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.

Leave a Reply

Current day month ye@r *

MovieMorlocks.com is the official blog for TCM. No topic is too obscure or niche to be excluded from our film discussions. And we welcome your comments on our blogs and bloggers.
See more: facebook.com/tcmtv
See more: twitter.com/tcm
3-D  Action Films  Actors  Actors' Endorsements  Actresses  animal stars  Animation  Anime  Anthology Films  Art in Movies  Australian CInema  Autobiography  Avant-Garde  Aviation  Awards  B-movies  Beer in Film  Behind the Scenes  Best of the Year lists  Biography  Biopics  Blu-Ray  Books on Film  Boxing films  British Cinema  Canadian Cinema  Character Actors  Chicago Film History  Cinematography  Classic Films  College Life on Film  Comedy  Comic Book Movies  Crime  Czech Film  Dance on Film  Digital Cinema  Directors  Disaster Films  Documentary  Drama  DVD  Early Talkies  Editing  Educational Films  European Influence on American Cinema  Experimental  Exploitation  Fairy Tales on Film  Faith or Christian-based Films  Family Films  Film Composers  Film Criticism  film festivals  Film History in Florida  Film Noir  Film Scholars  Film titles  Filmmaking Techniques  Films of the 1980s  Food in Film  Foreign Film  French Film  Gangster films  Genre  Genre spoofs  HD & Blu-Ray  Holiday Movies  Hollywood history  Hollywood lifestyles  Horror  Horror Movies  Icons  independent film  Italian Film  Japanese Film  Korean Film  Literary Adaptations  Martial Arts  Melodramas  Method Acting  Mexican Cinema  Moguls  Monster Movies  Movie Books  Movie Costumes  movie flops  Movie locations  Movie lovers  Movie Reviewers  Movie settings  Movie Stars  Movies about movies  Music in Film  Musicals  Outdoor Cinema  Paranoid Thrillers  Parenting on film  Pirate movies  Polish film industry  political thrillers  Politics in Film  Pornography  Pre-Code  Producers  Race in American Film  Remakes  Revenge  Road Movies  Romance  Romantic Comedies  Satire  Scandals  Science Fiction  Screenwriters  Semi-documentaries  Serials  Short Films  Silent Film  silent films  Social Problem Film  Sports  Sports on Film  Stereotypes  Straight-to-DVD  Studio Politics  Stunts and stuntmen  Suspense thriller  Swashbucklers  TCM Classic Film Festival  TCM Underground  Television  The British in Hollywood  The Germans in Hollywood  The Hungarians in Hollywood  The Irish in Hollywood  Theaters  Thriller  Trains in movies  Underground Cinema  VOD  War film  Westerns  Women in the Film Industry  Women's Weepies