Another Night Gallery voodoo tale, much better than “Lagoda’s Heads,” not nearly as good as “The Doll,” “The Doll of Death” lies squarely in the middle and is reviewed here.
Season 3 Episode 14—aired 5/20/73
“The Doll of Death” ***
Teleplay by Jack Guss • Story by Vivian Meik
Directed by John Badham
Susan Strasberg as Sheila Trent
Alejandro Rey as Raphael
Murray Matheson as Dr. Strang
Barry Atwater as Alec Brandon
Jean Durand as Andrew
Henry Brandon as Vereker
Late-middle-aged Brit Alec Brandon (Barry Atwater) is about to tie the knot with younger trophy wife Sheila Trent (Susan Strasberg) in a lavish ceremony at the plantation he owns in the British West Indies. As his well-to-do guests are milling about before the nuptials are about to begin, in rides upon a horse a swarthy, mustachioed young man with a sexy Spanish accent who literally sweeps his bride-to-be off her feet.
The man is Raphael (Alejandro Rey), a former lover of Sheila’s, and Brandon will not stand idly by after this extraordinarily humiliating episode. Via his West Indian valet, Andrew (Jean Durand), Brandon arranges to procure a doll from a local voodoo priest to exact his revenge upon Raphael.
Blissfully ignorant of her ex-fiancee’s plans, Sheila takes up with Raphael on his boat where they spend some romantic, and suggestively carnal, time on and below deck. Their bliss is violently interrupted when Raphael convulses in spasms of pain and then shows red marks on his back, in the distinctive shape of hands. Sheila strongly suspects that this is the work of her ex.
She enlists the aid of Brandon’s physician friend Dr. Strang (Murray Matheson). Sporting a fabulously floppy grey hairstyle, Strang pays a house (boat) call and examines Raphael. His examination comes up empty and as a friend of Brandon’s, he vouches for the elder gent’s character and refuses to believe he had anything to do with what has mysteriously stricken Sheila’s young lover.
Fearful for Raphael’s life, Sheila sneaks into the plantation’s servants’ quarters and seeks out Andrew, whom she finds near death as he has been poisoned by Brandon when the owner discovered Andrew’s attempts to thwart his boss’s voodoo efforts. Andrew gives her a ring of Brandon’s, which, if placed on the doll, will break the spell—and likely spell doom for Brandon.
As she descends the stairs, she is confronted by Brandon. He sees through her attempts at a cover story and offers her one final chance to embrace the doll (and embrace Raphael) before he finishes off his rival.
Brandon raises the doll and smashes its head down on a table, and he immediately suffers an agonizing pain, which is in fact a mortal blow, and he crumples onto the floor. Sheila had surreptitiously placed the ring on the doll and when we see him lie dead on the floor next to it, we see the ring on the doll’s finger.
I realize writing this that it sounds sillier than a three-star episode and perhaps for some it is, but I enjoyed it. Susan Strasberg is not an actress who normally would come to mind for a sensual role such as this, but I found her fairly captivating. The story is also well-directed by series pro John Badham in his final outing before going on to bigger and better things such as War Games in 1983.