"Horror - for Dummies!"
Richard Attenborough's film of William Goldman's novel gets a sparkling UK Blu-ray release courtesy of Second Sight.
Down on his luck magician Corky Withers (Anthony Hopkins) finds success when he incorporates ventriloquism into his act in the form of the foul-mouthed Fats (also voiced by Hopkins). Fame and national television beckon but Corky's not so keen on taking the necessary medical required by the TV network, despite the insistence of his agent Ben (Burgess Meredith). Panicking, Corky takes off for the town of his birth, not realising that taking Fats with him will lead to tragedy.
The Michael Redgrave 'dummy' segment of the classic DEAD OF NIGHT is always mentioned in the same breath as MAGIC and it's easy to see why, but where the Ealing film's emphasis is on the isolated nightmare of a fragmenting mind, MAGIC opens up the idea to show the effect it has on those around the sufferer. The fact that this works so well is down to the lead performances, including Ann-Margret who plays Corky's lost love Peggy. Attenborough takes Corky away from the hustle and bustle of New York to somewhere so gloomy and wet anyone from Wales will swear Hopkins has actually gone all the way to his real place of birth.
And Hopkins really is the star of MAGIC, delivering a subtle, nuanced, twitchy performance that increasingly teeters on the edge of barely repressed madness. You know he's going to crack but are not at all sure when it's going to happen. Thank goodness he was the star and not Klaus Kinski.
Disc extras include a revealing interview with William Goldman, archival video and radio interviews with Hopkins, a piece on cinematographer Victor Kemper and an Ann-Margret makeup test. Also included is Fats and Friends, a decent 30 minute featurette on ventriloquism (including its appearance in movies) by the man who was the consultant on MAGIC and who was often just out of shot operating Fats.
The transfer is excellent, by the way - MAGIC has never looked this good, and with the extras on board, Second Sight have given us the definitive package of Attenborough's film.
MAGIC is out on UK Blu-ray from Second Sight on Monday 23rd March 2020