Magic (1978)

Magic is one of the best Hitchcock films not actually directed by Hitchcock.

Corky (Tony Hopkins) would be one of the best magicians in the world if his rating were to be based entirely on technical skills. Unfortunately, he is a timid man, entirely devoid of showmanship. His meek personality is totally unsuited to the early stages of a career in show business - the part where a newcomer works in clubs, competing for the attention of a half-soused crowd.

He comes upon a solution. He alters his act from a pure magic show to a combination of magic and ventriloquism. This shift allows him to use the dummy to do the things he cannot do - the raunchy patter and insult humor which are necessary to interact with a club crowd. The dummy named "Fats" is assigned to do all the offensive material, while Corky stays in character simply as corky, the shy and soft-spoken guy who is more offended than anyone by his partner's shenanigans. The problem which develops (and I'm not spoiling anything here) is that his offstage personality bifurcates as dramatically as seen onstage, and he becomes utterly dependent on Fats to have a conversation with anyone. The mental illness gradually becomes worse until he is having long conversations with Fats in which he seems to think there is another person in the room. When his secret is finally uncovered by his agent (Burgess Meredith, again playing Mickie from Rocky, except that his lines say "Cork" instead of "Rock"), he deteriorates so completely that the Corky side of his personality is following orders from Fats to commit murder.

As of this morning, I hadn't seen this film since it was released in 1978, when I was in my (gasp!) twenties. Its reputation stays completely under the radar, and you rarely hear anyone mention it, but as I popped it in the DVD player, I was thinking "Jeez, back then I thought this was a good movie, and my friends thought so too." Well, guess what? It IS a good movie. Unlike so many other fondly-remembered films from the 70s which now seem like complete crap when separated from the pervasive 70s mindset, Magic is not defined by its pandering to rebellious 70s counter-culturism, its parading of laughably dated but then-hip 70s fashions, nor its gimmicky  cinema verite filmmaking. This movie could be re-released today and it would seem to have been made now and would still seem to be taking place in the present, except for the presence of actors now dead or much older, and/or a few minor references like "I saw you on Carson."

It was directed with elegance and the right attention to dramatic tension, which is a bit surprising in light of the fact that the director was Richard Attenborough, who was best known for stodgy big-cast films like Gandhi and A Bridge Too Far.  As I mentioned at the outset, the film is a Hitchcock clone, and a good one. Imagine the relationship between shy, sensitive Norman Bates and his mother, and you'll have a very good mental picture of the relationship between Corky and Fats. As in a typical Hitchcock film, there is no supernatural component to the mystery, and everything can be explained by events which are really possible in the natural universe. Fats is not an evil figure like Chuckie, but simply a hunk of wood that is injected with an imagined personality by its owner. To the credit of Tony Hopkins, who actually provided the voice for Fats; the real puppeteer, who controlled the dummy; and director Attenborough, who found many spooky ways to insert the dummy into the scenes; the audience is easily able to relate to Fats as a real character in the film, and not simply an inert object in the shadows like Mama Bates.

Besides the remarkable character of Fats, what really makes the film work is Attenborough's ability to create nail-biting tension in various scenes. Corky buries his first murder victim at the bottom of a small lake. The next day he is obligated to go fishing in that lake, and his partner seems to be dragging in something of great magnitude ... a human body, perhaps? Similar situations arise throughout the second half of the movie, as Corky is forced to improvise various explanations in order to cover up the trail left by his sloppy, impulsive murder. Why is there a Rolls Royce parked just outside of a humble country lodge? What is the story behind the mysterious dead body that just washed up nearby? Why is there fresh blood on some of Corky's possessions? In each case, Corky must relieve the dramatic tension by improvising a satisfactory explanation or by committing additional crimes. Each stressful situation drives Corky further into madness, until ... ?

