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Magic – 1978 Attenborough
- Do not be fooled by the look at the wooden ventriloquist dummy- Magic is no small-scale B-picture. This is a well-produced, character-driven effort. Richard Attenborough is at the helm behind the camera. He is more of a custodian than artist as a director- but he still presides over some fine films. The screenplay is written by the great William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President’s Men) and based on his book. The score is by Jerry Goldsmith (Chinatown, The Omen). That’s an all-star crew right there- quite a pedigree.
- Anthony Hopkins is obviously a long way from becoming a star here in 1978. He is 41-years old. The Silence of the Lambs is 1991, The Elephant Man is 1980 but he’s been around since the 1960’s with The Lion in Winter in 1968. The role went to Hopkins over Gene Wilder. Hopkins is studied (he actually became a very good ventriloquist here) and serious. He gets the tortured soul of the character perfectly with the tics and the coin being massaged in his hands. It would be a very different film if Gene Wilder had been cast (as was once the plan). Hopkins is credited twice here actually- because he plays both the man and the voice of the dummy.
- Despite it being Attenborough and Hopkins- this is both set and shot in the United States.
- Attenborough has a very nice, long take tracking shot touring Hopkins’ place to open the film.
- There is a great shot of the dual profiles (Corky—played by Hopkins, and Fats (his dummy)) at the 30-minute mark—eerie.
- The narrative progression is basically Corky’s decent into madness. Or rather, Fats is taking over more and more. I think it walks the line fine- Corky is funny/raunchy and scary.
- The beautiful Ann-Margret is here in support, as is Burgess Meredith (a hot name again suddenly after Rocky in 1976). Meredith is rock solid and does not get dusted off the screen by Hopkins’ idiosyncratic one-man show act. When his character says “I don’t scare easily” you feel it, and believe it, because of Meredith.
- The final shot is another ambitious shot (the first since the opening—but still)—it is a reverse zoom from the window that turns into a crane shot. Sadly, instead of ending it there (which would be just about perfect) as Attenborough should have—the film ends with Ann-Margret for some reason—too bad
- Recommend but not in the top 10 of 1978