British Pathé has one of the largest collections of newsreels in the world, comprising more than 85,000 historically important films of world events and daily life in the twentieth century. And as with any major historical archive, many of their holdings feature existentially horrifying puppets, marionettes, and ventriloquist dummies. Here are the absolute worst of the absolute worst.
5: Puppet Girl (1951)
Puppeteer Rene Strange created a puppet named “Mr. Bertram,” dressed him as an elderly British bureaucrat, and then made him sexually harass her until he passed out. But whatever bizarre psychosexual drama is playing out in the “Mr. Bertram” section of Strange’s act, it is undoubtedly overshadowed by the part with “Samoa the Hula Hula Girl,” about whom the less said, the better. Five Pinocchios, our most horrifying rating ever!
4: Puppet Fashion Show (1960)
“Puppet Fashion Show (1960),” is a deeply moving valedictory look at the glories of British high society in the brief period of calm before the Profumo Affair brought the Macmillan government crashing down. How they gamboled and cavorted, these titans of industry, these giants of the arts, as if they somehow knew how fleeting their time in the sun would be! There’s also an absolutely dreadful puppet fashion show.
3: The Gornos (1931)
Neither dead nor alive, the GORNOS terrorize man and beast alike with their vile songs and lascivious dances. What sin could be so foul that God would condemn a human soul to an eternity of singing, dancing, and suffering in the crooked and malformed body of a GORNO? The very question has driven generations of theologians mad—GORNO-style!
2: Pre-Blitz Precautions (1943)
At the height of the Blitz, the British government made the bold decision to communicate Nazi air raid safety tips to the population the only way they knew how: the art of ventriloquism. More than 40,000 civilian deaths later, the ventriloquist lobby still insists that this film saved lives, arguing that most deaths since 1945 can more accurately be attributed to falling levels of government-funded ventriloquism.
1: Walter Walters (1941)
This newsreel of Walter Walters performing raises a number of intriguing questions. How does Walter Walters make his ventriloquist dummy talk while he drinks wine? How does Walter Walters make his ventriloquist dummy talk while he smokes a cigarette? And most importantly, what satanic mill forged the horrifying baby ventriloquist dummy at the end of Walter Walters’ act? What happened to the baby’s eyes, Walter Walters? WHERE ARE THE BABY’S EYES?