Wednesday, April 26, 2006

MAGIC

"Abracadabra, I sit on his knee. Presto, change-o, and now he's me! Hocus Pocus, we take her to bed. Magic is fun… we're dead."

From Joseph E. Levine, the Hollywood entrepreneur who brought both Godzilla and Hercules to America's drive-ins, comes the Seventies psychological thriller, MAGIC (1878), directed by Richard Attenborough (GHANDI).

Written by acclaimed screenwriter William Goldman, and based on his novel of the same name, MAGIC tells the tale of an unhappy young stage magician named Corky (Anthony Hopkins, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS), who, despite his talent with tricks, is too shy to really generate much stage presence or charm. Desperate to succeed, he adds a foul-mouthed ventriloquist dummy named Fats to the act, a gimmick that garners him considerable popularity with audiences and lands him a big time agent (Burgess Meredith, TORTURE GARDEN). Soon, he has a chance at a prime time TV series, but his anxieties get the best of him and heads for his childhood home to get his head together. There he reunites with his high school crush Peggy (the always-sexy Ann-Margaret), and it looks like he finally has a shot at happiness… if Fats will let him.

Less a horror film than a macabre character study, MAGIC is an acting tour de force with fantastic performances by a young Anthony Hopkins and the rest of the cast. Attenborough's direction is slow but steady, and while it takes a while to get where it's going, it's a fine ride.

Dark Sky's excellent DVD features a beautiful anamorphic widescreen, 1.85:1 transfer culled from the original 35mm negative and supervised by the film's cinematographer, Victor J. Kemper. While the film itself may have a distinctly 70's look, the transfer is virtually flawless. Dark Sky has also rounded up some interesting extras, leading off with a great new featurette called "Fats and Friends." There's also an interview with cinematographer Kemper, a couple of vintage interviews with Hopkins, Ann-Margaret's make-up tests (silent), the original trailers, TV and radio spots, and a photo gallery.

A great thriller gets an equally great presentation from Dark Sky. If you've got fond memories of this one or find psycho dummies scary, you'll want to check this out.

BUY: Magic