Hello dummies, Cryptkeeper Bubbawheat here to introduce you to yet another one of our 31 Days of Tales From the Crypt, day 16 to be exact. Don’t worry about my introduction, it wasn’t meant to offend, but it ties into the episode that we are looking at today, specifically the Ventriloquist’s Dummy which was one of my favorite episodes from season 2. But I’m not the one discussing today’s episode, oh no. Instead we have Nick Rehak from our good friends over at French Toast Sunday where Nick can be found talking about Muppets and making jokes on their weekly podcast. You can also check out his stand up comedy album over at his Bandcamp page. Take it away Dummy, I mean Ventriloquist’s Dummy!
I can remember being really young and seeing re-runs of Tales From The Crypt. Now, when I say re-runs, I actually mean seeing the Cryptkeeper’s face and being scared into changing the channel. Sometimes the fear was so intense I would run into another room and have my mother to change the channel for me. So it’s safe to say, The Ventriloquist’s Dummy is the first episode of the series I’ve ever seen. Why this episode? Simple. It stars Don Rickles and Bobcat Goldthwait. And Frank Darabont wrote it. And Richard Donner directed it. WHAT! That type of combination would never happen again. Ever. So I knew I had to watch it.
The Ventriloquists Dummy is about Billy Goldman (Bobcat Goldthwait) an aspiring ventriloquist who tracks down his life long hero Mr. Ingles (Don Rickles) Billy is looking for advice and tips on how to better his act and become as great a performer as Mr. Ingles. Of course, things don’t pan out that way and Billy discovers a deep dark secret about his hero. Seeing comedic actors in dramatic and darker roles has always been intriguing to me. I love Don Rickles. Every so often, I’ll spend HOURS going through old YouTube clips of him on the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts. So to see him bring some of his comedy to this roll, but also take a bit of a dramatic turn as a tragic figure (of sorts) was really nice to see. As bizarre and odd as this film gets (especially the “twist” towards the end) Rickles really sells it. Goldthwait is solid too, but he’s playing that loveable loser type that we’ve seen from him before. Their lack of chemistry adds to each characters arc and makes up for the lack of depth.
The episode isn’t scary as much as it’s hokey and jokey. There are PUNS and vaudevillian jokes galore and that’s right up my alley. This is the part of the review where I maybe recite a joke or two or recall a particularly funny scene. I can’t in good conscious do that. Reading a joke versus SEEING the joke and or hearing the delivery are two different things. I don’t want to take that joy away from you, potential viewer.
It looks like it was shot in the 90s and sounds like it was shot in the 90s, but it almost feels timeless. I think that’s because the effects work holds up and Rickles is just that good. The fact that it was directed by Richard Donner doesn’t really matter. Maybe this was early into his career where we don’t see any of his flourishes or technique. Or maybe there is a definitive director’s cut of this episode somewhere. Maybe. I will say I was surprised at the amount of profanity. (Darabont really crammed it in here) I can remember this show being rerun on Sci-Fi so it made me wonder how they got away with all of the f-bombs. Then I did some Wikipedia-ing and found the show originally aired on HBO. Makes sense now. This episode has piqued my interest in the series and since it’s readily available on YouTube I think I’ll be diving deeper into the crypt.