A Grindhouse oddity believed lost for decades Miss Leslie’s Dolls has been released into the wider world by the wonderful people at Network blending together a barmy mix of sex, possession and occult practices when a gang of teens end up staying in the strange Miss Leslie’s foreboding abode.
Opening in the most ominous setting, when the unlucky traveler’s breakdown in a cemetery during a storm, teacher Miss Frost (Terri Juston) manages to convince her young charges Lily (Marcelle Bichette), Martha (Kitty Lewis) and randy Roy (Charles Pitts) to abandon their ride and walk to the nearest house.
Wandering into the weird world of Miss Leslie (Salvador Ugarte) the foursome find themselves staying with a self-confessed practitioner of the dark arts who has dedicated her life into making extremely life like dolls after her mother’s toy factory burned to the ground when she was a child.
Miss Leslies Dolls dwell in her sacred sanctum and like their maker seem harmless enough if a little strange however as night draws in and the visitors retire to their rooms things change for the worse for everyone involved.
Pure exploitation from the start writer and director Joseph G. Prieto innovates a very predictable plotline with the extremely eccentric Miss Leslie who spends many of her scenes speaking in long rambling monologues about magic, reincarnation and supernatural forces.
Unlike several other horror films Miss Leslie’s peculiarities are present from the off which make her a far more interesting character and although many may find the strange speeches more funny than frightening they do at least highlight the unhinged nature of the character in a more original way than most Grindhouse films of the same era.
Packed with sex and death as these films often are we are treated to nudity, lesbianism, axe wielding murders and some good old gore although none of it is as shocking or titillating to a modern audience as it perhaps once was back on its release.
Another element that may jar viewers today is in the revelation of Miss Leslies true motive and nature which many will work out extremely early on without much prompting. In our more accepting and inclusive society the climax could come across as crass and insensitive rather than the shocking spectacle it was indeed intended to be however some concession must be made for the ill-informed attitudes of the period as well as the need in exploitation films to offer something they saw as scandalous just to sell tickets.
Freaky fun and perfect for fans of Grindhouse horror Miss Leslies Dolls is engaging enough giving the limitations of the genre and period and for many its failings will only serve to up the entertainment value in a way that only bad horror can do.