Magic (1978 film)

Magic (1978 film)

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Richard Attenborough
Produced by Joseph E. Levine
Richard P. Levine
Written by William Goldman (novel)
William Goldman (screenplay)
Starring Anthony Hopkins
Burgess Meredith
Ed Lauter
David Ogden Stiers
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography Victor J. Kemper
Editing by John Bloom
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date(s) November 8, 1978 (USA)
Running time 107 min
Language English
Budget US $7,000,000
Box office US $11,900,000 (Rentals only)

Magic is a 1978 psychological horror film starring Anthony Hopkins, Ann-Margret, and Burgess Meredith. It was written by William Goldman, who also wrote the novel on which it was based.



Charles "Corky" Withers has just failed in his first attempt at professional magic. His mentor says that he needs to have a better show business gimmick. A year later, Corky comes back as a combination magician and ventriloquist with a foul-mouthed dummy named Fats and is a huge success.

His powerful agent Ben Greene is on the verge of signing Corky for his own television show, but Corky bails out for the Catskills, claiming to be afraid of success. In truth, he does not want to take the required psychological testing because doctors might find out that he suffers from multiple personality disorder, and that even off-stage he hears Fats talking to him.

In the Catskills, he meets with his high-school crush, Peggy Ann Snow, who is stuck in a passionless marriage with Corky's best friend during high school, Duke. Corky performs a feat of magic with a deck of cards that charms Peg into thinking they are soulmates. They make love, which sparks the jealousy not only of Peggy's tough-guy husband but also the dummy Fats.

Greene has tracked Corky down. After a tense confrontation where Greene discovers the truth about Corky's mental state, the agent demands that Corky get help.

Fats, however, convinces Corky to kill Greene. Corky does this by using Fats' hard, wooden head. He then removes all of Greene's identification and drags the corpse to the lake. When Corky tries to dispose of the body, however, Greene suddenly lunges at him, still alive. Corky, after an intense fight, manages to drown Greene.

The next morning Fats becomes even more possessive and jealous when Corky says that he plans to leave Fats behind so that he and Peggy can go away together.

Duke returns from his trip earlier than expected. He suspects she cheated on him with Corky. After a heated argument, Peggy storms off and Duke decides to have a talk with Corky on the lake. Rather than confront him as Duke still remembers Corky as his old high school friend, Duke awkwardly confides to Corky that he loves Peggy and is worried about losing her. Duke suddenly spots Greene's dead body on the edge of the lake.

They row toward the body. Duke, believing it could still be alive, sends Corky to get help. Duke finds that the man is indeed dead. Curious, he decides to search Corky's cabin.

Fats kills him with "help" from Corky. (The dummy stabs Duke while Corky is covered by a curtain behind him.)

An increasingly deranged Corky manages to pull himself together and persuade Peg to run away with him. But she insists on waiting to tell Duke face to face. She thinks everything is fine until Fats "comes alive" and reveals that Corky's card trick is only a ruse he uses to seduce women, and that Peg is only the latest of his conquests. Repulsed, she rejects Corky and locks herself in her bedroom.

Fats says that, from this point on, he will make the decisions in Corky's life. He immediately asserts this new authority by ordering Corky to kill Peg.

Corky, turning on the charm and using Fats' voice, apologizes to Peggy from in front of her locked door. A short while later, Corky returns with a bloodstained knife, Fats seems pleased — until it is revealed that the blood on the knife is Corky's, having committed suicide so that he won't kill anyone else. As a result Fats also feels "faint." They wonder which of them will die first.

Moments later, Peggy returns to their cabin, happily calling out that she has changed her mind and has decided to run away with Corky after all.


Cast Trivia


The film received mixed reviews when released.

Vincent Canby for the New York Times wrote that "Magic is neither eerie nor effective. It is, however, very heavy of hand." [1]

Gene Siskel, film critic from the television show Siskel & Ebert, gave the film a very positive review, and ranked it at #9 on his list of the 10 best films of 1978.

"The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review" 1990 writeup of the film remarks that Hopkins appears stiff in the lead role, but praised the supporting cast: "Ann-Margaret... invests her role with a considerable sparkle. Particularly good is the great and underrated Burgess Meredith whose sharp and alert Hollywood agent is a real plum of a performance. Jerry Goldsmith also adds a fine nervy carnivalesque score." [2]

Goldman received a 1979 Edgar Award, from the Mystery Writers of America, for Best Motion Picture Screenplay.

Hopkins received each a Golden Globe and BAFTA nomination for his role as the tragically disturbed Corky.

The trailer for this film was pulled from TV due to calls from parents who claimed that it gave their children nightmares.[citation needed] The trailer in question is less than 30 seconds in length. It features Fats reciting the tagline, after which his eyeballs roll into the back of his head. This is followed by a cast reading, then Fats opens his eyes and gazes to his left.

Legal issues with the film

As 20th Century Fox never owned complete rights to this film (they did and still do own the theatrical distribution and music rights), other companies have released home video versions of Magic over succeeding years under different licenses. In the meantime, the film continued to play on broadcast television in edited versions. However, subsequent legal complications kept the film from being formally reissued on VHS and DVD in the last decade due in part to Embassy Pictures' corporate holdings being divided amongst different entities. Recently, the rights to this film were acquired by the American Movie Classics division of AMC Film Holdings, LLC, while TV rights are handled for syndication by Trifecta Entertainment & Media (under Paramount Pictures). The uncut version is currently available on widescreen DVD. No Blu-Ray release is planned as of the present time. [Movie is now available on Blu-ray in Dolby 2.0 Mono with an excellent video transfer].


The score was composed and conducted by the American composer Jerry Goldsmith.[3] The complete soundtrack was released on CD through Varèse Sarabande in April, 2003 and features twenty-two tracks score at a running time of forty-two minutes.[4]

Cultural references

In 2010, the BBC Radio 4 satirical comedy series The Now Show claimed that Michael Gove looked like a scary ventriloquist puppet. As a result, whenever Gove is referenced, Hugh Dennis does an impression of Fats ordering "Govey" to do things.


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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