The Incredible Suit is part of The Cineastes, a group of bloggers who review a film a month and link blogs in the hope of spreading the word of whatever it is we’re on about. October’s film is Magic, directed by Richard Attenborough in 1978.
Magic stars Anthony Hopkins as Corky, a struggling magician who incorporates a ventriloquist’s dummy, Fats, into his act in order to achieve greater success. Corky’s agent lands him a pilot for a TV series but the studio demands he undergo a medical examination before they sign the contract. It turns out they were quite right to do so; Corky’s as mad as a parachuteful of badgers, his personality split firmly down the middle with Fats taking the confident, aggressive side and leaving Corky the timid, hopeless loser half. It’s only a matter of time before one of them takes things too far…
…and that’s it. This might have once been an edgy thriller with a few shocks and a terrifying dummy, but now the scariest thing about it is Anthony Hopkins’ jumper. It’s a passable 100 minutes but it’s all quite predictable and ordinary and lacking in, well, magic.
Hopkins delivers an admirable performance, something he’s stopped bothering with these days. Yes, I know he’s a national treasure (especially having abandoned Wales to become a naturalised American), and he was good in The Silence Of The Lambs, but since then he’s only ever been Hannibal Lecter in a series of inappropriate situations. The Remains Of The Day: ooh look, Hannibal Lecter’s serving tea and cucumber sandwiches! Nixon: ooh look, Hannibal Lecter’s the President! Hannibal: ooh look, Hannibal Lecter’s playing Hannibal Lecter, how postmodern! Anyway, in Magic he gives a convincing portrayal of a movie schizophrenic, but a sympathetic depiction of mental illness this isn’t. And his accent, like the man himself, can’t decide between Welsh and American.
Speaking of indecision, as I may or may not have been, there’s some debate about whether Fats actually had a soul and was a separate entity to Corky, or if he was just Corky’s hatstand alter ego. The story waits until the last few minutes to decide, and it probably made the right choice because a sentient homunculus would have been a step too far down the ludicrous path for The Incredible Suit. Which, coincidentally, is my mentally troubled other self.
There is one excellent scene, in which Corky fails to prove he can exist without Fats for five minutes - a truly great shot shows Fats taking over with just a simple camera move - but Magic’s only other noteworthy aspect is that it features possibly the least sexy sex scene ever between Hopkins and Ann-Margret, both notoriously shy actors. It looks like they’ve bumped into each other in a corridor and are awkwardly trying to get out of each other’s way. Only naked.
On which queasy note I’ll leave you, with an “average” judgement hanging in the air like an indifferent, dispassionate cauliflower.