Written by William Goldman
Directed by Richard Attenborough
Corky Withers...Anthony Hopkins
Ben Greene...Burgess Meredith
Amateur magician Corky Withers receives one last bit of advice from his mentor, shortly before he passes away: "You better find yourself some charm, kid." But Corky is shy, reserved, and doesn't possess the stage presence needed to make it in show business. At least...not on his own.
Flash forward one year, and Corky's brought on a new partner, a ventriloquist dummy named Fats. Using Fats to say everything that he can't bring himself to say, Corky finds himself on the precipice of a great success. NBC even wants him to film a pilot TV special, but when he learns that a physical exam is part of the contract, Corky flips out and escapes to the country to "get his head on straight."
There he reunites with an old flame, but it quickly becomes evident that it's difficult to get your head on straight when you've got a screw loose. Corky sinks deeper and deeper into darkness until we don't know who's calling the shots: him or Fats.
Part horror film, part psychological thriller, and yes, even part romance, Magic is a genuinely creepy experience with some world-class performances. Years before he redefined the villain as Hannibal Lecter, Hopkins' boyish nervousness gained him a Golden Globe nomination for his performance as the unstable magician. Ann Margaret does wonders here, too, looking beautiful both in and out of clothes, while Burgess Meredith nails the best role as Ben Greene, the witty and boisterous agent--an old-school Hollywood hipster if ever there was one.
Fats (voiced by Hopkins, naturally) looks creepy as hell, although his filthy Catskills-styled patter does grate on the nerves after a while. He's exactly what I imagine Chucky's grandfather would have been like--now there's a Child's Play movie I would pay to see.
You probably won't find yourself frightened after watching this movie, unless you happen to have a ventriloquist dummy in your collection, but there may be a lingering feeling of unease, which is ultimately longer-lasting and generally more satisfying, anyway. Definitely a classic and well worth a watch. Would make a great double-feature with Pin, and if you're feeling really ambitious, close out the night with the disturbingly erotic Love Object.