Friday, January 05, 2018

The Devil-Doll, or Doobie-Doobie-Doo

When I was growing up, late winter afternoons – in the time between coming in red-cheeked and snot-nosed from skating or sledding, and supper on the table – were devoted to watching wretched old black & white movies on Boston Movietime, on at 4 p.m. on WBZ Channel 4, and which must have had a budget of about seven bucks a day to spend renting movies.

I don’t remember ever seeing anything good. No classics. No Casablanca. No It Happened One Night. No Busby Berkeley. I saw these and other films when I was in college at retro art theaters, on campus, at the Museum of Fine Arts. The MFA ran regular old films. I remember seeing Bringing Up Baby there.

Boston Movietime fare ran to WWII B-reels like Purple Heart, and another movie in which an anti-Nazi “enemy of the people” is pressed into acting as a body double for Hitler. The upshot of the movie was that this poor fellow’s dissident wife ends up killing her husband, thinking she’s assassinating Hitler.

Then there were the bad westerns. And one that I remember quite vividly, a flick summarized on IMDB thusly: An escaped convict uses miniaturized humans to wreak vengeance on those that framed him.

I remembered the title of this film as The Attack of the Puppet People, but that was a bad 1950’s movie. The real name of the bad 1936 movie was The Devil-Doll.

The Devil Doll factors in Rogers family lore because, when we were watching it, we (the older kids) convinced my questioning brother Rick – then all of 3 or 4 years old – that yes, indeed, miniaturized humans, bearing miniature poison-tipped knives, could be sold door to door by bad men disguised as old women, wearing shawls and carrying baskets full miniaturized humans bent on murder. When Rick asked my mother whether this was for real, she told him that it was nonsense.

We (the older kids) one-upped her by hollering into my mother “He’s old enough to know.”

And there was my poor brother, indignantly crying to my mother, “I’m old enough to know! I’m old enough to know!”

I thought of the wonderfully awful movie The Devil-Doll the other day when reading an article in The New York Times about Doob-3D, a company that makes miniaturized stuff, including mini-mes that you can place on your shelf. Non-devil dolls, as it were.

For $95 for a tiny figurine (4” high), up to $695 for a 14” tall doll, you can have something that one user called “creepily accurate.”

Doob, which was founded five years ago and whose headquarters are in Düsseldorf, Germany, is betting big that people want to see themselves made small: smiling alone; hugging their spouses in an eerily perfected version of the old wedding-cake topper; astride a Harley-Davidson, tattooed arms naked to the wind. Whether you consider them cute or creepy, they are perhaps the most currently relatable example of the much buzzed-about, yet perplexing, 3-D printing. (Source: NY Times)

I’m not surprised that this comes out of Germany, as the creepily inaccurate movie The Devil Doll, while set in Paris, really seemed to be set in some Central Europa country, eerily foreboding what was to come in a few years. 

Anyway, there’s no Doob outlet in Boston (yet), but there are two in NYC (Soho and Upper East Side). But I wouldn’t be lining up to get a miniaturized version of myself. If I want to see something “creepily accurate,” I can look in the mirror, thanks.

But lots of folks are not quite so reticent. They’re displaying them in home and office, and using them as props for their Instas. (As The Times has it, a “fitting advance the self-referential digital culture from which doobs sprung.”)

There’s so much good that people are doing with 3-D technology. Why bother with narcissistic, “self-referential” crap like doobs? This is the stuff that nightmares – and bad movies  - are made of, even if the doobs are not actually human, and will not come bearing poison-tipped knives. 

But somewhere a three year old will see a doob and ask an older sib whether it’s real. That older sib will tell them that, of course it is. And after mother explains 3-D technology to her little one, and explains that the doob is really not real, the older sib will start chanting “he’s old enough to know.”


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