FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Oct 1, 2007

Day 1- "They'll put you somewhere dark and lonely."

Any kid who grew up in the '70s and had a television and sometimes watched the television and just so happened to be watching the television when this ad came on will surely remember Magic (1978)- or, more appropriately, having the piss scared out of them by this ad for Magic.

"Fats" is the big daddy of terrifying ventriloquist dummies, wouldn't you say? Magic, however, is a different sort of "killer dummy" film- it's far more a psychological thriller than a cheesy doll horror flick.

Anthony Hopkins plays Corky, an overly-shy, frequently be-sweatered magician who flops and flops until he brings Fats into his act. Fats and Corky bust a move, steadily gaining fame on the club circuit until eventually Corky's agent/manager Ben (Burgess Meredith) comes through with the opportunity o a lifetime: the possibilty of a television series for the man and his wooden pal. Corky freaks out at the idea of a medical exam, however, and flees for the Catskills. He stays at a dead resort run by his high school crush Peggy (Ann-Margret), and while Peggy's husband Duke (Ed Lauter) is away, Peggy and Corky proceed to bust a move. A sexy move. Peggy, trapped in a loveless marriage, decides to run away with Corky- but Fats is one jealous dummy. He wants Corky all to himself, even if that means it's murderin' time!

As I said earlier, Magic is not your typical killer dummy flick and audiences wanting to see Fats run around, knife in hand, may be disappointed. Fats is simply a vessel for the painfully insecure Corky; Fats says the things Corky cannot say, and carries out acts that Corky finds repulsive. As Corky himself says, "Everything is explainable"- and though you want this to be a tale of the supernatural, and you want Fats to be a sentient being, there is no "magic" here, only Corky's mental illness. Will that sad reality make the film a let down? That's entirely up to you. As it stands, Magic is still an effectively creepy movie, and it's one far more complex than a Dolls-style funfest.

The performances really carry the film: Anthony Hopkins is sweet as Corky, though we get frightening glimpses of the turmoil under that sweet exterior. Hopkins also provides the voice of Fats- he learned ventriloquism and delivers Fats's lines in real-time. It's no surprise that Corky still carries a torch for Peggy- I mean, it's Ann friggin' Margret, you know? She's both charming and sad, resigned to a life at an empty resort in the cold, dreary Catskills until Corky and Fats show up with the promise of a new life- though it's really Fats who sweeps her off her feet. And Burgess Meredith rocks the house in this one- his old school rich guy bit was phenomenal, all the way down to pronouncing "girls" as "goils".

Yup, Magic made its way onto my Willies List- honestly, pictures of Fats are enough to earn it a spot, no matter the pay off.


Anonymous said...

I remember when this movie came out originally, I was all "Cool - killer dummy, but who is this Hopkins guy? Wow Ann-Margret's hot!"

Wasn't this based on a novel?

Anonymous said...

I was wondering when you would get to this one...easily one of the best dvds I picked up last year. I could kick myself for not including it on my Willies list.

SikeChick said...

Look at the size of that dummy! His head is HUGE!!! That in and of itself was terrifying. Ventriloquist dummies are kind of inherently creepy to me. This movie (and Madame from the old Solid Gold) just gave the nightmares new dimensions.

Anonymous said...

Y'ever see the Tales from the Crypt episode with Don Rickles as a ventriloquist?

Can't say anything plotwise without ruining it, but it's awesome. And Bobcat Goldthwait plays the straight man.

raserned said...

WOW, thanks!!! That commercial is literally an icon from my childhood; i remember getting in trouble in recess line as we argued about what the last line is: "WE'RE DEAD!" or WHEN YOU'RE DEAD!" (i could never shut up anyway). I wanted to see it so bad even though the other kids said it wasn't any good. But then, I was in the third or fourth grade, easily turned away with warnings of boring adult situations (fourth grade parlance for "no action and dialog heavy"). I never saw it. I didn't want to blow the creepiness of the commercial. I still get the willies from that voice, although seeing the relative size of his head in the last picture kinda blows the mood now. I'll give it a shot though.

On a related note, thanks to the "55 Bells" blog I've finally seen "Trilogy of Terror", which was definitely worth the thirty-year wait! Here's hoping I get the same joy when I rent "Magic"...

Rey Nova said...

I didn`t see it, but i got the book of William Goldman, the original author, maybe i start with this, and then the movie.

Stacie Ponder said...

"Y'ever see the Tales from the Crypt episode with Don Rickles as a ventriloquist?"

I haven't, but you had me at "Don Rickles"!!

"On a related note, thanks to the "55 Bells" blog I've finally seen "Trilogy of Terror"..."

That's a classic. It's been much too long since I've seen it.

beedubelhue said...

"Is it....the three of...clubs? Please?" I've been annoying my woman with that line for weeks since I introduced her to this one.Classic stuff.


Melizer said...

Are you kidding me?! Anthony Hopkins, Ann-Margret, Burgess Meredith AND a ventriloquist dummy, with an oversized head, even? This blog is awesome!

So this would be about the same time Hopkins was in Audrey Rose, which is definitely on MY childhood willies list!

Gosh, I was 7 years-old and I never saw that commercial. My papa would buy me anything from the Sears Wish Book for Christmas and on the slightest of whims I circled the Charlie McCarthy dummy. I would scare myself silly almost every night because I would forget to put him in his case. Yikes!

Your description reminds me of an episode of Nip/Tuck (titled Willy Ward) that featured a deranged ventriloquist and even that got pretty disturbing. This has gotta be good!

Melizer said...

"That's a huge noggin!"

Unknown said...

This has been on my amazon list but I never got it...I'm pretty sure you just convinced me!

Unknown said...

I just watched it for the second time and the same thing that bothered me then bothered me again... just 2 seconds.... when Corky is arguing with Fats, he gets off the couch and walks across the room: And Fats' eyes move! That ruins it! EVERYTHING else in the relationship can be totally chalked up to Corky's split personality... but that scene makes Fats sentient. What's up with THAT?!?