Magic (1978) – Richard Attenborough

Somehow this title has slipped through the cracks of my viewing, and I had never seen it before I threw it on for the next misadventure with Killer Dolls as featured in DK Canada’s Monsters in the Movies book.

Its directed by Richard Attenborough, written by William Goldman, based on his own novel, stars Anthony Hopkins, Ann-Margaret, Burgess Meredith, Ed Lauter, and David Ogden Stiers… and a creepy looking ventriloquist dummy, Fats, meant to be Hopkins’ character, Corky’s alter-ego.

Crafting an act that involves not only magic and card tricks, but also an ventriloquist with an x-rated sense of humour, Corky is on the verge of being the next big thing. Under the guidance of showy agent, Ben Greene (Meredith) he’s about to score a pilot, but Corky’s own fear of success sabotages everything, and he heads to his hometown to hideaway.

There he takes a room in the house of a former crush, Peggy Ann (Ann-Margaret) and with some help from Fats, begins to win her over. But Corky has a bit of a temper if things don’t go right, and no matter where he is, he always seems to be having a troubling dialogue with Fats.

Inevitably, violence erupts as Corky descends further and further into madness. Is Fats a part of Corky’s personality? an imaginary friend? a possessed doll? None of this is ever explained, and the viewer is left to figure that out for themselves.

Hopkins is fantastic, and terrifying, while Ann-Margaret’s performance is just understated enough to play strongly against/with Hopkins. And when it comes to Meredith, I was always delighted when he showed up in a film, no matter the role, he was such a wonderful actor.

The film doesn’t quite balance it’s horrific and dramatic moments as well as it could, and for the most part, the story leans more to the drama than the horror, but when things go bad, wow, they go bad.

The doll apparently freaked out Hopkins upon first meeting, and he also learned some card tricks, as well as some of the ventriloquist’s craft; throwing his voice and operating the dummy. In fact, if you watch Hopkin’s throat when he’s working Fats, you can see that Hopkins is doing all the dialogue, whether his lips move or not.

Fats would have freaked me right the hell out if I had seen this back in 1978, I would have been 6 going on 7, and not only would the doll have terrified me, I would have learned a lot of swears I didn’t know until much later.

There are more killer dolls, and more terrors to come as I explore more of DK Books’ Monsters in the Movies. Get one for yourself and find something monstrous to watch tonight!

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