Dummy (1979)

Dummy (1979)
 
 

In Search of a Fair Trial

LeVar Burton in Dummy (1979)

When a prostitute is found stabbed to death in alley the police investigation leads them to Donald Lang (LeVar Burton) who had been seen leaving a bar with the prostitute the night before. But after the police track Lang down to his job as a loader and taken him in for questioning they are stumped when they discover he is a deaf mute, unable to read or write, lip read or use sign language. Still wanting to arrest and charge Lang with the murder Lang is assigned a lawyer in the shape of Lowell Myers (Paul Sorvino) who lost his hearing as a young child and seeks to get fair treatment for Lang.

"Dummy" sounds like a typical made for TV movie, yet another one based on a true story of someone arrested for a crime and facing jail if it wasn't for their lawyer. But whilst there is this typical side to the movie it is also a lot more because it is also about how Donald Lang ended up a grown man who had no way of communicating with others despite being bright. As such after the set up is in place with Myers taking the case and setting about getting to understand his client we get his back story taking us from his childhood through to finding work. There is plenty more back story as we get a look into the neighbourhood he lived in and how despite his disabilities did okay for himself.

Paul Sorvino in Dummy (1979)

Alongside this we also get to see how the legal system was not set up to cope with someone like Lang with his limited ability to communicate and if it wasn't for Myers would have probably been sentenced for the murder but not comprehending what was going on. This side does lead in to the more typical side on the story as we see Myers investigating, putting himself in danger and so on as he looks to clear Lang's name but the movie is never really about guilt or not which you will understand once you finish watching the movie or research the real story.

But whilst all this makes "Dummy" a fascinating look at the story of Donald Lang it lacks something that sense of power which really makes the story come to life. But despite this it has the actors with Paul Sorvino doing a good job of bringing to the screen the mannerisms and speech pattern of someone who is death whilst Brian Dennehy brings warmth and compassion as Lang's boss down at the loading bay. Plus of course there is LeVar Burton who brings the simplicity to the character but to in an insulting way but more in a good kid who was just happy to do what he knew, to follow his routine.

What this all boils down to is that "Dummy" is still an interesting movie and a well acted one but unfortunately despite the nature of the true story lacks the punch to make it come to life in an exciting manner.

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