Knock On Wood, Ventriloquist Jerry Morgan has to see another love affair fail. The reason: when the relationship reaches the point when it is time to discuss marriage, his doll Clarence becomes mean and jealous. His fiancée Audrey leaves him and Jerry smashes his two dolls, Clarence and Terrence. Morgan’s doll maker Papinek is a member of a spy ring who has stolen secret plans to the top secret Lafayette airplane. Since Morgan is leaving for Zurich the same night, Papinek decides to use Morgan’s dolls as a mailbox and hides the secret plans in the heads of the dolls. Another secret spy ring also wants to get their hands on Jerry’s luggage and they *also* follow him. Eventually, Jerry is chased by both these organizations as well as the police, who suspects him of murder.
One of the all-time funniest films.
Knock On Wood, The sequence in this film where Danny Kaye lands on the stage of an balletic opera in progress has got to rank up there with the funniest single scenes in motion picture history. The spoof is as spot-on as the “Fantasia” spoof of opera in the “Dance of the Hours” sequence. It’s hard to explain how the previous reviewer thought the new-car-with-gadgets scene was the funniest; actually, it’s the most dated, and “Knock on Wood” would be better off without it. The story is a wicked satire on espionage agents, with Danny caught up unawares in the center of an international spy ring. There’s also a love story reminiscent of “Walter Mitty”, but this is the funnier film of the two. Danny Kaye is one of the most underrated actors of all time. His facial expressions–conveying what he thinks, which is often opposite to what he or the other characters are saying–is like a second voice carrying the humor line. It’s so well done that it seems mundane to people who are not on the lookout for it. Only Sid Caesar, of all the comics in American history, including Chaplin and the other silent greats, used his facial expressions to the supreme comic effect that Danny Kaye achieved. I might even rank Caesar above Kay, but unfortunately Caesar did not get any good movie roles. (Mel Brooks wanted him for “The Producers,” and it would have become THE best comedy of all time if he had landed him, but some busybody associate producer hated Caesar and so he nixed the deal. How sad.) If I were pressed to choose among Danny Kaye’s films, I guess I would choose “The Court Jester” above “Knock on Wood,” in terms of all-round satisfaction. Yet the ballet spoof in “Knock on Wood” surpasses any single scene in “The Court Jester.” If you never see it, you’ll never know how funny a thing can be.