I have written before about my love for The Twilight Zone series. Produced during a time when television production studios did not have the resources for elaborate special effects, these stories had to rely on the strength of the writing and compelling performances from the actors to hold the attention of their audiences. I find that many of these episodes hold up well over half a century after they first aired on televisions across the world. Not all of these episodes were strictly horror but the series had more than its share of creepy stories. One of my favorite episodes of The Twilight Zone is called Living Doll and it also happens to be one of the scarier stories thanks to a great performance from late actor Telly Savalas.
This episode is over fifty-six years old. Expect spoilers.
The episode begins with a mother named Annabelle who had just purchased a new talking doll for her daughter, Christie. Annabelle urges her daughter to run upstairs with her new doll before her step-father can see it and we can quickly see that this woman suffers an abusive relationship with her new husband, Erich. It seems that Erich is infertile and resents Annabelle’s young daughter since he cannot have children of his own. It is kind of amusing that an episode about a living doll has a character named Annabelle.
The doll’s name is Talky Tina and its portrayal in this episode is based on a real world toy that was popular at the time called Chatty Cathy. In a nice touch, the same actress who lent her voice to Chatty Cathy takes on the role of Talky Tina. Her name was June Foray and she was a big deal at the time. If the name doesn’t sound familiar you have probably heard her voice in works like The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, Looney Toons and DuckTales.
The doll normally moves around a bit and says sweet things like how much she loves the little girl but when Erich (Telly Savalas) berates his wife for buying such an expensive toy, he picks the doll up and she has a very different message for him. “My name is Talky Tina and I think I could even hate you.”
Talky Tina only seems to say things like that when she is alone with Erich and he at first suspects that Annabelle is somehow playing a trick on him as a means of revenge for how he treats Christie. Over time Erich begins to wonder if the doll is even talking or if he is maybe going crazy. It is a riveting scene thanks to Telly’s strong performance.
After attempting to hide the doll from Christie to no avail, Erich ultimately decides to try to destroy Talky Tina. It is kind of amazing to watch as he sticks her head in a vise only for her to say she can take whatever he dishes out. He then tries to light her on fire and even attempts to cut off her head with a table saw but nothing will work.
In the end though, Talky Tina gets her way. Hearing noises in the middle of the night, Erich gets out of bed to investigate. As he makes his down the staircase he trips over Talky Tina and falls down the stairs. As a final touch, the last thing he sees is Talky Tina as she lands next to him. And right when you are trying to decide if the doll is really alive, she warns Annabelle (who came downstairs to find her dead husband on the floor) that she better be nice to her.
If you want to watch Living Doll, it is available on Amazon Prime Video along with most of the other Twilight Zone episodes. It is also widely available on many video services and still gets broadcasted late at night so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding them.