Despite all my praise for Attenborough's work here, I have to say that he made one very glaring error. There is one scene where Fats rolls his eyes while Hopkins is elsewhere, having just walked away from the couch. The flub occurred because the man manipulating Fats could not see precisely when Hopkins abandoned the couch. Should be no big deal. Catch it in dailies and re-shoot the scene, right? Wrong. Although Attenborough was informed of the mistake by several people, including Dennis Alwood, the ventriloquist who was operating the Fats figure and was embarrassed by his mistake, Sir Richard refused to re-shoot and left the scene in. Of course, it completely destroys the integrity of the film, because it proves with irrefutable certainty that Fats actually possessed an independent life, and was not just a hunk of wood. It incorrectly injects a supernatural component into a story which should have none, and thus it creates the possibility that Corky is not really acting insane at all when he talks to Fats, because Fats can act independent of Corky. Imagine if Hitchcock had allowed Mother Bates to get up and walk around while Norman was occupied elsewhere. For the sake of those of us who like our mysteries tight, we simply have to pretend that we are seeing the scene through Corky's eyes, and that he imagines the eye movement by Fats, even though that was not the original intention.

The author of the source novel, as well as the screenplay, is William Goldman, who has been responsible for as many excellent movies as anyone in the second half of the twentieth century. Magic is an excellent film, but Goldman has received a writing credit on 17 better ones, per IMDb:

  1. (8.20) - The Princess Bride (1987)
  2. (8.10) - Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
  3. (7.90) - All the President's Men (1976)
  4. (7.60) - Misery (1990)
  5. (7.49) - Marathon Man (1976)
  6. (7.10) - A Bridge Too Far (1977)
  7. (7.04) - No Way to Treat a Lady (1968)
  8. (6.93) - Soldier in the Rain (1963)
  9. (6.90) - Chaplin (1992)
  10. (6.88) - Harper (1966)
  11. (6.80) - The Stepford Wives (1975)
  12. (6.70) - Hearts in Atlantis (2001)
  13. (6.70) - Maverick (1994)
  14. (6.60) - The Hot Rock (1972)
  15. (6.40) - The Ghost and the Darkness (1996)
  16. (6.40) - Absolute Power (1997)
  17. (6.31) - The Great Waldo Pepper (1975)
  18. (6.12) - Magic (1978)

He won two Oscars (Butch Cassidy, All the President's Men) as well as two Edgars for two completely different films (Magic, Marathon Man). A fifth and sixth film (Misery, The Princess Bride) were nominated for Saturns. If ever a man deserved a lifetime achievement award, it is Bill Goldman of Highland Park, Illinois.

Oh, yeah, one more plus about Magic. There is a romantic sub-plot in which Corky returns to his home town to woo his high-school sweetheart. They go to bed together. We see her breasts. The sweetheart is played by Ann-Margret.

They're real, and they're spectacular.



Bonus: You probably know that Ann-Margret also did a nude scene in 1971's Carnal Knowledge, but you may not remember CC and Company. You should, although not for the quality of the movie. CC and Company starred no less distinguished a Royal Shakespearian thespian than the legendary Sir Broadway Joseph William Namath, making his film debut only a year after his unlikely but pre-guaranteed triumph over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.

Here are a few caps of Ann-Margret's dark nudity from that immortal cinema classic.



Other Crap:

The trailer from Candy, Heath Ledger's latest
  • Acclaimed director Neil Armfield has adapted Luke Davies' best-selling novel "Candy" and produced a contemporary love story of startling beauty for the screen. In the title role, Abbie Cornish delivers a fearless portrayal of a young artist whose lust for life takes her to the edge of sanity. Heath Ledger breathes a sweet and tender optimism into Dan, a sometime-poet lost in love with Candy. In heroin they find a path to limitless pleasure. But as addiction takes hold they lose the very thing they sought. "Candy" opens the door on a dream vision that will have meaning for all who have been dazzled by the beauty of the world.

Two trailers and three promotional clips from The Break-Up, the rom-com with Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn.

Ya gotta love the way advertises a product!

The Big Shave is a short film made by Martin Scorsese in 1967

A featurette on the upcoming chick-flick The Devil Wears Prada


  • “We learned the lessons of Hurricane Katrina,” Mr. Snow said. “Disaster hit, and we were unprepared to blame others for it – but not this time.”

