Director: Abner Biberman
Writer: Rod Serling
Cast: Cliff Robertson, Frank Sutton, George Murdock, John Harmon, Sandra Warner, and Ralph Manza
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 5/4/1962
Production Code: 4834
In spite of his successful nightclub act, ventriloquist Jerry Etherson (Cliff Robertson) suffers from the delusion that his dummy Willie (George Murdock) is an evil, intelligent being. Hoping to reinvent his routine, Jerry locks Willie in a trunk and employs a different dummy during his next show. Unfortunately for Jerry, Willie has a plan of his own in mind.
Highlighting horror tropes of a subtle, psychological variety, “The Dummy” earns its reputation as an iconic entry of this series. Also deserving of mention is the performance of Cliff Robertson (featured previously in “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim”), adding a strong human element to the premise of a talking, malevolent puppet.
Offering an original and unnerving twist on the demonic dummy concept, this episode will appeal to those who enjoy The Twilight Zone for its creepy, mean-spirited scenarios. Worth praising in particular is the dressing room sequence, wherein Willie—ostensibly an inanimate object—appears to move ever so slightly from one shot to the next, thereby accentuating the paranoia experienced by Jerry. Other scenes should likewise be commended for showcasing many tilted camera angles, which further emphasize Jerry’s loss of connection with reality—the most horrifying aspect of this story.
Though open to interpretation, Willie seems to embody the inner demons of Jerry—an alcoholic plagued by insecurities and hallucinations. Note, for example, that Jerry alone reacts to the taunts and insults of Willie, indicating that the main character does in fact suffer from schizophrenia as originally believed—possibly a statement on the correlation between mental illness and extraordinary talent.
“The Dummy” is a haunting, well-acted, and insightful episode of The Twilight Zone. Especially memorable is the twist ending involving Jerry and Willie, which leaves ambiguous the true relationship between both characters.
Overall Quality: 10/10
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