Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Ventriloquist Dummies

Ventriloquist dummies are an example of the type of life-size model figures that Jentsch sites in his essay on the uncanny, listing "wax-work figures, ingeniously constructed dolls and automata". Freud and Kelley both quote this passage in their own essays on the uncanny.

The enduring popularity of uncanny ventriloquist dummies is evidenced by the number of horror and thriller movies that include them; There are enough that the ventriloquist dummy movie could be considered a sub-genre in itself.

Examples include:

The Great Gabbo (1928) Dir. James Cruze

The Ventriloquist Dummy (a segment in Dead of Night) (1945) Dir. Alberto Cavalcanti

The Dummy (an episode of The Twilight Zone) (1962) Dir. Abner Biberman

Devil Doll (1964) Dir. Lindsay Shonteff

Profondo Rosso (Deep Red) (1975) Dir. Dario Argento

Magic (1978) Dir. Richard Attenborough

Dead Silence (2007) Dir. James Wan. Notably, the television trailer (below) for Dead Silence includes the tag line, "Just because something isn't alive doesn't mean it's dead". This recalls Jentsch's description of the uncanny effect produced by, "doubts whether an apparently animate being is really alive; or conversely, whether a lifeless object might not be in fact animate".


kindertrauma said...

Great overview of ventriloquist dummies in film. In fact, everything on this blog is fascinating and I especially love the sketches.

Matt Lippiatt said...

Awesome, thanks for the comment. Any suggestions for uncanny things that I'm forgetting to include on this blog?