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Stuart Gordon
Ian Patrick Williams, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Carrie Lorraine
Writing Credits:
Ed Naha

A precocious girl, her nasty parents, two punk-rock losers and a weak-kneed salesman inadvertently become the guests of two ghoulish senior citizens in their dark, haunted mansion.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English LPCM 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 77 min.
Price: $99.95
Release Date: 6/27/23
Available as Part of “Enter the Video Store” Five-Film Collection

• Audio Commentary with Director Stuart Gordon and Writer Ed Naha
• Audio Commentary with Actors Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Stephen Lee, Carrie Lorraine and Ian Patrick Williams
• Audio Commentary with Filmmaker David DeCoteau
• “Toys of Terror” Documentary
• “Assembling Dolls” Featurette
• Film-to-Storyboard Comparison
• Image Gallery
• Trailers
• Double-Sided Posters
• 15 Art Cards
• 80-Page Book
• Arrow Video “Membership Card”


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Panasonic DMP-BDT220P Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Dolls (2023 Re-issue) [Blu-Ray] (1987)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 1, 2023)

1985 brought director Stuart Gordon earned cult success with Re-Animator. He soon returned with another horror experience, 1987’s Dolls.

During a storm, David Bower (Ian Patrick Williams), wife Rosemary (Carolyn Purdy-Gordon) and young daughter Judy (Carrie Lorraine) take shelter in a nearby castle. Along the way, the nasty Rosemary throws her stepdaughter Judy’s beloved teddy bear into the woods, an action that sparks the child to imagine the actions of a giant vengeful beast.

Snapped back to reality, the Bowers meet the castle’s residents: Gabriel Hartwicke (Guy Rolfe) and his wife Hilary (Hilary Mason). Before long, three more visitors arrive in the form of American tourist Ralph (Stephen Lee) and sleazy punk rock girls Isabel (Bunty Bailey) and Enid (Cassie Stuart).

Gabriel makes elaborate dolls, and he gives one to Judy. Gabriel tells her that toys come to life at night when their owners sleep. In the case of his creations, this turns out to be true, and we observe the events that follow this revelation.

It’d be easy to see Dolls as little more than a bloody cousin to 1995’s Toy Story, but I think it gives us more than that. Of course, neither Dolls nor Toy Story invented the notion of “toys that come to life” anyway, and they give us substantially different experiences.

Ironically, the live-action Dolls comes across as more cartoony than the animated Toy Story. Though billed as a horror film, it’s more of a fairy tale with gore elements thrown in along the way. Those can seem gratuitous, honestly, and don’t serve the story all that well.

Dolls lacks the heart and fine characterizations of Toy Story, but I don’t view that as a bad thing. The older film doesn’t aspire to be much more than what it is: a fun little romp.

At 77 minutes, the movie concludes barely before your Blu-ray player has gotten warm, and I think the flick works better for its brevity. The story doesn’t offer much more than a variation on The Old Dark House with the doll-related twist, so characters stay thin and one-dimensional.

Normally I complain about that, but I don’t mind in a project like this. The tale exists to set up some supernatural shenanigans, and it does so in a satisfying manner.

Even with predictable elements, the plot unfolds in an enjoyable way and becomes more fun when the mayhem eventually ensues. Dolls definitely fares best when it involves its title characters.

We don’t get a ton of segments that use the dolls come to life – given the effort’s low budgetm the effects work involved limited these opportunities – but the movie makes the most of these scenes. When we see the stop-motion dolls, they’re a delight and they add a lot to the experience.

At no point does Dolls threaten to become anything more than a silly piece of fun, and I’m fine with that because it achieves its goals. I could nitpick some aspects but I think the overall package entertains enough to make me happy.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio C+/ Bonus B+

Dolls appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie came with a solid transfer.

Sharpness offered one of the strongest aspects of the image, as the film provided mostly positive delineation. A few slightly soft shots materialized, but the majority of the movie seemed accurate and concise.

I witnessed no issues with jagged edges or moiré effects, and no signs of edge haloes occurred. Grain felt natural, and I saw no print flaws.

Colors were good. The film brought us a pretty natural palette – with some emphasis on warm browns and reds - and the hues came across as fairly peppy and full.

Blacks were dark and tight, while shadows seemed smooth and well-delineated. Even given the movie’s inherent “80s-ness”, this turned into a satisfying presentation.

I thought the movie’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack came with ups and downs. On the positive side, Dolls offered a broader than expected soundscape – at least in the front.

Surround usage seemed to be minimal. However, the forward channels provided a pretty good sense of space and place in terms of effects.

The mix also attempted localized speech, but that side of things worked less well. Rather than appear to be placed in certain spots, dialogue felt more like it bled to the other speakers. The stabs at localization came across more like poor integration than appropriate placement.

Audio quality also appeared inconsistent. Speech was always intelligible and usually pretty natural, but some stiff, flat lines could emerge. The same went for effects, which varied between acceptably robust and moderately bland.

