“Magic” (1978)


Studio: Twentieth Century-Fox
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Ann-Margret, Burgess Meredith, Ed Lauter
Directed by: Richard Attenborough
Rated: R
Running Time: 107 min.

Synopsis: A ventriloquist on the rise tries to runaway from fame and tries to find his high school crush, but when he finds her, his dummy has a problem with breaking up the act.


Chris Woods

To me, all movies that have a ventriloquist dummy in it are scary as hell and Magic is no different. Probably one of the scariest works to have a dummy in it next to The Twilight Zone episode, The Dummy and the 1980’s short film also titled, The Dummy. Magic is just a great film all around with an excellent cast, good story and music, and a creepy puppet, you can’t go wrong with this one.

The film stars some great talents like, Anthony Hopkins (giving an awesome performance up there with the caliber of Silence of the Lambs), Burgess Meredith, and Ann-Margret. Hopkins stars as Corky, a ventriloquist who’s on his way making it big with his dummy, Fats. With the help of his agent, Ben, played by Meredith, he gets his own TV show, but Corky refuses to take a medical exam that the studio insists that he takes or no show. Corky and Fats get out of the city and return to his home town where he meets up with his old high school crush, Peg, played by Ann-Margret. Now a famous person, Corky finally gets the girl of his dreams, but Fats is not so pleased.

The terror starts to creep in when Ben finds him upstate and catches him in a crazed moment arguing with Fats. Now Ben knows why he didn’t want to take the exam. He tries to convince Corky into getting help, but when Corky refuses, Ben leaves him, but Fats makes Corky take care of his agent. Now the terror really starts.

One of the great things about the film is that you really never know if Fats is alive or Corky is just crazy. It points to more of Corky being insane, which is probably the case, but in some scenes it points to the puppet being alive and actually doing some of the killings. One thing is for sure, Fats steals the show alongside with Hopkins. Hopkins also provides the voice for Fats in the film and the scenes with the two are amazing and scary at the same time.

One scene that comes to mind is Corky screaming at Fats when they’re arguing about Peg and Ben walks in. To test Corky to see if he’s nuts or not, he tells Corky to make Fats shut up for five minutes, if he can he’ll forget the whole thing. To Corky, five minutes is a lifetime and there’s great tension in this scene while Cork sweats it out. Of course he doesn’t make it.

Hopkins is very intense throughout his performance. There’s even a great part where him and Peg are trying to do a card trick to prove to her that he can really do magic and that it’s not just a trick. He tries to guess the card she has by reading her mind and gets very determined to guess it correctly.

Some other great parts are a scene where Corky and Peg are having sex and Fats is shown sitting in the next room with an evil frown on his face. One thing is Fats is creepy even when he’s just sitting there doing nothing. I remember seeing some production stills of this film way before I ever saw it and it always freaked me out.

The score fits the mood of the whole film. It’s very haunting and drives the suspense. There’s even a harmonica part in the score that adds to the creepiness. The music is very striking in the opening scene where the camera pans through a room of the magician that trained Corky displaying all different gadgets and memorable. After the opening, Corky visits his old teacher to tell him how his first gig went. (This is before he got Fats.) As he tells him how well he did there are flashbacks of him bombing on stage. The teacher doesn’t buy it and Corky tells him what really happened. They show Corky screaming at the crowd for not paying attention to him. As the flashback is shown, we only have visual and no audio, just audio from Corky describing what had happened. It’s a very well done scene and sets the tone of the film.

A classic horror film that I think is kind of underrated. It’s just as good as many of the horror films to come out of the 70’s or any decade. It’s kind of like a really long episode of The Twilight Zone. I highly recommend seeing this film if you haven’t all ready. Also, one thing to watch is the teaser trailer to the film, which just has Fats saying a creepy rhyme, great stuff.