After Corky Withers (Anthony Hopkins) bombs as a magician at a nightclub amateur night, he changes tack and ploughs ahead with the aid of a gimmick- a ventriloquist’s dummy named Fats. After a year of hard slog, he becomes well-known and even attracts the attention of an agent (Burgess Meredith). He’s on the verge of superstardom but for no explicable reason won’t take a medical check which is needed before he’s allowed to appear on network television. In frustration, he escapes to The Catskills where he grew up and hooks up with Peggy Ann Snow (Ann-Margret) the woman he first had a crush on in high school.


We see Corky start to descend into madness, as Fats becomes almost like a separate entity. All of the most macabre thoughts Corky has Fats blurts out. Soon Fats is telling Corky who he should bump off and how to hide the body. The first victim is Corky’s agent who inadvertently sees Corky and Fats conversing as if Fats is a real person rather than a doll and shows how advanced Corky’s madness is.


After a slow start, once the madness and murder start there’s no stopping it. I like that. It’s not obvious from the opening act of the film that it is actually a horror movie and so when the insanity rears its head, it’s a genuine surprise.

Magic is a showcase for what a fantastic actor Anthony Hopkins is. In fact, there are universally brilliant performances all around. I love the way that Fats acts as the devil on Corky’s shoulder, a manifestation of his murderous impulses.

Magic is also a fantastic New York movie before the film switches to the gorgeous locales of The Catskills.

Film critic Gene Siskel was so impressed by the film that he awarded it 4 stars out of 4 and made it one of his favourite films of 1978. But the film received the ultimate accolade. It was awarded its own poster magazine. Who wouldn’t want a large fold-out poster of a homicidal ventriloquist’s dummy?!


4 stars out of 5


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