Fright Fest Review #18: Magic (1978)

Schizophrenia For Dummies
Schizophrenia For Dummies

Subgenre:  Evil Doll

Summary:  An up-and-coming ventriloquist begins to lose control over his psychotic dummy.

Review:  Magic begins with our hero, struggling magician Corky, bombing at a New York nightclub.  It then abruptly jumps ahead one year to find Corky headlining at that very same club – only now, he’s added wisecracking dummy Fats to his act.  The audience can’t get enough of Fats’s smart mouth, and Corky’s agent sees big things in his future.  But when the pressure of national success looms ahead, Corky flees to upstate New York (with Fats in tow) to visit his high school crush.

Magic’s strongest asset is Hopkins, who does double duty as both Corky and Fats.  As the former, he’s unstable but sympathetic.  As the latter, he’s disturbing, shrill, and quite funny at times.  Thanks to Hopkins’s performance, Corky’s “conversations” with his dummy cause the audience to believe in Fats’s sentience just as much as Corky does.

Unfortunately, the movie’s plot doesn’t fare as well.  Once Corky and Fats arrive at the Catskills, Magic devolves into a fairly boilerplate thriller that offers little in the way of surprise.  The perpetually cloudy setting creates some decent atmosphere, but it’s not enough to make up for the obvious story beats.  Magic’s ends on a quiet note, and while not completely unsatisfying, it lacked the man vs. dummy showdown I was hoping for.

The Verdict:  Magic has plenty going for it, but plenty of flaws as well. I give it six domineering dummies out of ten.

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