A young Anthony Hopkins plays a ventriloquist-cum-failed magician, who after initially bombing on his first performance uses 'Fats' a seemingly ordinary ventriloquists dummy in his act. Initially as a prop/sidekick, the funny man in a double act but relying on it as a 'crutch' more and more until it appears to his manager (Burgess Meredith) that he is having a nervous breakdown.
Magic, is a film that has been done before and in my opinion better.
The first was in the 1945 film Dead of Night (or at least a sequence wherein Michael Redgrave plays a demented ventriloquist who believes his dummy is alive).
The second is a classic episode of The Twilight Zone called "The Dummy" written by Rod Serling but based on an unpublished story by Lee Polk. This time the plot device is a "switcheroo". Cliff Robertson plays Jerry Etherston convinced his dummy 'Willie' is alive. At the end Willy becomes the ventriloquist (played by George Murdock) and Etherstone the dummy.
"What's known in the parlance of the times as the old switcheroo, from boss to blockhead in a few easy lessons. And if you're given to nightclubbing on occasion, check this act. It's called Willie and Jerry, and they generally are booked into some of the clubs along the 'Grey Night Way' known as the Twilight Zone"
The third is a minor Zone episode called "Caesar and Me" in which the dummy frames the ventriloquist for a robbery.
It was "The Dummy" - with one of the most chilling final shots of any TZ episode - a slow camera pan from the grinning, now human Willie to the dummy of Jerry that has remained seared into my memory.
This film is 'of it's time' - very grainy 70s film stock, bleak, sinister, spooky and occasionally terrifying. The sinister orchestral music by Jerry Goldsmith helps - but still we are left trying to decide whether Hopkins is mad or the dummy is really alive.
Frightening, eerie, mysterious - probably all of those at the time but watching now these have paled into mere suspense - the signposts are there but not quite in plain sight.
A good film, yes, almost as good as a Twilight Zone episode but not one to watch alone or in the dark and really should have ended with narration - in Rod's inimical style of course.
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