Search this blog and The Mike's favorite blogs!

February 22, 2011

Magic

(1978, Dir. by Richard Attenborough.)

Long before they resurrected the dinosaurs and chianti, respectively, Richard Attenborough and Anthony Hopkins teamed up on the horror scene for Magic, a fascinating horror drama about a magician and his dummy.  Hopkins plays the kind-of-but-not-really-but-maybe-really dual role as Corky Withers and the voice of his wooden friend Fats, and foreshadows his future ability to inhabit the mind of a truly disturbed individual.

From a screenplay by William "Yeah, I wrote The Stepford Wives AND The Princess Bride, punks!" Goldman that was based on his own novel, Magic focuses entirely on how little control Corky has over Fats.  The doll is a shocking sight to behold, and Hopkins' high pitched howls while he's voicing Fats are shrill and disturbing in the best kind of way.  The viewer knows from the start that poor Corky, who's trying to make a name for himself and impress his dying father, is a bit unhinged, yet the film takes its time letting the characters around him in on the secret.

The primary characters who deal with Corky are his agent, played by Burgess Meredith, and his love interest, a past high school crush played by Ann-Margret.  The latter gets to see the blurred line between Corky and Fats more often, but its the scenes without Fats - including one in which Corky becomes unhinged while trying to show her a card trick - that are most impressive.  The same can be said for the interactions between Hopkins and Meredith, and watching Hopkins become unhinged when challenged to spend five minutes without Fats might have been my favorite scene of the film.

There's no horror without a couple of murders, of course, and the events of the second and third act make our unease around Corky and Fats tangible.  As those who try to separate Corky and Fats meet their doom, the film shows unique perspective by keeping the focus internal.  Though Margret's Peggy is the person who we fear is most in physical danger, we also begin to fear for Corky, because it's clear that there's a good side to this timid man who just wanted to succeed.  It's one of the rare films, like Psycho before it, where one character becomes both the victim we feel for and the villain that we fear.

Though distribution issues and edited versions have hurt the film's legacy, recent versions have restored Magic to its theatrical state, and I hope the film can find a new audience as it was originally made.  This is a fine horror drama that deserves a much larger audience, and I can't recommend it enough to anyone who can accept a character-driven horror film that isn't all blood and breasts. 

Oh, and don't worry.  It's creepy too.  Don't believe me?  Check out this ad that was pulled from TV for giving too many children nightmares.  Pleasant dreams!

9 comments:

Sammy V said...

Wow. Creepy. Magic was just added to my Netflix queue. Thanks for introducing me...

Carol McMahon said...

So glad you mentioned this movie!

The part that really gets me is when Corky is rowing out in the lake and there is a shot of Fats watching him through the window. So creepy!

Jinx said...

Brilliant! I have such fond memories of this. Thanks for reminding me to give it watch again.

Syrin said...

When you mentioned Hopkins I was intrigued, and then you said William Goldman and I was sold. I can't believe I've never heard of this before. Time to go add it to Netflix!

TheGirlWhoLovesHorror said...

I picked this up on a whim a little while ago and thought it was such an interesting movie, and I'd never heard of it either. Hopkins, Meredith, and Ann-Margaret were all great in it.

http://thegirlwholoveshorror.blogspot.com/2010/10/movie-review-magic-1978.html?zx=8621d36a63611df

Emily said...

I watched Magic last year and fell in a complex love/hate relationship with it immediately. It's a fantastic film with GREAT performances, but holy shit that Fats is TERRIFYING!

R.D. Penning said...

It is is one of my favorite Hopkins performances, and such a creepy movie. Dummy's are creepy in general, including Dead Silence, which gets made fun of alot, but it was creepy!!!

Jack Veasey said...

I was lucky enough to see "Magic" in the theater. It was mesmerizing.

The Mike said...

Thanks all, glad to see so many have seen it already or are planning to. I don't hear of it enough.