Plot: Loosely based on the life of Edgar Bergen, this one's about The Great Vorelli, a stage hypnotist and ventriloquist with a dummy capable of leaving the lap and walking around before saying one-liners like "Who are you calling a dummy, dummy?" or "Morning wood? It's morning, afternoon, and night wood for Hugo!" Vorelli spots a chance to inherit a fortune and hypnotizes the lovely and wealthy Marianne Horn. Marianne's boyfriend Mark doesn't approve.
Any time Hugo is on screen, this reminded me of The Twilight Zone (in a good way) and was effectively spooky. Whether Hugo's in his cage, "performing," or walking around on his own, he has this ability, like all ventriloquist wooden men probably, to make you a bit uneasy. The problem is that The Twilight Zone is about twenty minutes long while this thing was movie-sized, stretching the plot mighty thin. Bryant Haliday--an actor with only six, mostly B-pictures on his resume (How did I miss The Projected Man during my infamous "man" streak?)--does everything he can with a pretty lousy script and is really pretty good. He's at least good enough to have a career longer than six movies. I liked the scenes with Vorelli on stage, mostly because they seemed nowhere near natural. It seems like a lot of the extras should have walked out during the weird hypnosis stuff--making people think they're being executed or getting women to dance. If not, the stuff with the dummy would have cleared the house. A walking ventriloquist dummy, although a novelty, wouldn't necessarily be entertaining, would it? And the interaction between Hugo and Vorelli was so intense, the latter barking these orders with an odd threatening edge in his voice. This movie really isn't very good, mostly because of a weak story and poor writing, and it's not bad enough to be funny. In fact, it's the type of movie you'd forget about completely if not for the image of Hugo walking around on his own with that goofy smile on his face. It's not the worst way to spend eighty minutes though. Here's Hugo: