Monday, January 23, 2012

"Hey-a, Shmucko!": Magic (1978)

Magic (1978)
starring:  Anthony Hopkins, Ann-Margret and Burgess Meredith

Abracadabra, I sit on His Knee! Presto! Change-o, Now he is ME! 
Hocus Pocus, We Take her To Bed! 
Magic is FUN!...you're dead... 

I recall a time when I was terrified of ventriloquist dummies. Though a short phase, the lifeless eyes and their childlike stature unnerved me as a child. It wasn't until I got over my fear when I began to take Child's Play movies and the first five Puppet Master movies as a fandom. And now, I come back to tackle that fear again and I'm doing it with style.

Seeing Anthony Hopkins in a young age is a quite a treat for me as this was one of his early horror movie roles. Here he plays Corky, an insecure magician who's failed first attempt to do a magic trick made him drop a rage bomb upon his audience. His mentor would later instruct him to do a better business gimmick, an advice which a year later brought him huge success in the form of a ventriloquism and magic act put together.

Now, Corky, and his dummy Fats (who's foul-mouth brought more laughs than nuisance) were being talked into having their own television show, something Corky is unsure of as he states his fear of success is overwhelming for the moment. With this, he decided to take an air off to the Catskills, where he met up with a high-school crush, Peggy, who's in a stale marriage with her husband.

Things are bound for the worse when Peggy's husband is stricken with jealousy and Corky's agent tracked the magician down and uncovers a secret between him and Fats: Corky's unstable and suffers from a split personality which he implies through Fats. All the pressure soon goes to both Corky and Fats, sparking a murderous intent...

Magic, as they call it, is a terrifying love story. It spends more time focusing on Corky's character and his relationship towards people, many of which are his attempts to repress his condition for his own good and theirs. Unfortunately, these attempts are thwarted by his separate persona, Fats, leaving his already unbalanced more unhinged and that continues to dominate him, no matter how he tries escaping.

Right from the beginning, we are already treated to see how troubled Corky is, through an intertwined flashback-present conversation between Corky and his mentor; it builds a brooding tension between him and his audience, all of it muted to give more emphasis on the present conversation wherein Corky's temper is discussed, hinting a nature that would later escalate and make him a very vulnerable yet dangerous lead.

 Fats himself also became this film's official main attraction; at times, we are made to wonder if the dummy is really alive as there were certain scenes where he's too "real to be fake", like a certain "glitch" where Fat's eyes blinked by itself seconds after Corky removes himself from him. It was already stated by the production that is was a mistake, but then again, it does play a neat trick on us and even made us think if there is more to all of this than just a mad rambling. Either ways, the idea of a persona brought in "flesh" through a wooden dummy is pretty unnerving to watch, especially if it appears to start thinking for itself and act as a separate conscience.

The film succeeds with well acted characters despite a small cast; Hopkins was nominated for a Golden Globe for his portrayal of a mentally disturbed magician and a handful of praises were made for the film's supporting lead Ann-Margaret as Peggy, which stayed a rather calm and patient character, providing one source of sympathy, that made the ending more shocking and effectively depressing.

Magic may stand at one flaw, depending on your taste, and that is the lack of blood. True, Corky did kill but it was a rather defensive act than a cry of fury. Because of that, it's relatively bloodless but paid fairly with a well written plot and tragedy with its down-beaten mood to make it all more memorable. It may lack a big credibility as a horror film, but a murder of two, disturbed ramblings, and one of the most memorable creepy dummies is enough to bring both sorrow and delight for fans alike.

1 male bludgeoned with ventriloquist dummy, drowned in lake
1male stabbed to death with pocket knife, throat cut
1 male stabbed with pocket knife
total: 3


  1. I thought this movie was great - Fats was creepy and a young Anthony Hopkins is just brilliant to watch. Great review!

    1. I just love it everytime Fats is on screen, little Shmucko's a grand scene-stealer! haha!

  2. I missed this one all those years ago - and haven't caught up to it yet - but I would like to see it now!

    1. ^^; I'm getting a little awkward reviewing all these rare and obscure flicks...It's really great! Creepy doll flick at its best!