“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.
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