Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Ray Dennis Steckler - Sinthia, the Devil's Doll (1968)


The Devil is living in my brain! He's burning me alive!" screams Cynthia Kyle to her shrink in Sinthia, The Devil's Doll and she ain't kidding. An outrageously bizarre collaboration between director RAY DENNIS STECKLER (The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies) — who bills himself in the credits as "Sven Christian"— and writer/actor HERB ROBINS (one of the maniacal trio in Steckler's The Thrill Killers, and the star and director of the notorious The Worm Eaters), Sinthia, The Devil's Doll is a semi-psychedelic skinflick that mixes sex, daddy-lust, and art-house exploitation to make it one of the strangest damn films that ever ambushed audiences.

Deeply disturbed 12 year-old Cynthia (angelic-looking SHULA ROAN) is in love with her father, but not in the way daughters are supposed to be. In a... well... unwholesome way. So when she sees Daddy making love to Mommy, and hears Mommy complain that Daddy is spending too much time with her, jealous little Cynthia reacts badly: she stabs them both to death then sets the house on fire. Eight years later, Cynthia is still plagued by guilt, nightmares, and, yes, an obsession with dear old dad. "My life was one of searching through dreams and fantasy which had no end," she tells her court-appointed psychiatrist before describing her most recent trip to Hell — literally. Looking like a cardboard cave, Hell is full of garish colors and copulating couples who writhe about in front of a fey Lucifer (the above-mentioned Mr. Robins) who sits on a throne and smiles as Cynthia is whipped. She then magically appears by the seashore, is chased by some guy whose face is painted red, and meets Carol, a tarot-card reader, who introduces her to an artist named Lennie. Cynthia likes Lennie: "Daddy, daddy, please hold me!" Cynthia also meets a lesbian housewife (DIANE WEBBER, star of The Mermaids of Tiburon) whose breast Cynthia nuzzles on while murmuring, "Mommy!" Lennie then takes Cynthia to see a play starring Mark (GARY KENT, another Thrill Killers alumnus) and Liz (MARIA LEASE of The Fabulous Bastard from Chicago) and all of a sudden Cynthia is part of the show and ends up marrying Mark: "Oh, daddy, daddy, I love you so much!"

All of which alarms the doctor she's telling this to: "God has left you for a while and The Devil wants to claim you as his own!" His medical diagnosis: "Go back into your world of nightmares! Destroy yourself!" Instead of suing him for malpractice, Cynthia closes her eyes and follows the doctor's orders....

Yow. A film that almost dares you to make sense out of it, Sinthia, The Devil's Doll is Exploitation that wants to be Art. The result is a cinematic road accident so strange and stylized and surreal that it ends up playing like a 76-minute acid trip.