I don’t think it’s typical for most horror heads to be a fan of Christmas, but this one is. And I don’t just mean gory Christmas, or movies like “Silent Night, Deadly Night” (which really is an underrated classic), but all that jolly crap that everyone else gets excited for, actually stirs a little warmth in my dead heart.
As such, my gift to you is a review of my favorite “Tales from the Crypt” episode from when I was younger. I’ve only just recently rewatched the episode, and I was a little worried it wouldn’t hold up because it co-stars Bobcat Goldthwait, and nothing of his has held up to the test of time (except maybe Police Academy). But I shouldn’t have fretted because it also stars the legendary Don Rickles, who could virtually do no wrong.
Tales from the Crypt
Season 2 Episode 10 “The Ventriloquist’s Dummy”
Directed by Richard “Mother Fuckin” Donner
Starring Don Rickles and Bobcat Goldthwait
Originally aired: June 5th 1990
Sourced from: Tales from the Crypt #28
Don Rickles stars as Mr. Ingels, a ventriloquist well known for his scathing improv where his puppet, Morty ridicules the audience. In the opening scene of the episode, we find Ingels performing at a fairly swanky club for a ventriloquist, but it goes to show the stature he has as a performer. In the audience is a young boy who’s fascinated by the performance.
After the show, the young boy, Billy, visits Mr. Ingels and receives an autograph from his new hero. Ingel’s girlfriend enters the room and wants to go out to celebrate another good show, but he’s not feeling up to it.
That night in his parent’s hotel suite, the boy vows to become the next great ventriloquist. His affluent parents shoot the idea down, but he won’t be dismayed. He stays up late practicing his ventriloquism skills, but outside a fire is roaring and the commotion draws his attention out the window where he sees the club burning down. We learn that Ingels lost his ventriloquism hand, ending his career, but also that his girlfriend was unable to escape the fire, and she perished.
Fast forward fifteen years. Billy has grown up to look suspiciously similar to Bobcat Goldthwait, and is about to have his first performance with his own puppet Timmy, but he seeks out the now retired and recluse Ingels for advice first.
Initially, Ingels refuses and seems to be arguing with Morty who he has locked in a case away in storage. He kicks Billy out, but come the time of the show, Ingels is in the back of the audience. He then watches Billy absolutely bomb his first show.
After being booed off the stage, Billy meets Ingels at the bar, where the veteran offers the only advice he has, “quit.” Billy tries to get Ingels to give him pointers, but the old man refuses, and is approached by a hooker. He refuses her advances, and Billy walks away, downtrodden.
Ready to give up on his dream, Billy throws Timmy into a dumpster behind the club, when he hears a woman scream. Rushing to the scene, he joins a small crowd gathered around a car with the hooker murdered inside. One of the spectators comments how it smells like gasoline, and Billy thinks he’s figured out Ingels.
Returning to Ingels’s cabin, Billy confronts the man, explaining that he was there that night fifteen years ago when Ingels’ girlfriend died in the fire, and realizes that Ingels was killing the women, and would burn the bodies to cover up the murder. Ingels admits that Billy is almost right, but that he wasn’t murderer, it was Morty.
Billy realizes that Ingels is crazy, and tries to reason with the elder ventriloquist. Things escalate, and the two scuffle. Billy rips off the protective bag covering Ingels’ injured stump-where-his-hand-used-to-be, revealing Morty, alive and well! Well being a relative term since he’s a psychotic, misogynistic, conjoined twin located completely at the end of another man’s wrist.
Ingels wasn’t lying when he said Morty was the killer. His brother’s force of will and dominating persona exerted influence over Ingels. Morty’s hatred of women would result in him killing any female Ingels would get close to, and Ingels would have to burn the bodies to cover his brother’s tracks.
Crazed to new levels, Morty tries to kill Billy, but Billy is able to inspire Ingels to take control of his brother, and cut him free. Literally, chopping his hand-brother off, Ash Williams style, Billy and Ingels think the ordeal is over, and Ingels can live a normal one handed life. Much to their surprise, Morty survives being severed, and proves to be a resourceful speedy little shit.
Morty succeeds in killing Ingels (RIP Mr. Rickles), and as he turns his attention to Billy, the young ventriloquist offers to make a deal with Morty. Billy will take care of Morty, making sure he’s fed and happy as long as Morty helps with Billy’s performance.
Next, we see Billy rocking an audience with an act similar to Mr. Ingels. Billy is holding Morty inside of Timmy, and the act is a real hit. Until, that is, Morty spies an attractive woman in the audience, and he turns the skit into an elaborate flirting, but Billy knows what Morty would do if he got his malformed hands on her.
Billy refuses, but Morty has other plans, and merges himself with Billy’s hand, joining the two in much the same manner as Morty was to his brother. The episode ends on that cheery note. A horrified Billy, realizing the mess he’s gotten himself into, now permanently attached to an angry and vengeful Morty.
On to the rating…
This episode right here is why Tales from the Crypt was made.
It had everything a good episode ‘Crypt’ should have. There was horror, with an intentional additional element of humor, good acting, even from Bobcat, who was perfectly cast as a terrible ventriloquist, and a twist ending worth the wait.
Don Rickles is one of the all-time great funny men, and to see him do something so off the wall was a real treat. Him doubling as the voice of Morty was just the cherry on top. Like I said about Bobcat, he was the perfect actor to play Billy, and the role called for him to pull back the use of his annoying shriek of a voice, making him more than tolerable. That was it as far as actors worth note. It was a two man show, the girlfriend, hooker, and young Billy’s parents were nothing bit parts.
The absurdity of the twist built gradually with Rickles talking to himself on and off throughout the episode up until the reveal. It worked nicely unlike so many of the other ’Crypt’ twists, which either come out of nowhere and feel absurd, or the ending is so obvious it’s clear how the episode is going to end only a few minutes in.
Overall, I was a big fan of this episode when it first aired, and am still a fan upon repeat viewings.
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