Corkey Withers (Anthony Hopkins) has a lukewarm magic act that fails to attract attention until he morphs into a ventriloquist. Soon Corkey and his dummy, Fats, are living la vida loca. Corkey’s dreams are coming to life but so is Fats and Corkey seems helpless to shut out his sinister voice.
(Spoiler Alert: Read at Your Own Risk!)
When Corkey’s manager, Ben Greene (Burgess Meredith) expresses concern about Corkey’s mental health, Corkey ignores him and disappears for some R&R to the country getaway owned by his high school crush Peggy Ann (Ann Margret) and her husband, Duke (Ed Lauter). Corkey’s feelings, which haven’t faded, grow ardent. He confesses to Peggy Ann. Peggy Ann, in an admittedly unhappy marriage, starts falling for the old flame’s charm (she’s very amused by the creepy Fats). They reminisce and soon they are discussing running off together. As Corkey begins to display rage and erratic behavior, she goes with the flow. Seems Duke has his own issues with anger, so she might be accustomed to the behavior but as you watch, you want to yell at the TV for her to see the signs that this won’t end well. Instead, she uses phrases like “You bastard!” in a joking manner that are oddly amusing. Fats and Corkey are on a collision course with insanity and the climactic ending heightens to an almost unbearably suspenseful ending.
The acting is A+. The cover alone on this classic creeper is enough to make you shudder. Fats head is the same size or a bit larger than Corkey’s and as the movie progresses and Fats grows more forceful, I noticed it more. Adapted from the novel by William Goldman, the story does a good job depicting mental illness. Watch it alone, late at night in a dark room.
Director: Richard Attenborough
Run time: 106 minutes