Hands down, Sir Anthony Hopkins can bring a precision in elevated evil when called upon to do so. Physicality, timing and delivery in dialogue, Hopkins is uniquely gifted in his abilities to transform himself in such a way, one rarely has to reach in “believing” he is the character he is playing.
On this day in 1978, we were introduced to the psychological horror film, MAGIC. Charles “Corky” Withers (Sir Anthony Hopkins) has just failed in his first attempt at professional magic. His mentor “Merlin” (E.J.André, 77’ EVIL TOWN) 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.
With success comes opportunities! Corky’s agent, Ben Greene (Burgess Meredith, ROCKY), comes very close to signing him to his own tv show but Corky doesn’t take the offer. He claim he is “afraid of success” but truth be told, he was avoiding the required medical psyche evolution that may be given. His fear is that they will discover that he suffers from severe issues, and that even off-stage he can’t control Fats (a manifestation of Corky’s identity).
Corky then finds his way, not only, back to his hometown but also to his high-school crush. Peggy Ann Snow (Ann-Margret, GRUMPIER OLD MEN) is married to Duke (Ed Lauter, SEABISCUIT) but the marriage flame has diminished. Enamored by Corky’s charm and card tricks, the two end up in bed together planting a jealousy seed in Fats!
Uninvited nor expected, Ben Greene finds Corky and learns of his questionable mental state, as well as, his relationship with Fats. Insisting Corky get help immediately, Fats “convinces” Corky to kill Greene. And that he does! Using the hard wooden head of Fats the puppet! Corky disposes of the body in the lake but not until Greene has one last tussle which causes Corky to end Greene’s life by holding his head under water.
Adding to the chaos, Duke arrives home from his business trip highly suspicious of his wife activities in his absence, he takes Corky out on the lake to actually talk about his feelings and expressing how he desires to win favor back with Peggy Ann. But on the shoreline there is a body. Rowing towards it, Duke discovers Greene’s body!
Sending Corky to get help, Duke realizes there is no hope because the body is lifeless. Riddled with dubiety, Duke searches Corky’s home. There we, with the help of great camera angles, we see Fats attack Duke, stabbing him with the “help” of Corky. Two bodies, a man of the cuff of further madness and a puppet being the puppeteer!
Corky holds it together long enough to beg Peggy Ann to run away with him but much to their surprise, Fats comes “alive” convincing Peggy Ann that Corky is merely a man with a trick used to lure women in and she was nothing but a pawn in a, routinely executed, game for Corky. Repulsed, she leaves locking Corky out of her heart and bedroom.
Fats makes it very clear that he is in charge now and will be calling all the shots; orders Corky to kill Peggy Ann. Corky, after a heated rebuke puts his best game face, submits and heads out to do the deed. Standing outside Peg’s bedroom door, Corky apologizes in Fats voice and returns home. Showing a bloody knife, Fats is pleased…
For those who have not seen this amazing classic, I will NOT spoil the ending! This cinematic gem is very much hunting down to see! A truly disturbing story played out by a powerhouse cast and with a horrific twist at the end. MAGIC will forever be a horror great!