Sir Anthony Hopkins is an amazing actor. He’s the guy who adds class to just about everything he is in. Now if you agree with that statement let me ask you this: Do you think he can add class to a story about a failed magician that takes up a ventriloquist dummy act, goes insane and kills folks? It’s a strange tale and it’s funny how it’s NEVER talked about considering the cast and the talent behind it.
Made in 1978 it was written by William Goldman, whom many of you will remember as the guy that wrote “The Princess Bride”. Directed by Richard Attenborough, or John Hammond in “Jurassic Park” to most of you, and staring such talent as Anthony Hopkins, Ann-Margret, and Burgess Meredith it really is a the makings of a good movie. It is in fact so-so, mostly because of a mediocre ending. I hoped for so much more.
The movie starts with young Tony Hopkins as Charles “Corky” Withers coming back to his mentor after his first performance of a live magic act. He recalls how the audience didn’t pay much attention to him so he snapped and started yelling at them. With the right agent that could be his shtick. Corky the bi-polar magician. So his mentor tells him to buck up and get a better gimmick.
A year passes Corky is back to doing magic but now he’s got a foul mouthed ventriloquist dummy with him named Fats. The audience loves him. His agent, Ben Greene, played by Burgess Meredith, wants to sign him up for a television show. Fats has been talking to him offstage constantly so something is amiss at this point. Corky knows it too. So he high tails it to the Catskills Mountains where he tells folks he is hiding because he is afraid of fame.
In reality though we find that it is because the producers of the show will require him to take a psychological test when he signs and Corky knows that they will see he has multiple personality disorder. So he is hiding. It’s one way to cope I suppose even though Fats is still talking to him the whole trip. Corky stays at the place run by his high school crush Peggy Ann Snow who is in a crappy marriage with a big palooka named Duke that used to be friends to Corky in High School. Luckily he is away for a while.
He does a card trick that somehow convinces her they are soulmates. So he gets in her pants which creates jealously between Fats the dummy. Corky’s agent, Greene has found out where he was staying. They talk about his mental condition and in what sounds like a reasonable request Greene asks Corky to make Fats shut up for five minutes. If he can he’ll be convinced he doesn’t need help. Corky is aching for that dummy like a junkie. He cannot even last the full five minutes. So Greene demands Corky find help.
Fats convinces Corky to kill Greene though. So he bashes his head with the dummy’s wooden head then takes Greene into the lake to dispose of the body. But Greene struggles when it turns out he is still alive and Corky is forced to drown him. Fats is becoming even more possessive and demanding now. He doesn’t take it well when Corky says he is going to leave him behind to run away with Peggy.
Duke has come back from a trip and is suspicious of Corky. He takes him for a canoe ride to talk about his marital problems and spots the agents body. Duke thinks it might still be alive so he tells Corky to go find help. Like a dingus he goes into Corky’s cabin to look around. There he gets stabbed by Fats/ Corky. Corky is really losing it now. So he decides he is going to try to convince Peggy to leave with him now.
She tells him she won’t leave her husband until she can tell him face-to-face. This puts a monkey wrench in Corkey’s plan. Fats decides to tell her that the card trick that Corky did that made it look like they were soul mates is just a ruse to get women in the sack. Corky’s done it to loads of women. Peggy gets disgusted and goes to her bedroom and locks the door.
Now pissed off at the little wooden bastard, Corky and Fats discuss their relationship. Fats declares he is making all the decisions from now on. He then tells Corky to kill Peggy. Fats is heard at the door of Peggy trying to get her to open it. Soon we see Corky returning to Fats with a bloodstained knife. Fats is pleased until he discovers it’s bloody because Corky committed suicide to prevent anymore deaths. Fat’s wonders which one of them is going to dies first.
A few minutes later we hear Peggy coming down to the cabin saying she changed he mind and she will go away with him after all. Fade to black. Low kill count for a horror flick. But if you like talent you will dig this one. Plus if you are one of those people that finds ventriloquist dummies creepy it’s got a good creep factor without being too over the top by having something stupid like a living doll like “Child’s Play.”