Mr Tambourine Man played a song for me: Bob Dylan's DJ debut draws praise

Watch Wednesday night's episodes of Lost and Alias online

Hot chicks practice their topless skydiving

Ricky Williams may play in Canada

Janet Jackson: Fat No More (Part 3)

Cleared of murder by DNA, he's killed by traffic

LETTERMAN's fans: Top 10 ways to make Star Trek cool again

10 examples of science stuff you got wrong at School

Nostalgic T-Shirts of Tomorrow ::

"Variety reports that Marvel's Silver Surfer is on course to become a linchpin in Fantastic Four 2"

For the second time in a month, police in Salisbury, Md., are investigating a report of a man glued to a toilet seat.

URL says it all:

The Daily Show looks at oil prices

Worst idea of the day: A live-action Jetsons movie - from the producer of Catwoman

The World's First Adjustable Heat Sauce

For HomeStarr fans: The King of Town gets his own show?

"Picasso portrait sells for $95m "

  • And that was a bargain! It was knocked down 30% because nobody can figure out who or what it is a portrait of

Letterman: Top Ten Ways United States Automakers Can Increase Sales

  • "Less rack, more pinion"
  • "Find a way to make objects in mirror appear even closer"

Video: American nerds in Japan

  • "With so many videos floating around of Japanese tourists looking lost and confused in America, it's nice to see the tables turned for once. They're surprisingly nice to the nerds, and their infatuation with Japanese culture."

Clip #2 from X-Men 3

  • It's actually an interview with Magneto. You need to go to 2:56 to see the X-Man Clip. There is a DaVinci code clip at :49

American 'Idol' dumps the 17-year-old black woman.

  • The article also includes a video of the performance that got her axed

This week's movies (2900 screens): Hoot - 13% positive reviews

  • Hollywood Reporter called the kiddie pic with an ecological message "a blandly generic family film," and other reviewers used adjectives like "preachy," "ludicrous," "soporific," and "crummy." Not to mention "deplorable."

This week's movies (1500 screens): An American Haunting - 36% positive reviews.

  • Slant Magazine has an interesting take on it .... An American Haunting takes the spurious "based on real events" claim to new extremes, proffering a ghost story that's been (as per the production notes) "validated by the State of Tennessee as the only case in U.S. history where a spirit or entity caused the death of a human being." What this really means is that the people of Tennessee circa 1818 — the setting for this tale of a family's problems with a malevolent demon — were an unreliably superstitious bunch, as Courtney Solomon's 19th-century film seems about as rooted in historical fact as his previous directorial outing, Dungeons & Dragons.

This week's movies (3800 screens) Mission: Impossible III - 75% positive reviews.

  • Owen Gleiberman (EW) reflected the general feeling: "A gratifyingly clever, booby-trapped thriller that has enough fun and imagination and dash to more than justify its existence..."

The Weekend Warrior makes his predictions for the upcoming weekend.

  • The story of this weekend, of course, is whether America is sick of Tom Cruise. Warrior thinks enough of them will show up give MI-3 a higher gross than the rest of the Top Twelve combined.
  • If his prediction is right, the Dirty Dozen will be more than 60% ahead of the equivalent group last year, and MI-3 will almost single-handedly beat last year's entire total!

Lock in your guess: real or spoof? Hasselhoff to begin new career as a mime

Pink confesses to being a lousy lay


Movie Reviews:

Yellow asterisk: funny (maybe). White asterisk: expanded format. Blue asterisk: not mine. No asterisk: it probably sucks.


Munich (2005)


Munich is allegedly based on the Israeli reaction to the slaughter of their Olympic team at the Munich Olympics by members of the Black September Palestinian extremists. A Mossad agent (Eric Bana) is tasked with leading a clandestine team im a mission to take out 11 key planners of the terrorist attack. Along the way, he and his men have moral reservations about what they are doing, and there is some doubt raised as to whether the Palestinians are any worse than the Israelis. Bana's conscience is further bothered by the very pregnant wife that he must be away from. When the Palestinians start targeting his team, life gets even more interesting.

