Director: Richard Attenborough
Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Ann-Margret, Burgess Meredith
Review by Brian M. Sammons
If you hate dolls, puppets, and most of all creepy looking ventriloquist dummies, then this movie is not for you. Trust me on this; I’m speaking from personal experience. When I first saw this film many years ago over at my aunt and uncle’s house, my far older cousin freaked the hell out. She always had a thing about dummies and dolls and this movie was just too much for her. Now you may think that this film won’t affect you like that, and you could be right about that, but you could also be easily wrong. It is creepy as all hell, not what you think, and a showcase for Anthony Hopkins and why he so richly deserved his Oscar even before he did the farva beans line in The Silence Of The Lambs.
Mr. Hopkins plays a magician named Corky, a talented man desperate for success and respect from an uncaring audience. Taking a chance he works a foul mouthed dummy into his act and soon he’s on the rise. But is it all too much too soon? Corky, seemingly about to have a nervous breakdown, flees from a TV appearance to the small town of his childhood and back to a woman he loved from afar in high school. Amazingly, the woman remembers the odd man and a romance in rekindled.
You would think this would be a good thing, but for Corky the nightmare is only beginning.
You see, he’s talking to his dummy, Fats, more and more. Worse yet, the dummy is talking back and doesn’t seem to be listening to the ventriloquist anymore. Soon the roles of puppet master and dummy begin to waver and then the bodies start to pile up. Could this movie be a trip down the old Twilight Zone path and have the dummy turning deadly, or is it just crazy as hell Corky doing the diabolical deeds? Well honestly that question is sadly answered too quickly and I thought the supernatural mystery could have been played up a bit longer.
That said, this film is a first rate psychological thriller and a movie that does an amazing job showing how crazy someone suffering a psychotic break can be. Magic is worth seeing for Hopkins performance alone, but thankfully there’s so much more going for this film. All of the actors do great and the direction by Attenborough is top notch. So whether you classify this movie as horror, suspense, thriller, or whatever it is worth a watch.
Now as great as this movie is, the Blu-ray from Dark Sky Films is only so-so. First of all, the video quality isn’t great. True, Magic is from the late seventies, but I’ve seen much older films get a much better digital remastering. I can only assume either (A) the master they were using was in horrible condition to begin with, or (B) they just didn’t have the budget to do it right. Whatever the reason, it was a tad disappointing.
Another missing bit keeping this disc from getting an A+ is the lack of audio commentary.
But all is not completely bare bones on this Blu-ray. There are a couple of interviews with Anthony Hopkins, a make-up test for Ann-Margret, a thirty minute featurette about the history of ventriloquists, and a few trailers, TV, and radio spots. There is one new extra exclusive to this BD and that’s an interview with author/screenwriter extraordinaire William Goldman. It is quite good, but at only 15 minutes it is also quite short.
Final assessment; Magic is a great movie, but if you already own this on DVD there’s not enough polish or new bells and whistles to warrant an upgrade. However if you already don’t own this movie they what are you waiting for? Go out, get this today, and experience some Magic for yourself.