We’ve got reviews of the new Bond and some old anime forthcoming. This week, as a coda to our Halloween reviews, we’re examining an often-overlooked horror, penned by William Goldman and featuring the pre-Hannibal Lector Anthony Hopkins and the post-Penguin Burgess Meredith.

Click through for the trailer that creeped out tv audiences in ’78.

Cast and Crew

Director: Richard Attenborough
Writer: William Goldman

Cast:

Anthony Hopkins as Charles “Corky” Withers/ Fats
Ann-Margret as Peggy Ann Snow
Burgess Meredith as Ben Greene
Ed Lauther as Duke
David Odgen Stiers as Todson
E.J. André as Merlin

Available from Amazon.

Premise

A disturbed comedian/magician/ventriloquist fears his success may expose his dark secrets.

High Point

The interaction between Corky and Fats manages at once to be believable, funny, and disturbing. Hopkins has played more famous roles, but he’s certainly memorable here. I doubt that the director’s first choice, Jack Nicholson, would have done any better.

Low Point

Fats unnerves us even when he’s doing nothing at all. The cross-cut-heavy, dummy-as-voyeur sex scene, however, goes over the top, and the results are more silly than chilling.

The Review

Originality: 2/6 Disturbed ventriloquist has a troubled relationship with his dummy? Yeah, this one’s been done before.

Effects 5/6. The principal effect is Fats himself, a dummy deep in the uncanny valley and minimally animated to maximum effect.

Story 4/6. Goldman, Attenborough, and an all-star cast carry us through a suspenseful story (and some uneven pacing) to a predictable conclusion.

Acting 6/6. Anthony Hopkins, in particular, gives an impressive dual performance.

Production 5/6.

Emotional Response 5/6 This film, largely overlooked, holds up surprisingly well. It’s a lower-key suspense film, with heavy doses of dark humour.

Overall 4/6. I recommend this film to fans of the horror/suspense genre. It cannot match the effect of Goldman’s book, however, which explores the main characters’ troubling backstory and psychology in ways a film cannot. The film also trims most of Fats’ x-rated dialogue.

In total, Magic receives 31/42.

Note

Reportedly, Hopkins took the newly-carved Fats home while preparing for his role. That night, he called and demanded the studio take it back. He found the prop a little too frightening.