Charles "Corky" Withers is on the verge of hitting the big time. His magic act includes the winning hook of a heckler/ventriloquist dummy named Fats. Unfortunately, Corky's acting a bit erratic, too -- sleeping with overnight pickups, refusing to sign the contracts his pushy agent Ben "The Postman" Greene has been getting him -- and he escapes to the upstate New York of his boyhood, there to encounter ex-cheerleader Peggy Ann Snow, the woman of his teenage year dreams, now the aging hotelier/wife of philandering ex-ballplayer Ronnie "Duke" Wayne. The idea of a dummy overpowering the psyche of his schizoid operator is not new (see the 1945 movie "Dead of Night"), this horror thriller is a step down from Goldman's best (Marathon Man, The Princess Bride), and lovely Anthony Hopkins was badly miscast in the lead role of the 1978 movie, yet there are some lovely connecting bits of reality that have the ring of truth: Corky's adolescent yearnings for Peggy and success with the Charles Atlas bodybuilding course, the enthusiastic apprentice attached to aging and alcoholic has-been magician "Mr. Merlin." Plenty of patented Goldman plot twists, too, although a few strain credulity. A good beach read.
This report prepared by David Loftus