Magic | William Goldman’s 1978 psychological horror heads to Blu-ray

Adapted for the big screen by William Goldman from his best-selling 1976 book, Magic is out now on Blu-ray from Second Sight Films.

Corky (Anthony Hopkins) is a shy, aspiring magician who just can’t get a break, but after he introduces foul-mouthed ventriloquist dummy Fats to his act, his star begins to rise. When his agent Ben Greene (Burgess Meredith) offers him the chance of starring in his own TV show, Corky freaks out and heads to his hometown in the Catskills. Reuniting with his old high school crush Peggy (Ann-Margret), Corky decides to elope with Peggy and leave his career behind.

But the jealous and possessive Fats will not let him go…

Director Richard Attenborough’s 1978 thriller was originally sold as as horror chiller, but there’s very little in the way of horror or chills on offer (except for one very disturbing scene set on a lake). Well, that’s what I thought when I first saw it as a 14-year-old back in 1978. With the release of the Second Sight Films Blu-ray, I thought a revisit was needed (just to see if it – and I – had matured somewhat).

Well, this ‘terrifying love story’ has and hasn’t. 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. Mind you, Hopkins did get a  Golden Globe and BAFTA nomination for the role (in which he had to learn how to throw his voice).

However, Fats (whose facial featues were based on Hopkins’ own likeness) is genuinely creepy (but then aren’t all ventriloquist’s dummies?) and Attenborough does his best to keep us wondering if Fats is just an extension of Corky’s suppressed thoughts or has actually taken on a life of its own?

Thankfully, the lovely Ann-Margret is on hand to bring some much needed warmth to the proceedings (and to Victor Kemper’s chilly photography) – but her Peggy is ultimately a sad figure, and Burgess Meredith is terrific as the cigar-chomping Samuel Z Arkoff-styled agent, especially in one very telling scene in which he asks Corky to make Fats shut up for five minutes. The film’s big highlight, however, is Jerry Goldsmith’s hauntingly romantic score – which I am now seeking out to add to my collection.

The Second Sight Films Blu-ray release also includes a host of very interesting special extras (below), that have been all ported over from the 2010 MPI Media Group US Blu-ray release.

Screenwriting for Dummies (2006, Blue Underground, 16mins): William Goldman looks back over the development of the film (whose original director was Norman Jewison), and talks about its cast and crew. And there’s some interesting on-set photos and footage included.
• Anthony Hopkins Spanish TV interview (6.16min): In Spanish and English
• Victor Kemper: Cinematographer (11.23min): The veteran Director of Photographer talks about his work and career, paying special attention to Magic (Includes a big spoiler, so watch the film first)
• Ann-Margret make-up test (1.19min): With some disco-style music in the background.
Fats and Friends (26.53min): Dennis Alwood, who acted as consultant to the production of Magic, takes look at the history of ventriloquism on stage and screen, and reveals how Fats scored the role over his own dummy, Dudley.
• Anthony Hopkins radio interview (3.20min): Against a background of raw dailies from Magic, Hopkins discusses his background and his career.
• Trailer (2:09min)
• 4 TV Spots (the second one got pulled from US TV for being too scary for kids)
• 3 Radio spots

About Peter Fuller

Peter Fuller is an award-winning print, radio and television journalist and producer, with over 30 years experience covering film and television, with a special interest in world cinema and popular culture. He is a leading expert on the life and career of Vincent Price and actively promotes the actor's legacy through publications, websites and special events.

Posted on March 23, 2020, in Horror, Might See and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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