Failing magician Charles “Corky” Withers (Anthony Hopkins) suddenly hits the big time as a ventriloquist with a vulgar but outrageously funny dummy called Fats. The relationship between Corky and Fats is complex and deeply psychological, to say the least.
Corky’s agent, Ben “Gangrene” Greene (Burgess Meredith) is concerned about Corky, and when Corky refuses to take a medical exam and disappears into the hills of upstate New York to rent a secluded lakeside cabin – which happens to be owned by his high school sweetheart, Peggy Ann (Ann-Margret) – Greene follows him.
It transpires that Corky is not, in fact, controlling his ventriloquist dummy. Fats is the one calling the shots and using the helpless Corky as the “dummy”, forcing him to murder his agent and dump his body in the lake.
Corky and Peggy Ann become romantically involved, despite the presence of her neglectful drunken husband, Duke (Ed Lauter). But when Corky begins thinking about spending the rest of his life with her, Fats is not impressed . . .
Hopkins is superb as the schizophrenic and murderous Corky Withers. He’s also a pretty convincing ventriloquist (he spent three months learning the skill for the film).
Charles “Corky” Withers/Fats (voice)
Ben “Gangrene” Greene
Peggy Ann Snow
David Ogden Stiers