How To Make a Doll/review
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
Finding positives in this “comedy” isn’t easy; there’s a unique tiny car whose door is basically the entire front of the vehicle that swings open (a 1957 BMW Isetta Coupe), the girls are somewhat attractive in their vintage bikinis, and it’s quaint witnessing the relatively new excitement surrounding the emergent, more commonplace use of computers, and how that element is used to build onto this exploitation quickie. As with most H.G. Lewis films, there is also the relative appeal of seeing real people, not actors, commissioned to appear on-camera when their business or home is chosen for a set used in the picture. Percy and his date enter a carnival shooting gallery and interact with its owner; an unassuming man wearing a hearing aid standing with his thumbs in his pockets. Percy takes a few unsuccessful shots at the primitive targets while the owner shakes his head disapprovingly before Percy finally scores and wins a bunny for his date.
Percy, a shy young math teacher, presents his very first girl with a bouquet of flowers; a bunch of ridiculously haggard pink and white mums, one branch of flowers hangs limply among a tangle of stems and leaves. His date Agnes exclaims, “Oh, these are beautiful, how nice of you!” before shoving them into a vase where the mums sit listlessly on display for the remainder of the scene. Those lowly mums, regaled as beautiful beyond appearances, conveniently illustrate the rose-colored glasses Lewis viewed even his most disappointing features while producing, and later selling them to distributors.
The thought that theater audiences watching this quirky quickie about computerized sex dolls could be thoroughly entertained boggles the mind. Cheap sets and excruciatingly un-funny dialogue combined with extraordinarily lengthy scenes of characters sitting in people’s Miami homes, make Doll a very tedious experience. Many takes roll continuously with nary a close-up or change in camera angle breaking the monotony.
Almost as annoying as the ridiculous masquerade of scenes and sound effects, is the grating soundtrack lacing the tedium with uplifting ditties repeated ad nauseum; as though jaunty music alone could propel the stagnant action forwards as characters mug mercilessly for a laugh, give amateurish performances, and appear ill-at-ease in front of the camera. Part of the soundtrack will sound very familiar to fans of Lewis’ movies, a “happy harpsichord” piece probably written (and possibly played) by Lewis and included in many of his movies like The Gruesome Twosome.
Percy lives with his nagging mom Elizabeth Davis, from the prior years’ The Gruesome Twosome, still shrilly yelling her dialog as though attempting to be heard over a taxiing airplane. Elizabeth plays an over-protective mother, complaining about Percy and encouraging him to meet a nice young girl while offering him cookies and words of advice.
Percy’s older scientist friend develops a machine that replicates living organisms. After a punch card creates a bunny, the next step is creating a handful of beautiful bikini girls programmed for loving only their creator. “Now it was Dr. West’s turn to come to life. He had poured into the computer a lifetime of longing for his dream girl, and here she was, in what looked like acres of warm, bouncing flesh! (Long sluuurping noise). Like my own dream-girl, she wasn’t really human, but Dr. West wasn’t going to x-ray her, he was going to make-up for lost time.”
Heart trouble hits the scientist after his tryst with his mechanical lover, but before succumbing to a heart attack, he makes the bizarre decision to enter his machine and “become” one with the computer - which he does. Percy now talks to the computer, agreeing to conquer the fairer sex and relive his amorous adventures for the benefit of his horny computer pal. Dr. West experiences the thrills via Percy’s telepathic thought waves transferred to the computer while seated beneath what looks suspiciously like a beauty salon hair dryer. Percy dutifully fulfilling his promise kicks off an excruciatingly long sequence repeated in multiple cuts with no less than six different women. Percy kisses a bikini-girl, then rushes away to seat himself at the computer to relay the experience to the digital Dr West, Percy then kisses another girl and rushes back to the computer; after this second round viewers expect to move on, but the scenario repeats its course another four times while gratingly peppy music adds to the torture.
Percy gains this tremendous sexual confidence once Dr. West telepathically transfers bravery and confidence into Percy, exclaiming that he will become “a combination of Don Yuan, Casanova, and Sheldon Seymour all the great lovers in history all rolled-up into one.” To which Percy repeats quizzically, “Sheldon Seymour?” sly in-joke referencing Lewis’ oft-used movie credits pseudonym. Percy has no problem bedding multiple women to the point where he becomes exhausted and disenchanted with the entire physicality of love. Having suddenly too much of a good thing turns Percy away from his friend/machine so he can initiate a real, romantic relationship – a wish turned true when he runs into a homely former student named Agnes.
While sitting outdoors, Agnes tells Percy that anything he wishes can come true; and apparently, he wishes for a girl with long bunny ears. In the blink of an eye, Agnes is wearing a bikini, and sporting a pair of long white rabbit ears rising above her new, bouffant hairdo, heavy make-up and false eyelashes. Now pleased as punch, Percy and Agnes happily walk away hand-in hand, the camera following behind revealing a round fuzzy tail attached to Agnes’ bottom.
How to Make a Doll fails from start to finish, the ill-conceived idea of Lewis’ partners in Miami, Fred Sandy and David Chudnow, who also helped make Just For the Hell of It and She Devils on Wheels. Chudnow’s wife scripted the movie and came up with the title, and Lewis readily admits in discussion with author Randy Palmer that it was far from funny, and “a perfectly awful picture.”
Lack of commitment to this project is readily apparent, simple mistakes captured on film are evident and jarring for even a Lewis production. Mid-way into the movie as the camera pans across set, the cut runs a few seconds past intention, revealing what appears to be a second still-camera mounted on a tripod with a crew-member in a striped-shirt stationed behind it. Incredibly, no-one noticed, or didn’t care to remove a jacket a crew member carelessly draped across the top of a large stone sitting directly behind a bench during the scene where Agnes makes her bunny transformation.
How to Make a Doll is an unenthusiastic rush-job made to satisfy the whims of Lewis’ investors; marginally fun for Lewis enthusiasts, but ultimately forgettable.
Reviewed by Nate Miner