Knock on Wood (1954) Danny Kaye, Mai Zetterling, Torin Thatcher, David Burns, Leon Askin Movie Review

Knock on Wood (1954)   3/53/53/53/53/5


Danny Kaye in Knock on Wood (1954)

The Dummy Who Knew too Much

Ventriloquist Jerry Morgan (Danny Kaye) is a nice guy who has no trouble in finding a woman, his trouble is keeping them as when ever things get serious his commitment issues come out with the aid of his dolls. After the latest romantic disaster Jerry smashes his two dolls which means his doll maker Maurice Papinek (Abner Biberman) has some work to do. What Jerry doesn't know is that Papinek is part of a spy ring who has hidden stolen secret plans to the top secret Lafayette airplane in the heads of his dolls as Jerry is flying out of Zurich. But it isn't just the spy ring which Papinek is involved in which starts following Jerry as another group of spies who want the plans also start following him. And to make matters all the more complicated the police suspect Jerry of murder.

As someone who has enjoyed many of Danny Kaye's movies I find myself surprised to be saying that "Knock on Wood" ended up strangely disappointing me although not to the point that I would say it was a bad movie. The trouble is that the storyline which sees Jerry Morgan becoming the unknowing attention of various spy organizations as well as the police ends up weak with it being little more than a vehicle to show case the extended talents of Danny Kaye. Even the set up of Jerry being a neurotic ventriloquist with issues which cause him relationship problems again seems little more than another idea for Kaye to show case those talents of his whilst of course giving his a love interest.

The trouble is that whilst Danny Kaye was an extraordinary talent when you get one scene after another of him being funny or delivering a bit of song & dance it ends up becoming too much. Watching this made me realise that Kaye was always best when he had some one equally as talented alongside him or there was another character to really share the screen with and to stop it from becoming too reliant on Danny Kaye to make it all work. Unfortunately Kaye doesn't have that in "Knock on Wood" and even the pleasant Mai Zetterling can't prevent this from feeling like 103 minutes which is overly reliant of Danny Kaye to entertain. Having said that there are some brilliantly funny scenes in "Knock on Wood" with even a simple gag involving a safety belt on a plane having great comic effect.

What this all boils down to is that "Knock on Wood" isn't a bad movie but it is one which because due to a lack of a strong second character ends up feeling like a vehicle for Danny Kaye and his wide ranging talents which in turns makes it feel a bit like an onslaught.


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