Thoughts from the Ledge: Revisiting the retro horror classic Magic

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It’s Magic

Thoughts from the Ledge – Burgess Meredith and Anthony Hopkins – Courtesy of Joseph E. Levine Productions, Twentieth Century Fox

Magic is a hidden gem. Sir Anthony portrays Corky Withers. When we first meet him, he’s a failed magician. His mentor tells him he has to find a “gimmick.” Boy, does he ever!

Turning to ventriloquism, he discovers a dummy that he names Fats. What’s interesting is that Fats looks exactly like him. There is no mistaking it. This dummy is his alter ego and his Id. Much in the way that Ashy Slashy worked in Ash vs Evil Dead.

Fats says what Corky won’t. As a result, his act catapults him into stardom under the careful grooming of his experienced agent, Ben Greene. Greene is portrayed by the great character actor, Burgess Meredith. Fans of Rocky know him as Mick.

However, Ben senses something is wrong with Corky. Before he’s about to take on a network TV show, there is a caveat. Greene tells him he has to get a medical examination.

Sensing that he’s going to be found mentally unstable, Corky freaks out and takes off for the Catskills. There he runs into his high school sweetheart, the beautiful Peggy Ann Snow (Ann-Margret). Still smitten with her, there is a hitch.

She is married to Duke (Ed Lauter). While Duke is devoted, he’s somewhat domineering and possessive of Peggy. As the love affair deepens between her and Corky, he descends further into madness. Now, Fats starts to interfere out of “jealousy” and starts demanding that Corky kill people.

Corky vs Fats

Thoughts from the Ledge – Anthony Hopkins and Ann-Margret – Courtesy of Joseph E. Levine Productions, Twentieth Century Fox

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Appalled of course, Corky refuses. While this struggle is going on, Ben shows up. Concerned for Corky’s welfare after he can clearly see that his client is not in his right mind, he devises a test. He asks Corky if he can make Fats shut up for five minutes.

Well, this is not going to happen. Fats is now the dominant one in the relationship and he takes over completely. Shocked at Corky’s deterioration, Ben attempts to leave to get him the help that he needs.

Petrified that his “secret” will be revealed, Corky kills Ben and dumps his body in the lake. Riddled with guilt, he tries to act as if everything is okay. Upon arriving home from an excursion unbeknownst to his wife, Duke manages to find Ben’s car and his corpse. Now, Fats convinces Corky that he needs to get rid of Peggy’s husband too.

So, the kill count is up to two bodies. Somehow throughout all this turmoil, Corky convinces Peggy to run away with him. She is on board but wants to tell Duke to his face that she’s leaving him.

Corky tries to persuade her not to do that and to just pack and go. Fats knows that he will cease to exist once Peggy enters the picture for good. In the quest for self-preservation, Fats convinces Corky to kill the woman he loves.

In an almost Shakespearean ending, Corky takes his own life and dies with Fats to stop the madness. The tragic part occurs when Peggy comes to his room, knocks on the door to tell him that she will leave with him and no one answers…

Love and Madness

What makes this film so potent is the conviction and commitment of the performers. Anthony Hopkins is quite adept at going from zero to crazy in less than 60 seconds. He makes Daniel Day Lewis look stable.

But this isn’t scenery chewing on his part, it is very calculated. Hopkins portrays Corky as very shy and quiet. Fats on the other hand is the polar opposite and Hopkins can play the vulgar cad well too. You join him in his downward spiral.

This production will test your boundaries of what is real and what is unreal. And that is why Magic is one hell of a horror experience. I guarantee you, you will never look at a doll or a dummy or even a puppet in quite the same way ever again.

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Have you seen Magic? Are you a fan of Anthony Hopkins? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below. We want to hear from you.