I have been a Steven Spielberg fan since I sat mesmerized watching Dennis Weaver in a Dual with an unseen truck driver on TV in 1971. I don't care if he is making entertainment films like Raiders, or message films like Schindler's List. He is a class act, and normally sells whatever he works on. But I felt that this one was a waste of my time. A whole lot of this happened in the 164 minutes of running time, but I had trouble following what was going on because of the dark photography, and the non-linear story-telling, with the Olympic Village massacre intercut with the rest of the film. Nobody's character was developed sufficiently that I much cared what happened to them.

As near as I can tell, the film's proponents see it is an allegory of 9/11 and our response, and feel that Spielberg is saying that there is no peace at the end of a revenge fight. This message was wasted on me, as I have been critical since before the war started, so this was not an eye-opener.

Further, I found it very cold and dry. In an example that many use as one of the better scenes, a bomb is placed in a phone. It will be detonated from a handset. The target's young daughter answers the phone, and there is barely time to stop the man with the trigger. The daughter leaves the building, and the complete the hit. Had Spielberg been going for heart and emotion, he would have ended this strong scene by showing the young daughter's face as her father's window explodes above her.

IMDb readers say 7.7. Ebert and Berardinelli agree at 4 stars. I can't account for all that praise or the five Oscar nominations, other than they were influenced by the director, not the film, but it is clear that people who love message film lovers enjoy this one, making it a C+

A newlywed couple is injured by one of their bombs, and the woman (Lisa Werlinder) is seen with her breasts exposed after the blast.

Marie-Josee Croze does a full frontal when she is being shot at close range with zip guns in retaliation for killing one of Bana's team.


Fight for Your Life (1975)

This is the least politically correct action thriller you will ever see. Many theaters wouldn't even screen this film, fearing violence on their premises. It is banned to this day in Great Britain.

A group of three convicts escapes from a transport wagon after a traffic accident, and ends up invading the home of a law-abiding black family, including a deacon father, a mother, a salty grand mother, a young son, and a virginal teenaged daughter. The gain consists of a southern white trash bigot, an Asian rapist/murderer, and a Latino murderer. Before they arrive at the house, they rob a filling station, and then a liquor store, shooting the owner right next to his baby.

The three are pure evil, and most of the film consists of their heaping one indignity after another upon their victims, to set and justify up the revenge ending. Their actions include killing a young boy, raping and killing a white woman (Bonnie Martin) who had been engaged to a different son who died tragically, and taking turns raping the virginal daughter (Yvonne Ross).

The film was made for less than $90K, and is much better than the budget would suggest.  Fight for Your Life is not a pleasant film, but it does produce a powerful visceral reaction. I can almost guarantee you will get involved enough to hate the villains by the end of the film.

This is a C-.

IMDb readers say 6.5


Bonnie Martin

Yvonne Ross





Today the Hankster Hillbilly tour wraps up "Country Hooker," which features Sandy Dempsey, who was a regular on the Sexploitation scene. Sandy bares all for the camera. Sadly three years after making this movie she died in a boating accident in the Gulf of Mexico.

You can play the "Spot the Tool" game in this set.





Dann reports on Alien Abduction:

A pretty good Sci-Fi/Horror script is somewhat impaired by some pretty bad acting, but fans will still enjoy it. B-movie all the way, this 2005 gorefest gets around the acting with an interesting if improbable storyline, and of course, some nice nudity.

Four campers are abducted by aliens, who do unspeakable things like ripping out their guts. Instead of dying, the happy campers wake up in a military hospital, where they have hundreds of other abducted for company.

Unfortunately, most are being subjected to experiments that either kill or totally debilitate them, such as drilling 5-inch holes in their brain, and those that aren't must prove their allegiance to the government, and total secrecy about what happened, before they can go home.

Neat enough plot, plenty of action as one of our campers (Megan Lee Ethridge) struggles to escape a situation even worse than the alien abduction, and lots of gore for the bloodthirsty horror fan.

Megan Lee Ethridge




Catherine Granville in Hunting Humans

Jackie Bosquet in Deadline

Vanessa Minnillo about half nekkid at the MTV Video Music Awards