Ventriloquist Jerry Etherson is convinced that his dummy, Willie, is alive and evil. He locks Willie in a trunk and makes plans for a new act with a new dummy. Too bad he didn't clear those plans with Willie first.
Jerry Etherson has a reasonably successful nightclub act as a ventriloquist but has one major problem: he believes his dummy Willie is a sentient being who speaks to him and manipulates his life. His agent Frank thinks Jerry needs psychiatric help and tells him he has no future in the business if he doesn't do something about his delusions. Jerry decides to lock Willie in a trunk and try his act with a different dummy. Willie has plans of his own however. Written by
Influenced by a 1945 British film entitled Dead of Night (1945), in which Michael Redgrave played a ventriloquist convinced that his dummy was coming evilly to life. Further inspiration was taken from an episode of 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955)' entitled "The Glass Eye", in which Jessica Tandy plays a woman who falls for a handsome ventriloquist (played by Billy Barty), only to find that the ventriloquist is in fact the dummy, while the hideous dummy is the actual ventriloquist. Also, R.L. Stine wrote a book titled Night of the Living Dummy, which got 4 sequels also featuring the same dummy but with new owners, in which a girl named Lindy finds an old dummy named Slappy with a slip of paper in his pocket with strange words (Karru, Marri, Odonna, Loma, Molonu, Karrano) which, upon being read out loud, bring the dummy to life hell-bent on making Lindy and her sister his slaves. See more »
What's known in the parlance of the times as the old switcheroo, from boss to blockhead in a few uneasy lessons. And if you're given to nightclubbing on occasion, check this act. It's called Willy and Jerry, and they generally are booked into some of the clubs along the 'Gray Night Way' - known as The Twilight Zone.
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I have no criticism to make of Cliff Robertson in the lead role as ventriloquist, Jerry Etheredge. He gives a good performance as a seemingly likable man whose peculiar and insecure nature becomes increasingly visible. However, as the night club owner says about this kind of act 'you've seen one, you've seen them all'. The same pretty much goes for predictable ventriloquist stories like this (although 'The Glass Eye' in 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' was fairly different).
My problem is that the sentient dummy idea is mad and silly, creepy but uninteresting, as well as being predated by the film 'Dead of Night'. I prefer the segment 'Ventriloquist' in that movie to this TZ, but I prefer the Zone's 'Twenty Two' to the same storyline as 'The Hearse' within 'Dead Of Night'.
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