Film: Magic

"Magic is fun!"

"Abracadabra, I sit on his knee.
Presto chango, and now he is me.
Hocus pocus, we take her to bed.
Magic is fun; we're dead."
Fats, in the trailer

Magic is a 1978 horror film directed by Richard Attenborough and written by William Goldman (The Princess Bride), adapted from Goldman's own 1976 novel.

Failed magician Corky Withers (Anthony Hopkins) manages to revitalize his on-stage career with the addition of ventriloquism; unfortunately, Corky begins to manifest a split personality through his dummy, Fats, and when about to hit it big with a television deal, he flees due to the required medical examination. Heading to the Catskills, Corky then encounters his high school crush Peggy (Ann-Margret) and her grouchy husband Duke (Ed Lauter). Meanwhile, Corky's agent Ben Greene (Burgess Meredith) has pursued him and quickly becomes suspicious regarding his mental well-being. Shortly thereafter, the situation turns violent.

This film contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: Goldman's novel would have been very hard to put on-screen as it was written.
  • Becoming the Mask: Fats' personality gradually consumes Corky's.
  • Blue Eyes: On both Corky and Fats.
  • Daylight Horror: Fats "stabbing" Duke to death occurs the morning after Corky killed Ben (and, subsequently, the morning Duke found the corpse).
  • Demonic Dummy: Fats. He managed to scare Hannibal Lecter, for God's sake.
  • Description Cut: In the opening scene, Corky tells his mentor Merlin all about what a rousing success his first magic show was, while we see that it was actually anything but.
  • Disposing of a Body: Corky throws Ben Greene's body in the lake... only for it to be rediscovered during a fishing excursion.
  • Downer Ending: Corky stabs himself to stop Fats... except the last scene implies he now resides in Peggy.
  • Driven to Suicide: Corky.
  • The Film of the Book: Except done in a more straightforward manner instead of the book's kaleidoscope-esque nature, where it changed time period, location, and point of view swiftly and leaving important information, such as the identity of Fats the dummy, unknown for extended periods of time.
  • Ironic Echo Cut: After Corky rents the cabin from Peggy.
    Corky: [to Fats] I carried her picture all these years, and she didn't remember me.
    Peggy: [to her mirror] He didn't remember me.
  • Leitmotif: Jerry Goldsmith's score includes one of these for Fats, a little two-note harmonica riff.
  • Split Personality Takeover: Attempted near the end when Fats tells Corky that he is going to call all the shots from now on, starting by trying to get him to kill Peggy. Subverted in that Corky ultimately uses the knife on himself.
    • However, the last scene implies Fats managed to do this... with Peggy.
  • Wham Line: A subtle one, that both ends the movie and implies that Fats may not be dead:
    Peggy: I'm warning you, Cork... Don't play hard to get with me... 'Cause I'm a woman, seeing I can always change my mind again... (in a Fats-like voice) You may not get this oppor-fucking-tunity tomorrow!
  • Your Cheating Heart: Peggy and Corky.