy to buy her life, but it turns out to be something more. Through all their machinations against one another, the pair has become enamoured of one another, even though Virgil has no heart and she hates men, and see each other as equals, worthy of their strange, strange affections.
See? I told you it was a love story. A messed up, strange love story. With killer dolls.
Travis is still dubious, but once she proposes to give him children, a dynasty, a legacy, he begins to soften. And yes, this is the *weirdest* romance in my movie watching history.
Of course, it's not all about her seeing them as mutually good for each other, but their combined intelligence and drive for power, would be enough to make them 'lords of the Earth'. Yeah, 15 years later, and I still ain't being ruled by Mistress Moira and the Stone-Faced God, even with the dollish minions.
She presents him with a marriage license she prepared to speed things along, complete with his forged signature. So he buys the company, they seal the deal, and bonus! Mascaro is an ordained minister AND clown! Which makes Moira ask, "Are you serious??"
Which then jumps ahead to the wedding between Virgil Travis and Moira Yulin.
...Seriously, what is this movie? It started off weird, got stabby and weird, now is romantic and weird, and WEIRD AND WEIRD AND WEIRD.
Oh, and it's not until AFTER the ceremony when Travis finally takes off his mask and reveals his wee head to his new wife. Yeah, probably should've checked that out *before* forging his signature, Mrs. Yulin-Travis.
Wait, wait! Come back! This IS a horror movie with killer dolls, after all! Just as the kiss is about to happen, whether she likes it or not, Pimp comes along and starts stabbing Moira in the leg.
Phew, this is just what the movie needed, back to our primary level of weird.
Hylas joins in and starts to tie poor Moira up, and Virgil monologues for a bit. He's not happy that he has seen love, and had it taken away so cruelly because she hated his teeny noggin, so he decides to end it all.
By sealing off the house and flooding the place with toxic gas. And everyone else in the house, can be damned to hell. Mascaro and Hylas are on board, loyal to the end, but the band and the dolls are not exactly on team suicide pact.
Cindy Doll actually lets the band go, and they quickly turn on their captors, smashing Hylas in the face, and heading towards the door. Funny that the dolls aren't keen on this whole everybody dies thing, since they'd survive, yes?
On the upside, it lets the girls have a bit of revenge for the movie long torture they've had to endure. Heck, even without the electrocutions, it's understandable.
Unfortunately, they reach the door and can't get out, what with that whole 'seal the compound' thing Virgil kicked off. But on the upside, Sideshow has a bomb that he uses to blast the doorway open with...which had ZERO setup whatsoever. Chekov frowns.
The girls escape, taking the dolls with them in Mascaro's electrocutional van, and drive off into the sunset of sequels that never was.
But hey! The girls survive, the dolls live to kill another day, and all the bad guys got what was coming to them, from the people against Virgil, to Virgil himself, and everyone in between! I'd call that a happy ending, and yay the weird movie is over!
...Or so you'd think, until Mascaro steps out of the darkness to speak directly to the audience and instead of the end credits, tells us they have two endings to the movie.and they could not decide between them, so here's both!
NO. NO YOU ARE NOT CLUE.
So, the movie rewinds to when the women were let lose, Hylas still gets dwarf-tossed, but then Mascaro shows up WITH A MACHINE GUN to calm things down with a few shots into the ceiling.
And actually, this seems to be a total divergence, from before the ceremony starts, but with the girls free, and Mascaro keeping everything in control, while we have a nice, normal, proper wedding. I shouldn't get too in depth on the divergence point, because it's a jumble.
So we get a proper wedding ceremony, or as proper as a guy in a mask, a woman in a black wedding veil, a priest in clown makeup, and a captive rock band being given orders by an eyepatch wearing dwarf can possibly be. Oh, and living dolls as witnesses.
Which brings us back up to the unmasking, and instead of Moira reeling back in horror this time, she remains shocked, but she is impressed by his wee head, because it makes him more than a man, and she is incapable of caring about any man. And this is why some people have the wrong idea about feminism.
Moira's line that "We are both marvels, and we are both monsters" is one of the single strangest declarations of love I've heard. But I don't remember these two on the Avengers.
...Well, Moira COULD be a Black Widow. Zing!
And so we end with the happy couple being happily married, and may the world tremble at their feet! I am weirdly okay with this ending?
