Very disappointing Ventriloquist thriller, considering the talent involved
John Cassavetes and his long-time crony (producer and editor) Maurice McAndree earn a Bronx Cheer with this lousy episode of Cass's beloved stab at a TV series "Johnny Staccato". Watching clunkers like this some 50 plus years after originally enjoying them as a youngster deflates my fond, pre-puberty memories of the program.
McAndree plays a lounge act ventriloquist who's going crazy, and I expected some quality thrills on the order of the greatest films in this tiny horror genre: Bryant Haliday in "Devil Doll" (a cult classic that redeems director Lindsay Shonteff's otherwise hack career) and Michael Redgrave in the never-equalled Cavalcanti-directed segment of "Dead of Night"
Now a true Pantheon director John Brahm helmed this episode, so what went wrong? Besides classic movies like "The Lodger", "Hanover Square", "Guest in the House" and "The Locket", Brahm also worked on great TV suspense shows ranging from "Thriller", "The Outer Limits" and "The Twilight Zone" to "Alfred Hitchcock Presents", yet he came a cropper this time.
McAndree's performance is poor, in a role that called for some great character actor, perhaps even an eccentric like Timothy Carey (no, that would be over the top). There is no horror or fantasy content, merely reflecting that this script should have been rejected for a realistic show like John's tale of a jazz artist/detective, better suited for a horror rewrite and submission to "Thriller" or one of the other TV fantasies. The ending is terrible, and I was particularly annoyed at the callous treatment of the female dummy in Maurice's act, which is named after his wife, hint, hint.
Making Maurice & Miriam such a crummy act is laziness in conception at its extreme, and I sensed a tangible undercurrent of Cassavetes' resentment at mainstream "show biz", as this multi-talented innovator (who almost single-handedly created or at least honed what became the lucrative if disappointing modern cottage industry called "Indie Film") can't hide his impatience at working on material way beneath him in order to finance his personal projects (he & Maurice had already released the classic "Shadows" by the time this episode aired).
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