Anthony Hopkins is Corky, a failed magician who finds overnight success as a ventriloquist. His brash, foul-mouthed dummy, Fats, becomes a huge nightclub hit. With his star on the rise, talent agent Ben Greene [Burgess Meredith) arranges an important shot at National TV. But the pressure of failing the network's required physical sends Corky into a panic. With Fats in tow, he flees the city to a near-deserted resort in the Catskills run by the love of his youth, Peggy Ann Snow (Ann-Margret). A love affair between the two ensues, resulting in Corky confiding to Fats that he may leave showbusiness altogether. Fats becomes furious and lashes out at Corky. Now under Fats control Corky is manipulated into a series of violent find unexpected confrontations.