Magic Richard Attenborough

When did clowns, dolls and dummies become such horrifying images of our imagination? It seems these once friendly entertainers of adults and children alike can’t shake their bad raps after films such as Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Child’s Play and Magic turned them into textbook bogeymen. Unlike other films, however, Magic is terrifying not because of the dummy Fats but because of the ventriloquist who operates him. A youthful Anthony Hopkins plays Corky, a struggling magician who relies on the aid of his dummy to help lift his career into the big time. But when his agent tells him of an opportunity to work with NBC, Corky abruptly retreats to a cottage in the Catskills when he learns a physical must be undergone in order to sign a contract. It is here where the film’s madness unfolds, as Corky encounters childhood love Peg (Ann-Margret) and begins a tumultuous affair with the neglected married woman. Corky’s "relationship” with Fats begins to control his mental state though and his secret is threatened, which leads to desperate measures when he’s cornered. Based on William Goldman’s best-selling novel, Attenborough’s film is a dense thriller highlighted by the work of Hopkins, who’s always chilling when he needs to be, as well as the ever-lovely Ann-Margret and the dependable Burgess Meredith as Corky’s agent "Gangrene.” The reluctance to make a predictable left turn and transform Fats into a living thing of evil is commendable and all the more effective and chilling. Focusing on Corky’s psychosis as the destructive force and leaving the dummy as simply a tool works wonders for creating a film devoid of the usual paltry attempts at shock and awe. The special features, however, don’t come near the film’s quality, tacking on drivel such as a long lost Hopkins radio interview, an Ann-Margret makeup test and a mind-numbing featurette on dummies. (Dark Sky, www.darkskyfilms.com)