Killer's KissLike those eerie fin de siècle China dolls (did little girls at the turn of the 19th century get any sleep?), mannequins give good creep… and they creep up in many classic genre films.   " /> Killer's KissLike those eerie fin de siècle China dolls (did little girls at the turn of the 19th century get any sleep?), mannequins give good creep… and they creep up in many classic genre films.   " /> Killer's KissLike those eerie fin de siècle China dolls (did little girls at the turn of the 19th century get any sleep?), mannequins give good creep… and they creep up in many classic genre films.   " />

EXT. MANNEQUIN FACTORY – NIGHT

Saw III 

Watching Saw III (2006) recently, my cocking eyebrow arced itself imperiously as the action decamped to a warehouse festooned sinisterly with mannequins.  Oh dear, I thought… that old chestnut. 

Underworld Beauty

The use of mannequins as agents of suspense goes back at least as far as Stanley Kubrick’s Killer’s Kiss (1955), in which the disembodied arms of future department store mannequins dangle above the heads of the sweaty dramatis personae like the accusatory fingers of the Gods.  Perhaps inspired by Kubrick, Japanese auteur Seijun Suzuki set a couple of action scenes of his gangster picture Underworld Beauty (Ankokugai no bijo, 1958) in the loft of an artist who sketches and sculpts mannequins.   In Mario Bava’s classic body count thriller Blood and Black Lace (Sei donne per l'assassino, 1964),  dress dummies clot the mise en scène, casting shadows and providing cover for a fashion house slasher.   

Blood and Black Lace

Like eerie fin de siècle China dolls (did little girls at the turn of the 19th century get any sleep?), mannequins give good creep… and creep up in many classic genre films.  In The Omega Man (1971), last man Charlton Heston pursues last woman Rosalind Cash in a dusty department store, where she attempts to evade him by literally posing as a mannequin.  Ivan Rassimov plays a suave headcase with a boudoir full of stabbing mannequins in the Euro-sleaze classic Spasmo (1974),  while schizo hillbilly Chuck Connors turns unwary sightseers into mannequins in Tourist Trap (1979) and Joe Spinell’s Maniac (1980) fills his grotty New York 1BR with mannequins he keeps as trophies for the sluts he has stalked and scalped.   

Tombs of the Blind Dead

Hearkening back to Kubrick, Spanish B-movie-maker Amando de Ossorio crafted a chilling little suspense setpiece set in a mannequin-maker’s shop for Tombs of the Blind Dead (La noche del terror ciego, 1971), the first of his “Blind Dead” quartet.  It’s a fairly desperate move on Ossorio’s part – the scene doesn’t hook up with anything else in the movie and blithely contradicts the “rules” of the undead and highly conservative Knights Templar as they run down high-living contemporary Spaniards – but it still works a horripilating charm. 

I'm always up for a good mannequin scare but Saw III throws the potential away to go for the gross-out.  That's okay… I'll always have Plaster of Paris.

10 Responses EXT. MANNEQUIN FACTORY – NIGHT
Posted By Alan Rode : April 24, 2007 1:00 am

Experiment in Terror (1962) has a wonderfully creepy sequence with Ross Martin ihiding in a forest of mannikins and later…. a body.

Posted By Alan Rode : April 24, 2007 1:00 am

Experiment in Terror (1962) has a wonderfully creepy sequence with Ross Martin ihiding in a forest of mannikins and later…. a body.

Posted By Robert : April 24, 2007 4:30 pm

Don't forget that great TWILIGHT ZONE episode "The After Hours" with its pay-off.  The first time I watched it the creepiest scene was Anne Francis ascending to that dark, quiet level of the department store only inhabited by mannequins.

Posted By Robert : April 24, 2007 4:30 pm

Don't forget that great TWILIGHT ZONE episode "The After Hours" with its pay-off.  The first time I watched it the creepiest scene was Anne Francis ascending to that dark, quiet level of the department store only inhabited by mannequins.

Posted By JeremyA : April 24, 2007 6:40 pm

HOUSE OF WAX (1953)

Posted By JeremyA : April 24, 2007 6:40 pm

HOUSE OF WAX (1953)

Posted By RHS : April 25, 2007 12:47 pm

Well… House of Wax is a whole 'nuther ball of… something.  (And a subgenre in and of itself.)  Wax dummies have a purpose, they are specific, they have identities (and if you crack 'em open, sometimes you get a surprise… like Carolyn Jones).  Mannequins are anonymous, sometimes (as in Blood and Black Lace) even featureless, like ghosts.  I don't think any wax museum can compete for eerieness with a mannequin factory.

Posted By RHS : April 25, 2007 12:47 pm

Well… House of Wax is a whole 'nuther ball of… something.  (And a subgenre in and of itself.)  Wax dummies have a purpose, they are specific, they have identities (and if you crack 'em open, sometimes you get a surprise… like Carolyn Jones).  Mannequins are anonymous, sometimes (as in Blood and Black Lace) even featureless, like ghosts.  I don't think any wax museum can compete for eerieness with a mannequin factory.

Posted By JLIAG : April 27, 2007 12:13 pm

The only thing creepier than a mannequin is the ventriloquist dummy.And that too is a whole 'nother ball of somthing.

Posted By JLIAG : April 27, 2007 12:13 pm

The only thing creepier than a mannequin is the ventriloquist dummy.And that too is a whole 'nother ball of somthing.

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