“Potty, Decadent, Sub-Bunuelian British Satire”
Well what else might you expect from a late 1960s movie adaptation of a novel by Terry Southern, starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr and boasting extra screenplay material from John Cleese, Graham Chapman and Spike Milligan?
The slight plot is as follows: extremely rich Sir Guy Grand (Sellers) adopts a hobo he sees in the park who becomes his son, Youngman (Starr). Together they embark on a project that’s ‘not easily defined’ according to Grand but seems to consist of giving people large amounts of money to do embarrassing / ridiculous things. These include Laurence Harvey performing a striptease during his Hamlet soliloquy, Spike Milligan’s traffic warden eating the parking ticket he has given Grand, and someone bringing a panther with a wig on to Crufts claiming it’s a rare breed of dog.
The movie culminates with a trip on the luxury seafaring vessel The Magic Christian, captained by an increasingly drunk Wilfred Hyde-White and boasting such guests as Christopher Lee’s Dracula, Yul Brynner as a chanteuse and Roman Polanski as ‘drinker at bar’.
It all goes bonkers at the end, with the craft seemingly powered by topless slavegirls rowing and presided over by Raquel Welch with a whip. A gorilla appears because anything else just wouldn’t be acceptable, and the final scene shows Sellars and Ringo back in the park where our story began.
Less a narrative and more a series of daft sketches, how much you’ll like THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN will depend on your taste for Monty Python, Spike Milligan’s Q series, and absurdist experimental British cinema of the period (Richard Lester’s THE BED SITTING ROOM comes to mind).
If you do like that kind of thing you’ll have a ball. there’s also a lot of fun to be had spotting familiar film and TV faces of the period, many of whom are of the blink you’ll miss them variety, so the film also rewards repeat viewings.
Fabulous Films’ Blu-ray is the print releases stateside by Olive Films (for MAGIC CHRISTIAN obsessives who might be wondering). There are no extras. Apparently a documentary was made to promote the movie called ‘Will the Real Mr Sellers Please Stand Up’ with Spike Milligan narration but sadly it’s not included.
THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN is out on Blu-ray from Fabulous Films on Monday 26th June 2017