Music demonstrated the best reproduction, with nice clarity and range. The mix of highs and lows meant this became a “C+” soundtrack.

Note that the disc also came with an LPCM stereo mix that fared better. Quality appeared similar between the two, so don’t expect sonic growth.

However, the stereo soundfield came across as more natural. It showed nice spread for effects and music.

While the stereo track delivered some of the same awkward localization of speech that marred the 5.1 mix, this occurred less frequently and became much less of a distraction. Without a doubt, the stereo version turned into the more satisfying of the two.

How did this 2023 Arrow Blu-ray compare to the 2014 version from Shout? Both came with seemingly identical audio – at least in terms of the 5.1 mixes.

The 2014 disc also included a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track, and I suspect it matches the 2023 release’s LPCM 2.0. However, I didn’t check the 2014’s 2.0 so I can’t judge based on actual experiences.

In terms of visuals, the 2014 release suffered from a surfeit of print flaws, all of which went bye-bye here. Given both boasted the same positives, that made the 2023 Blu-ray a major upgrade in terms of picture quality.

When we shift to extras, the disc gives us three separate audio commentaries. The first track comes from director Stuart Gordon and writer Ed Naha, both of whom sit together for a running, screen-specific chat.

They discuss the film’s origins and development, cast and performances, story/characters, sets and shooting in Italy, toy design and effects, and connected areas.

Though enjoyable, this becomes a spotty commentary. While we get a reasonable amount of information about the movie, the track tends to sag at times. Still, Gordon and Naha make it entertaining, and there’s enough useful material to sustain the listener.

For the second commentary, we hear from actors Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Stephen Lee, Carrie Lorraine and Ian Patrick Williams. All four sit together for a discussion of cast, characters and performances, sets and locations, working with others and general thoughts from the shoot.

As inconsistent as the Gordon/Naha commentary may be, it’s a classic compared to this bland chat. The actors occasionally throw out interesting memories, and Lorraine gives us a few intriguing insights into life as a child actor.

Unfortunately, most of the piece lacks good material. This results in a dull, plodding track with little merit.

New to this 2023 Arrow release, the third commentary involves filmmaker David DeCoteau. Though he didn’t serve on Dolls, DeCoteau worked at Empire Pictures in the 1980s, so he offers a running look at the studio in that area as well as aspects of his career, Stuart Gordon and others connected to Dolls.

Note I didn’t refer to this as a screen-specific commentary. While DeCoteau occasionally refers to the action on-screen, this happens far too infrequently to matter.

Instead, DeCoteau provides his memories of Empire and related domains, with an emphasis on himself. This results in occasional nuggets of value but a lot of it just feels rambling and not especially compelling.

Called Toys of Terror, a documentary runs 38 minutes, 31 seconds and includes info from Gordon, Naha, Purdy-Gordon, Williams, producer Brian Yuzna, executive producer Charles Band, and special makeup effects artists Gino Crognale, John Vulich and Gabe Bartalos.

“Terror” looks at the path to the film’s production, story, script and characters, cast and performances, doll design and various effects, sets and shooting in Italy, themes, and thoughts about the final product.

“Terror” echoes information heard during the Gordon/Naha commentary at times, but it expands issues reasonably well. I can’t call this a great documentary, but it becomes a mostly good overview.

Exclusive to the 2023 Arrow set, Assembling Dolls goes for 17 minutes, one second. It brings an interview with editor Lee Percy.

We find a discussion of Percy’s career and connection with Gordon as well as aspects of his work on Dolls. Percy brings us an informative chat.

Next comes a Film-to-Storyboard Comparison. This runs eight minutes, 30 seconds and shows three sequences: “Teddy’s Revenge”, “Rosemary Takes a Dive” and “Punch’s Little Secret:”.

These clips display the movie in the whole screen with an inset image of the storyboards in the lower right. The presentation offers a nice view of how the original planning art translated to the film.

In addition to three trailers, the disc concludes with an Image Gallery, we find 51 stills. These let us see advertising as well as movie elements. Nothing stands out as memorable, but it’s a decent collection.

While not particularly original, Dolls offers an entertaining piece of work. Its giddy twist on fairy tales and horror turns it into a lively, brisk tale. The Blu-ray presents very goood picture and erratic audio as well as a reasonably substantial set of supplements. I enjoy the movie and this 2023 re-issue becomes the best version on the market.

Note that this 2023 release of Dolls comes only as part of a five-film package called “Enter the Video Store: Empire of Screams”. In addition to Dolls, it brings four other movies from Empire Pictures: The Dungeonmaster, Cellar Dweller, Arena and Robot Jox.

The set includes non-disc-based elements as well. According to Arrow, it comes with “double-sided posters featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Ilan Sheady; 15 postcard-sized reproduction art cards; an Arrow Video store "membership card"; an 80-page perfect bound book featuring new writing on the films by Lee Gambin, Dave Jay, Megan Navarro, and John Harrison, plus select archival material.”

My review copy lacked these components. Nonetheless, I figured I should mention them.

To rate this film visit the prior review of DOLLS

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