November 11, 1978 [Magic]

Anthony Hopkins in Magic churns up Karloffian pathos with a whisper-to-hysteria vocal register, like Richard Harris caught midway between this sporting life and Camelot, all to sustain one long nervous in extremis situation: Corky the mad ventriloquist eaten up by his cold, sly double, Fats, his stare-down disdain and squawking rages exhausting Corky, sending him to the bare trees of his hometown where in isolation he can settle into inevitable ruin--the whole goop poured like Creepy Crawlers into a don’t-touch hotplate.

And then there’s Ann-Margret as Peggy Ann Snow, forgodsake: the original kitten with a whip, almost in another movie, looking back with confidence at the fact that she was the prettiest girl in school, all done with Bye-Bye-Birdie teeny-bopper squeals and Tommy’s-Mommy Oedipal wigouts. If movies are dreams, and dreams are wish-fulfillment, this one comes without metaphor, symbol, or sign, just flat-out unfiltered longing. No matter how awkward or foolish the movie became, those scenes of Corky and Peggy in love (despite the homicidal wooden baby-makes-three) reminded me how temporarily soothing a movie can be, even if the real wish is to not-be.


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