Magic – USA, 1978 – overview and reviews

 

Second Sight Films released Magic on Blu-ray in the UK on 23rd March 2020, newly remastered with a host of special features:

  • Screenwriting for Dummies
  • Anthony Hopkins Spanish TV interview
  • Victor Kemper: Cinematographer
  • Ann-Margret make-up test
  • Fats and Friends: a history of ventriloquism with the film’s consultant
  • Anthony Hopkins radio interview
  • Trailer
  • Four TV Spots
  • Three Radio spots

Order from Amazon.co.uk

Meanwhile, here our coverage of the film itself:

magic poster

‘A terrifying love story’

Magic is a 1978 psychological horror feature film directed by Richard Attenborough (actor in 10 Rillington Place; And Then There Were None; Jurassic Park) from a screenplay written by William Goldman, who also wrote the novel on which it was based.

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Plot:

Corky (Anthony Hopkins) is a nightclub entertainer whose act combines magic with ventriloquism. His dummy, Fats, accompanies him everywhere and gives voice to all of Corky’s repressed fears and desires.

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With Corky verging on the edge of the big time, Fats begins to take over his personality, compelling him to commit murder…

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Reviews [click links to read more]:

“Set to a chilling score by Jerry Goldsmith, Magic is an intelligent, finely directed and beautifully acted addition to its subgenre.  The film may not offer a lot of surprises, but it’s told with such confidence and attention to character that it hardly even matters.”
AV Maniacs

Magic boasts top-notch performances from all involved. Hopkins seems gentle, charming and quite timid: even before Hannibal Lector came along, he was already convincing as a softly spoken, gentle-mannered psycho. As with other similar films such Dead of Night, Pin and Devil Doll, the uncanny appearance of the actual ventriloquist’s doll is where much of the tension comes from…” Behind the Couch

Magic avoids the campiness that is usually associated with movies about living dolls. Instead, Magic takes the serious approach, using Fats, the sentient ventriloquist dummy, as a means of exploring the effects of a split personality, and the damage it can cause when left untreated. The result is a quiet horror film that is as potent and terrifying as Halloween or The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.” DVD Beaver

“Many filmgoers sit on the fence as to where Magic’s merit stands. Personally, for a film that boasts such “A” level talent, this reviewer finds the film to be an average psychological thriller. Richard Attenborough’s direction, sans for several tense sequences, seems uninspired, and Goldman’s story breathes with the familiarity of an old (albeit extended) Twilight Zone script.” DVD Drive-In

“If you want genuinely well-crafted 70’s horror at its best, then let Magic weave its eerie spell for 107 perfect minutes.” Eat My Brains

“Pretentious and occasionally unpleasant version of an oft-told tale.” Leslie Halliwell, Halliwell’s Film Guide

“Hopkins really is the star of Magic, delivering a subtle, nuanced, twitchy performance that increasingly teeters on the edge of barely repressed madness […] The transfer is excellent, by the way – Magic has never looked this good, and with the extras on board, Second Sight have given us the definitive package of Attenborough’s film.” House of Mortal Cinema

“Anthony Hopkins is certainly effective as the tortured entertainer, but his Corky becomes as manic and out of control as Fats, that you end up losing any sympathy you may have initially had for him […] However, Fats (whose facial featues were based on Hopkins’ own likeness) is genuinely creepy (but then aren’t all ventriloquist’s dummies?)…” Kulyguy’s Keep

“The script emphasizes the psychological aspects of the story rather than the murders or the more shocking aspects but it works, even if we know pretty early on where it’s all going. Goldman does manage to work in a couple of little surprise twists here and there but the strength here is in Fats’ character and his dialogue, which is the highpoint and creepiest aspect of the movie.” Rock!Shock!Pop!

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“Certainly there were occasional nods to Fats operating under his own steam, but Hopkins was too overwhelming as an obviously unbalanced individual for that to be convincing, a collection of haunted looks and tics that might have been better played for black humour or at least something more macabre than what resulted here.” The Spinning Image

“Good performances from all involved (Margret is great here) and highlighted by some honest suspense sequences […] And for those only familiar with Hopkins’ star-making turn in 1991’s Silence of the Lambs, this one comes recommended as a nice display of his talents, compared to his grandiose role-making as Hannibal Lecter.” The Terror Trap

“Hopkins is steady in the lead role and brings just the right “voice” to Fats giving his alter ego a nasally voice that manages to give what’s essentially an inanimate object a whole lot of charisma […] If you’re looking for a true hidden gem and don’t mind more talky, story-driven horror, then Magic may just be for you. It deserves to be rediscovered…” The Video Graveyard

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Cast and characters:

  • Anthony Hopkins … Corky / Fats (voice)
  • Ann-Margret … Peggy Ann Snow
  • Burgess Meredith … Ben Greene
  • Ed Lauter … Duke
  • E.J. André … Merlin
  • David Ogden Stiers … Todson
  • Jerry Houser … Cab Driver
  • Lillian Randolph … Sadie
  • Joe Lowry … Club M.C.
  • Beverly Sanders … Laughing Lady
  • I.W. Klein … Maitre D’
  • Steve Hart … Captain (as Stephen Hart)
  • Patrick McCullough … Doorman
  • Robert Hackman … Father (as Bob Hackman)
  • Mary Munday … Mother
  • Scott Garrett … Corky’s Brother
  • Brad Beesley … Young Corky
  • Michael J. Harte … Minister (as Michael Harte)

Technical details:

  • 107 minutes
  • Technicolor
  • Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1
  • Audio: Mono

 
Trivia:

Norman Jewison (Rollerball) was originally slated to direct and Jack Nicholson has been approached to star.

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