Joseph G. Prieto (director)
Network On Air (studio)
03 September 2018 (released)
09 September 2018
Some films are so unbelievably bad they are actually funny while others are simply… just bad. The ‘lost, deranged Grindhouse classic’ MISS LESLIE’S DOLLS is so unbelievably bad one struggles not to fall asleep watching this travesty (no pun intended) of 1970’s horror sleaze!
Directed by Joseph G. Prieto, who is perhaps better known under his other name Joseph P. Mawra and was responsible for the 1965 lesbo-sexploitation documentation CHAINED GIRLS, this 1973 affair surely most rank among the world’s Top Ten stinkers! From a budget which seems to have been no more than a 100 bucks (it would be forgivable were the result more satisfactory) to lamentable performances and equally lamentable camerawork, it’s hard to see why this flick is considered a ‘Grindhouse classic’. While we’re at it, it’s even harder to see why this waste of celluloid has been re-released at all, and in Blu-ray format at that!
The plot is pretty simple though in the hands of a more competent director (John Waters springs to mind) and with a considerably more competent cast (just imagine what Divine would have done with this role!) MISS LESLIE’S DOLLS really could have been something. As it stands, we are talking 88 minutes of wasted time.
When fun-loving university students (drama students they are certainly not!) Lily (Marcelle Bichette), Martha (Kitty Lewis), Roy (Charles Pitts) and their attractive but stuck-up female teacher Miss Alma Frost (Terri Juston) find themselves stranded in the backwoods (make that a graveyard!) during a thunderstorm, little do they know that their soon-to-be hostess turns out to be a homicidal, demented and satanic transvestite! With their car out of petrol, the four bravely wander through cemetery and woods in the hope to find help somewhere. Unfortunately they stumble upon an isolated house inhabited only by middle-aged and seemingly kind Miss Leslie (Salvador Ugarte) and her black cat Tom. After an exchange of small talk, Miss Leslie (so very obviously a bloke in drag, dubbed by a female voice!) offers the stranded guests shelter and something to eat while rambling on about her youth, how her family had a toy shop (hence Miss Leslie’s penchant for dolls) which one day burnt down with everything lost, including her ‘beautiful’ and special friend. Enter Martha who Miss Leslie sees as a reincarnation of her lost friend… which wouldn’t be so bad were it not for the fact that Miss Leslie heavily dabbles in the occult, with the sole purpose of switching her own ageing body into the young body of someone like Martha. Did I also mention that Miss Leslie keeps the skull of her mother (echoes of PSYCHO ring through) in a cellar while in another part of the basement the fresh corpse of her latest victim lies in waiting to be preserved? Yes, you read that correctly! Miss Leslie is an axe-wielding maniac who kills nubile young women to turn them into wax dolls, indeed, she has a special room in which her own private wax doll collection astonishes our four hapless guests but they are so preoccupied with their own sexual agendas they don’t seem to notice that the dolls aren’t dolls at all and neither do they seem to notice that Miss Leslie is not a woman. As the night falls and Miss Leslie gets ready to make use of her occult powers once more, the axe’s blade is sharpened though at first things don’t go quite according to plan for Miss Leslie. I won’t reveal the lead-up to the breath-taking climax nor the climax itself, which is, in any case, more of an anti-climax but well, see for yourself if you don’t mind frittering your money away on buying this title.
The dialogue is so contrived and corny a film school graduate would have done a better job while Salvador Ugarte almost sleepwalks through each scene. Fifty minutes into the film the ‘action’ (if you can call it that) finally kicks in – by which time most viewers have probably lost interest in finding out whether anything happens at all. Obviously there was only one camera at hand which gives everything even more of a static look while the performances are wooden, wooden, wooden… Salvador Ugarte should have been presented with a ‘Golden Raspberry Award’ though unfortunately this hilarious Awards Ceremony (celebrating the worst the film industry has on offer) only came into life in the 1980’s.
The best one can say about MISS LESLIE’S DOLLS is that it touched upon topics considered quite taboo for the early 70’s, but that’s about it.