“I don’t know what’s wrong, Marty; the words keep coming out — I can’t seem to control them anymore.
When a ventriloquist (Danny Kaye) subconsciously sabotages his most recent relationship via his dummy, he seeks treatment from a beautiful psychotherapist (Mai Zetterling) and falls in love with her; meanwhile, he’s pursued by members of competing spy rings seeking weapon blueprints hidden in his two newest dummies.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Danny Kaye Films
- Puppets and Ventriloquism
In his review of Danny Kaye’s The Inspector General (1949), Peary acknowledges that “most Kaye vehicles [have] dated badly” — and this innocuous Cold War comedic thriller is no exception. Likely inspired by the “Ventriloquist’s Dummy” segment in Dead of Night (1946) (and/or Erich von Stroheim’s earlier The Great Gabbo, 1926), Knock on Wood capitalizes on the inherently creepy notion of a ventriloquist’s dummy “turning” on him; unfortunately, the opening sequence — in which Kaye’s dummy spews vitriolic statements about Kaye’s fiancee waiting in the wings — is so unpleasant and decidedly unfunny that is gets the film off to a rocky non-comedic start.
From there, we’re subjected to two equally dull storylines, as Kaye romances his beautiful new psychotherapist (who has psychological hangups of her own, naturally):
… and rival spy rings go after high-profile blueprints located in the heads of Kaye’s new dummies. Fortunately, there are a few sequences in the second half of the film in which Kaye finally gets to strut his comedic chops, but they’re not nearly enough to recommend the film as a whole.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
No; this one is strictly for Danny Kaye fans