Color, 1990, 94m. / Directed by George Dugdale & Peter Mackenzie Litten / Starring Mark Jax, Eartha Kitt, Gary Martin, Katie Orgill / Mondo Macabro (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)

Working alone in the morgue beneath a metropolitan hospital, Big Apple med student Howard (Jax) spends his free time daydreaming about the pretty blonde flower shop attendant upstairs, Christina (Ron Livingston lookalike Orgill). Unfortunately his job and his fantasies collide most unpleasantly when Christina turns up dead on a slab one evening after a nasty car crash. Deciding that her boyfriend obviously couldn't take care of her in life, Howard decides to take her home and be the perfect boyfriend, even if his girl no longer has a pulse. Unfortunately he finds the scheme difficult to keep up with his landlady (Kitt) snooping around and Christina slowly deteriorating by the day, proving that love can never last forever.

The final film from exploitation specialist Dick Randall, Living Doll marked his only foray into the direct-to-video horror market despite its comparatively glossy film origins. Playing like a much softer remake of Joe D'Amato's Beyond the Darkness but without all the guts and pubic hair (with a dollop of Nekromantik for good measure), this film tries to take the high road with an austere, artsy approach - which mostly entails tons of blue lighting and leaving most of the grisly activity to the audience's imagination. Some blood and bare bosoms are thrown in for commercial value, but this is still one of the most "tasteful" necrophilia epics since The Horrible Dr. Hichcock (whose American tagline inspired the cover of this DVD release!). The film is perfectly competent and skillfully acted, with some nice visual flourishes and a weird, melancholy mood; Jax and Orgill in particular make an oddly compelling couple, despite the latter spending much of her screen time completely stiff. Kitt is fun to watch as always, though what she's doing in this film is anybody's guess.

Mondo Macabro's DVD of this rarely screened title does what it can with the source material, which has survived in good condition but definitely bears the deliberately soft and fuzzy visual "music video" stamp of late '80s/early '90s low budget horror films (think Frankenhooker or Street Asylum). Many of the participants have gone on to successful careers, and two of them, Jax and writer Paul Hart-Wilden, turn up for their own video interviews in which they talk about their work on the project and their subsequent filmic efforts. Slasher fans will definitely get a kick out of the vintage short (if 50 minutes can be defined as such), "The Making of a Horror Film," which goes behind the scenes of Randall's earlier Don't Open Till Christmas and features tons of fascinating footage of the production process. Writer David McGillivray (the scribe behind Pete Walker's best films) turns up for a video diary of his collaboration with Randall for a proposed TV project, and Hart-Wilden's short film, "Horrorshow," offers a bizarre peek at his directorial abilities. Also included are the usual informative Mondo Macabro productio notes, a scrappy video trailer, galleries of production stills and promotional material, and the usual reel for the company's other mind-bending titles.

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