Sinthia: The Devil’s Doll (1970)

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Sinthia: The Devil’s Doll Storyline

Cynthia Kyle enters puberty with a vengeance, murdering her parents as they make love: she’s wanted her father to love only her. Eight years later, she’s free and wants to marry, but nightmares plague her so she seeks psychiatric help. The doctor asks her to describe a dream: it’s long and elaborate with dreams within dreams of Lucifer, Hell, and her parents in various guises. To shed her guilt, the shrink recommends that she commit suicide in her next dream. In it, she falls in love with an artist who reminds her of her father, responds to a woman who finds her attractive, and celebrates her first school-yard kiss. The dream takes her back to her parents’ bedside. Is any cure possible?—

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Sinthia: The Devil’s Doll Movie Reviews

an acquired taste- an underrated avant garde b movie.

I understand how one can judge this as a bad film, I myself felt this was the case for many years. Actually I’ve felt this way about many of Ray Dennis Stecklers films only to return, because somehow these films have some sort of magic to them i.e. a mysterious staying power.

I’ve criticized all the usual things one would criticize because I too was conditioned to judge film by traditional standards, but somehow find myself coming back to these films, again and again. I now appreciate the very things I had criticized because they’re really part of the film as an organic whole.

That these films don’t conform to the golden rule of creating and maintaining an illusion is irrelevant, because this was not Ray’s objective. His approach is more auteur based, where you experience the presence of the filmmaker him/herself behind every frame, in what becomes a multi faceted experience of how a filmmaker expresses oneself and their subject matter. A more idiosyncratic sensibility emerges as one film merges such conflicted influences of the French new wave, classic Hollywood, B movies, home movie aesthetics, Cinema Verite, Antonioni, to what is his own invention in what has come to be seen as Camp or Pop Art. One can certainly discern this from film to film, in addition to his interviews/commentary tracks, where he himself acknowledges, this. That he in part made films about films.

I thought of Sinthia the Devil Doll, as I mentioned earlier, as a bad film, ONLY to find that there is much that is memorable and redeeming about it. Cinematically you’ll find Ray experimenting quite extensively with super-impositions, gestural hand held camera-work, editing and expressionistic lighting that, like Munch, portrays dissonance in what is the tortured psyche of a troubled woman. What I most appreciate was how Ray, through these various means, had created and sustained a unique atmosphere, that is at once eerie and dreamlike. It is to such a degree that one experiences the film as a literal transcribing of the character’s mind/psyche/thought processes. It’s more of a subjective approach that is similar to certain, ‘experimental’ films, such as those of Kenneth Anger.

I recommend that one watch this film as it’s own complete vision. To do so, I urge the viewer to see beyond the confines/ prejudices/ conditioning over what is considered ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in film, because while they’re some flaws, (particularly the interludes between the girl and a psychiatrist, scenes Ray was forced to add), there is much the low budget adds to the nightmarish quality. It’s the claustrophobic sets, non glamorous casting, amateurish acting that lend the film it’s own surrealistic identity.

For patient trash fans only.

Novice actress Shula Roan plays the title character, who as a 12 year old had butchered her parents while they were having sex, and then set a fire to try to cover up the crime. Because of her age, and the “crime of passion” nature of her misdeed, she’s declared not guilty. But now, at age 20, she’s in the care of a psychiatrist, who urges her to purge herself of her nightmares in a symbolic way. Along the way, she encounters Lucifer (played by screenwriter Herb Robins) and artistic types such as painter Lennie (Ted Roter) and actor Mark (Gary Kent).

One of cult filmmaker Ray Dennis Stecklers’ ventures into adult cinema, “Sinthia the Devil’s Doll” is not the kind of thing that this viewer can easily write off. It is true that it’s going to bore some people, despite the expected plethora of skin. In fact, this plays like a bizarro mix of skin flick and arthouse picture. It has just enough weirdness and atmosphere to make it passably interesting, plus it has a “performance art” aspect to it, with characters spouting dialogue as if they’re always on stage, acting in a play. Definite credit should go to Steckler, who served as his own cinematographer, and lights props, sets, and actors in colourful ways, as well as Andre Brummer, who composed the original music.

Ms. Roan acts her little heart out. Even if she wasn’t a professional, it’s hard to deny the deep commitment of her performance (Sinthias’ main character flaw is severe daddy issues). The rest of the cast, including B picture mainstay Kent (“The Thrill Killers”, “Satan’s Sadists”) and the sexy Diane Webber (“Mermaids of Tiburon”, “The Witchmaker”), are fine.

Even at 77 minutes, this is pretty slow-paced, and it won’t maintain the interest of all audience members. Still, it’s not just the typical trash movie, and that’s worth noting.

Six out of 10.

Oh ….

Dont get me wrong I love Stecklers films , “Rat Fink a Boo Boo” , “Thrill Killers” , “Wild Guitar” , “Super Cool” all have a pervading feel of fun and to be corny the “joy” of just making a film. But sadly “Sinthia” is one of his lapses into the adult movie genre. He has made sine full length hardcore films which have to be the most un-erotic scenes committed to film. It seems that “Sinthia” was his practice run for the lamentable pap that was to follow a dozen years later. The girl in question is having strange dreams and see’s a lot of hackeyed hallucination sequences and people trying to look scarey with little more that painted faces and paper plates with hair. To be honest the plot didnt grab me at all and the film wanders between soft core orgy scenes (with hideous people) and running around on the beach. Its 100 % worse than his later films “The las vegas serial killer” and “The Chooper” (Blood Shack) and made me feel disappointed that from the same mind that gave me some of the original film I have ever seen came this run of the mill sort core trash. For archive value to fans of Steckler its a must , I was told for years before I saw it how bad it was and how that even I would hate it, but thats never put me off before but for once I have to say that im sorry I didnt listen to advice , but then again im glad I have seen it.