US movie (1978). 20th Century-Fox/Joseph E Levine. Pr Joseph E Levine, Richard P Levine. Exec pr C O Erickson. Dir Richard Attenborough. Spfx Robert MacDonald Jr. Consultant ventriloquist Dennis Alwood. Screenplay William Goldman. Based on Magic (1978) by Goldman. Starring Ann-Margret (Peggy Ann Snow), Anthony Hopkins (Corky Withers), Ed Lauter (1938-2013) (Duke), Burgess Meredith (Ben Greene). 107 mins. Colour.
Struggling Magician Corky is told by his dying Mentor that he is doomed to failure unless he can get some charm. Two years later he has that charm, in the shape of parodically matched ventriloquist dummy Fats, which he comes to believe is a living entity (see Ventriloquism). Fame beckons, but fear of failure drives Corky into hiding. There he meets Peggy Ann, the girl he yearned for as a youth. He – or is it Fats? – commits a brace of murders. Peggy Ann, ignorant of the killings, plans to elope with Corky, but then Fats blows the gaffe. Rejected, Corky is urged by Fats to kill her, but instead kills himself ... and thereby also Fats.
M inevitably loses in subtlety by comparison with Goldman's novel, which relies largely on a constant confusion of the reader's Perception for its effect; the plot itself is not new, having cinematic precursors at least as early as The Great Gabbo (1929). But M is a fine Psychological Thriller and, although a Rationalized Fantasy, involving enough that we come to share Corky's perception and to disbelieve the rationalization. Yet M is honest with us: through facial appearance and dress Fats is labelled as Corky's evil Twin, his scatology and sexual innuendo being the thoughts Corky dare not utter himself; the equation of the two characters is further stressed by the fact that Hopkins did indeed ventriloquize Fats's lines. At movie's end we are left questioning our own understanding of what is and is not Magic. [JG]