Director: Joseph G. Prieto
Script: R. Remy & J. Prieto
Cast: Salvador Ugarte, Terry Juston, Marcelle Bichette, Kitty Lewis, Charles W. Pitt
Running time: 89 minutes
Let me be clear, Miss Leslie’s Dolls is a weird film, with a capital ‘W’! And I say this having seen some weird and bizarre shit during my life time of film watching. Weird is good, as long as it’s not the pretentious kind of weird – weird for the sake of being weird, in a ‘look at us, aren’t we being weird, aren’t we being clever’ sort of way. I suspect that Miss Leslie’s Dolls is not such a film, but something that kind of happened organically as a result of the filmmakers doing too many drugs or watching too many exploitation drive-in movies themselves and wanting to emulate them. Apparently, the listed director can’t even remember having made the film, which just goes to back up my hypothesis that the filmmakers were on drugs when they made it!
However the film came about, it’s here, and out there, and Network has unleashed it on the world, just when said world had probably forgotten all about it. Perhaps Network should have left well alone, but I, for one, am glad they unearthed it from out of some dank, dripping basement storage facility for unwanted movies; well, at least that’s where I picture it having been rediscovered!
When their car breaks down next to a graveyard, during a vicious storm, a teacher and her three students take refuge in the only nearby building, the home of the titular recluse. Miss Leslie, it turns out, is some kind of mixed-up crazy person, but our weary travellers have the choice of either inconveniencing their bizarre hostess for the night or taking their chances outside in the hurricane winds and lashing rain. As the travellers settle down for the night, and, cough, settle down intimately with each other, Miss Leslie drugs the teacher and spies on the rest, hatching a cunning plan…
As it turns out our peculiar hostess is obsessed with transferring her own spirit from ‘her’ own, less attractive, body into one of the significantly more attractive young ladies’ bodies. And, if they die in the process, so what…
Miss Leslie’s Dolls is a strange combination of a number of different subgenres of film, including psychological horror, ‘slasher’, old dark house, Universal horror, teen sex movie, and art-house weirdness. It even resembles an episode of Scooby-Doo at times, minus the mystery machine and the talking Great Dane.
Miss Leslie’s Dolls unashamedly flaunts its Grindhouse roots, and gets steadily crazier as it goes on. Initially Dolls just kind of meanders along at a languid pace (boy, does Miss Leslie take an age to walk up the stairs) until suddenly turning its nuttiness level up to eleven, ready for the bonkers and bloody conclusion.
The first half of the film feels more like a student stage play with the cast still learning their lines, but you’re never far away from that general air of weirdness that permeates the film and somehow makes it hypnotic. You just have to keep watching!
The ‘acting’ is variable, to say the least, but at least the women are easy on the eye (and we see a lot of them!) and Salvador Ugarte’s performance, as Miss Leslie, has to be seen to be believed. Although one has to wonder why none of Leslie’s guests realised he’s clearly a guy in drag, since you can clearly see his five o’ clock shadow and his Adam’s apple! Also what’s with him having his voice dubbed by a ‘real’ woman throughout most of the film’s running time? That’s also really weird.
Obviously shot on a shoestring budget Dolls is to be commended for making the most of its locations and its strange score by Imer Leaf, which suits the bizarre visuals.
Regardless of all its short-comings, including iffy visual effects, variable acting and an oh so dodgy script, Miss Leslie’s Dolls is still worth a watch, if only to wonder if author Thomas Harris had seen this before he came up with the character of ‘Buffalo Bill’ featured in his best-selling novel, The Silence of the Lambs…
Network Distributing are distributing Miss Leslie’s Dolls on DVD and Blu-ray. Special features include: An image Gallery consisting of three posters and eight rather faded stills from the film.