Video: A decent look for a 1999 release. Could maybe be better, but I have no complaints.
Audio: Again, a good mix, everything sounds good, with no real complaints.
Sound Bite: "There is no we, Harrison, there's only me! And a sloppy, man-shaped apendage..." Moira to her accurately described husband.
Body Count - Ahh, after the disappointment of recent Puppet Master affairs, it's nice to see that Full Moon has still got it with the killer toy movies.
1 - 10 minutes in, and the weirdest opening act culminates in Loftus the lawyer getting drilled in the chest.
2 - Mister Mascaro makes a non-puppet based kill when he takes out one of Warbeck's security.
3 - Sideshow drops a hand weight on Warbeck's head.
4 - And the former Cindy Agami kills the second of Warbeck's security team.
5 - Mercy Fisher is finished off in the elevator by one of the dolls.
6 - Accompanied by one of her guards.
7 - And another beside them, making three at once.
8 - Moira serves up Harrison for the puppets to slice into tiny bits in a wire frame.
9 - And then Moira kinda dies herself after being attacked by Pimp and Hylas, only to be returned to life when reality reboots.
Best Corpse: Kicking things off with Loftus being drilled through the chest is tough to beat. it was bloodier than I expected. I thought they'd cut away like Full Moon had started doing for much of the 90s. In fact, they DID cut away, and splashed blood around off camera, but then they went right back to showing us the drilling Loftus got. And I respect that.
Blood Type - C+: I was expecting less, was pleasantly surprised, but as is so often the case, they could have done more too. Still, the puppets are done well, and that garners a few bonus points.
Sex Appeal: Largely supplied by Moira Yulin's endless closet of corsets, but with a little bit of her husband strung up to be whipped too.
Drink Up! Every time Moira whips Harrison, or the band gets electrocuted.
Sights and Sounds: Aww yeah, I actually get to share a clip this time. And let me tell ya, there was NO shortage of stuff in this movie to share. It is one weird movie. But I went with this short clip from the middle of the movie that kinda highlights everything weird about this flick. Virgil's teeny head, Mascaro being Mascaro, a bit of fun with the dolls goofing around, and even some music from the girls. The only thing it's missing is the Yulin's trying to be 50 Shades of Full Moon.
And bonus! How could I *Not* send people to Full Moon Streaming to check this 80 minutes of bizarreness out?! Seriously. If you sign up to FMS for one reason, it should be to see this movie.
And BONUS BONUS, you can now listen to a commentary track for Blood Dolls, starting TODAY!
Movie Review: Okay, this movie is CLEARLY a mess. With all the strange elements all throughout it, this movie Should. Not. Work. And yet...it somehow DOES? Let's be honest, this is not a brilliant movie. The plot is paper thin, and barely an excuse for dollish mayhem. But it gets the ball rolling, and knows what it wants to be. This may be the single most perfectly Charles Band-ish Charles Band movie. His hallmarks are all here, and his stamp is everywhere. Nothing in this movie makes a lick of sense, but it's a well made bit of nonsense and bizarre characters, with a story that's garbage and yet somehow a decent movie, as long as its taken on its own terms and don't try and shove it into a box. Still, it is a disjointed mess of ideas, no matter how well they came together. Three out of five wire torture frames.
Entertainment Value: I could seriously leave this section blank, and everyone would know how I feel. I'm not gonna lie to ya, I unashamedly love this movie. You sit down expecting Puppet Master 27, and you GET that, but you get so much more. You're kinda expecting Mascaro's clown face from the DVD cover, but you're not expecting Hylas. Or Virgil. Or the band. OR Moira's S&M overtones, or that this becomes a LOVE STORY?! or that the movie pulls a clue?? Blood Dolls is such a wonderfully unexpected journey that throws so much at you, that you never know what it might do next, and it always has another trick to pull out. It's wonderfully weird, knows it, loves it, bathes in its weirdness, and just does not stop as it gets weirder. It may be a mess of ideas with no great story, but by Corman is it one HECK of a ride, and I revisit this movie far more frequently than any normal person should. There are better movies, there are better FULL MOON movies, but few are as weirdly enjoyable and entertaining as this monstrosity. Five out of five different endings.
This movie restored a lot of lost faith and cachet for me that Full Moon had pissed away during the 90s.