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Knock on Wood

(1954 c 103')

En: 6 Ed: 5

Spies use the dummies of a ventriloquist to transport secret documents, and murders follow while the ventriloquist falls in love with his psychiatrist.

         NATO leaders confer in Paris while two spy rings plot. At a nightclub ventriloquist Jerry Morgan (Danny Kaye) performs and says he fell in love; but his dummy Clarence makes so many critical comments that Audrey Greene gives up and walks out. Jerry throws his dummy down, and Marty Brown (David Burns) suggests that he see a psychiatrist. Jerry asks Maurice Papinek (Abner Biberman) to repair his dummy, and Papinek uses the two dummies to smuggle the secret plans for the Lafayette airplane. Papinek calls Dr. Kreuger in Zurich about the package and then collapses. Jerry and Marty take a plane to Switzerland, and Jerry bumps into Dr. Ilse Nordstrom (Mai Zetterling). Godfrey Langstrom (Torin Thatcher) is introduced to Jerry and says he admires his act.

         At the hotel Jerry does not want to be in the same room with Marty who snores, and Godfrey helps them get separate rooms. Jerry tells Marty he is not crazy, though he is peculiar. Jerry walks in his sleep and gets into the bed next to Ilse. They wake up, and she tells him to get out of her room. He puts on her slippers and leaves. Marty tells Jerry to take a shower, and he goes into the women’s shower while Ilse is there. Laslo Gromeck (Leon Askin) contacts Jerry and mentions Papinek. Gromeck finds a paper in Jerry’s dummy. Jerry with a dummy goes to Dr. Kreuger (Steven Geray), who advises him to see Dr. Nordstrom. She gives Jerry an injection, and he falls asleep. Dr. Kreuger hypnotizes him, and Jerry speaks as a child about his fighting parents. He recalls Papa Morgan (Danny Kaye) singing “Knock on Wood” and dancing with Mama Morgan (Patricia Denise). Ilse wakes up Jerry and will treat him.

         Jerry and Ilse ride on Godfrey’s plane to London. Godfrey sees in a newspaper that Jerry has two dummies. Jerry asks Ilse personal questions, and she says she became an analyst. He keeps talking about her, and she says he needs a competent male analyst; but he says he wants her. She tells him to go. Jerry studies a book by Freud, and he tells Ilse that she has a guilt complex because her boyfriend died. He follows her around London. Jerry asks Ilse to dance and sings “All About You” as they dance.

         Brodnik (Otto Waldis) asks Godfrey for the other half of the blueprint, and he says he will get it from the other dummy. Jerry kisses Ilse and asks if he can see her as a patient in the morning. Papinek with a gun orders Gromeck to get the other blueprint. A spy is searching Jerry’s room. Gromeck comes in the window and throws a knife into him. Gromeck hides as Jerry comes in. Marty calls, and Jerry says he is in love. Jerry goes out to see Marty, and Gromeck searches the dummies. Another spy comes in and asks Gromeck where their blueprint is. Gromeck calls Papinek. The spy makes Gromeck go in a closet. Jerry comes back and finds the dead body. He calls for the police. When they arrive, he has the knife in his hand and apears threatening. He opens another door, and dead Gromeck falls out. Jerry runs away and is chased by police. Jerry joins an Irish celebration and sings about Monaghan. He drinks whiskey and passes out, and they take him to his room.

         Jerry wakes up and calls Ilse to come over. His brunch is brought in with a newspaper with his picture. He opens a closet, and dead Papinek falls out. Jerry sees police arriving and hides in a clothing truck. He runs from police and looks at sportscars and finally gets one started. He drives to Godfrey’s house and tries to hide inside. Godfrey tells Brodnik that he now has the complete plans for the Lafayette plane. They find Jerry under the desk, and Godfrey tells them to dispose of Jerry. He uses his ventriloquism to imitate a policeman’s voice and escapes in the car. In London he leaves the car and goes into a theater to find Audrey. Jerry tells her they are going to blow up the world, and they must stop a flight to Istanbul. He dresses as a dancer and goes on stage, improvising while he is chased. Finally he lets police take him so that he won’t be shot. He explains who killed who and says Godfrey is a traitor. Godfrey mentions the Lafayette papers and is arrested. Dr. Kreuger gives Jerry a drink, and he falls asleep.

         In the final scene Jerry and Ilse leave their wedding in the sportscar.

         This farce satirizes psychoanalysis and cold war spying while having fun with absurd murders and chase sequences. The dummy is an outlet for subconscious hostility and ends up being a vehicle in the deadly superpower rivalry.

Copyright © 2009 by Sanderson Beck

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