Director: Richard Donner
Writer: Frank Darabont
Cast: Don Rickles, Bobcat Goldthwait, John Kassir, Shelley Taylor Morgan, Symie, Steve Susskind, April Clawson, Joycee Katz, Courtney Mellinger, Jaclynne G. Jacobs, Robert Katims, and Mindy Rickles
Composer: Miles Goodman
Air Date: 6/5/1990
In this classic episode, aspiring ventriloquist Billy Goldman (Bobcat Goldthwait) seeks approval from the retired Mr. Ingles (Don Rickles), whose departure from show business following a fire incident remains a mystery after many years. Unbeknownst to Billy, Mr. Ingles is keeping a dark secret regarding his “technique,” along with the events that led to his premature retirement.
Despite borrowing much of its subject matter from “The Dummy” episode of The Twilight Zone, “The Ventriloquist’s Dummy” succeeds as a black comedy piece thanks to Don Rickles’ sinister portrayal of Mr. Ingles. Likewise, writer Frank Darabont should be commended for putting a fresh spin on a decidedly clichéd concept.
Through his excellent use of pacing, especially when alternating between somber and screwball sequences, director Richard Donner produced a seamless blend of dark humor and serious horror that will appeal to Tales from the Crypt enthusiasts. Also worth mentioning is the chemistry shared by Don Rickles and Bobcat Goldthwait, whose outrageous antics are bound to amuse the target audience of this show. It should likewise be noted that Rickles’ trademark insult humor proves to be exceptionally effective when directed at the titular dummy, whose psychotic wit and brutal delivery make him a worthy antagonist for the Mr. Ingles character.
The slapstick approach that was taken to the climactic scene will no doubt entertain fans of the horror/comedy genre. That being said, an illogical twist ending requires an inordinate level of disbelief suspension, even by Tales from the Crypt standards.
Violent and twisted though it may be, “The Ventriloquist’s Dummy” offers a positive lesson on finding one’s individual path in life instead of following exclusively in the footsteps of others. While deriving inspiration from past talents should not be discouraged altogether, Billy’s tragic fate serves as a chilling example of why distinguishing oneself from prior generations is an important step to establishing a new brand.
Though excessively silly at times, “The Ventriloquist’s Dummy” combines gruesome special effects with sidesplitting performances to make for the perfect Tales from the Crypt offering. For diehard fans of horror films with comedic elements, this one is a must.
Overall Quality: 8/10
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