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Case Number 26731: Small Claims Court

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Knock on Wood (1954) (Blu-ray)

Olive Films // 1954 // 103 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // December 26th, 2013

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge Tom Becker wrote this review out of both sides of his mouth.

The Charge

The number one song-and-dance clown at his best!

The Case

Ventriloquist Jerry Morgan (Danny Kaye, White Christmas) has a successful act with his dummies, Clarence and Terrence. Unfortunately, Jerry's love life isn't on par with his career. It seems every time he meets a woman and starts to get serious, his dummies rip her to shreds—during the act! Naturally, the lady loves marches off in a fury, leaving Jerry alone with his dummies—and angry enough that he smashes them.

Since Jerry is touring Europe, his manager arranges for him to have a session with a psychiatrist in Switzerland. First, he has to have the dummies repaired. As it turns out, the dummy repairman is part of a spy ring that is trying to smuggle secret plans out of the country—so the repairman puts the plans in the heads of Jerry's dummies! This, naturally, sets the stage for all kinds of confusion as competing spies try to figure out where the secret plans are and how Jerry is involved in all this.

Of course, a beautiful young woman (Mai Zetterling, The Witches) figures into all this, as well—perhaps the one woman Jerry's dummies won't insult out of his life?

Old-time ham and cheese, Knock on Wood is the kind of vehicle that was created for movie comics to keep people from staying home and watching TV comics. Big, bright, and colorful, with a few musical numbers thrown in for no good reason but all good measure, Knock on Wood features an overly complicated and completely disposable plot that's little more than a series of placeholders on which Kaye can hang his shtick.

And for those who enjoy Kaye's shtick—and in the '40s and '50s, there were many, many people who enjoyed Kaye's shtick—Knock on Wood is terrific entertainment. Kaye was a talented, versatile, ingratiating performer, and if he's not as well remembered as, say, Bob Hope or Bing Crosby, he was very popular in his day.

The plot ultimately puts Jerry in the position of "Wrong Man," with the various spy agencies and pretty much everyone else trying to track him down for a crime he didn't commit. This opens the door for the various musical numbers, which give Kaye the opportunity to showcase his strengths. He was a master of patter, performing lyrically complex songs seemingly effortlessly, and a fine physical comedian as well. While the film overall is a pretty forgettable affair, it's certainly a good representation of Kaye's work.

I've seen some really good discs from Olive, including Johnny Guitar, which looked great in high def. Unfortunately, Knock on Wood (Blu-ray) is nothing to rave about. The image is generally soft and contains a good amount of scratches, nicks, and bits of damage; the colors seem true enough, but they don't really pop the way you'd expect them to in a film like this. The DTS Mono track does the trick, but like the video, that's pretty much all it does. There are no supplements.

The Verdict

Fans of fluffy '50s comedy will likely enjoy this, and fans of Danny Kaye will love it. Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 75

Perp Profile

Studio: Olive Films
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
Audio Formats:
• DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio (English)
• None
Running Time: 103 Minutes
Release Year: 1954
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Blu-ray
• Classic
• Comedy
• Concerts and Musicals
• Espionage

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• IMDb

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