Brad Baker | Atherton, Ca United States | 02/13/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Sir Guy Grand is a pompous billionaire who, while strolling through St. James' Park, adopts a homeless young man as his own new son. With his protegee in tow, Sir Guy proceeds to tour the town; confirming his belief that everyone in London(and the world) is beholden only to the all-mighty British quid. Things really go bonkers when the pair joins the maiden voyage of a new luxury liner. The party becomes a riot. 1969's "The Magic Christian" is a zany, riotous romp released at the end of the turbulent, psychedelic 60's. Dated it is. Starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr(as his son), "The Magic Christian" is a pre-Monty Python extravaganza featuring some funny skits, cameo bits by celebrities, and a series of long, boring episodes with Sir Guy(Sellers) lost in total self-absorption. Among the guest stars are Laurence Harvey(in a strip-tease), John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Raquel Welch, Christopher Lee as Dracula, Roman Polanski, John Cleese and Yul Brynner in drag. The real glistening gem of "The Magic Christian" is the vibrant music by Badfinger and Thunderclap Newman. With songs written by Paul McCartney(and sung by his brother), Badfinger was once considered heir to the Beatles. Their meteoric success capitalized on British hard-rock and lilting gentle lyrics. But after 2 band members committed suicide, they quickly disappeared. As chronicled so expertly by Roger Lewis' "Life and Death of Peter Sellers" in 1994, the British actor/superstar was an amazing whirl of selfish, vain psychosis. Hidden behind wigs and make-up, Sellers had no real personality of his own, his psyche melting into his many odd roles with unsettling ease. Peter Sellers' temper tantrums destroyed marriages, wives, children, and fellow actors. Just 2 years before "The Magic Christian", Sellers had quit the set of "Casino Royale" during production. The real failure of "Casino Royale" is the fact that it's hero, James Bond, completely disappears half-way through the film. 2 years later, nervous "Magic Christian" producers wanted to avoid another calamity, and allowed Sellers to tinker with the screenplay and take over direction. In 2 sequences, Sellers acts with his back to the camera. "The Magic Christian" is a curious mish-mash of adroit British humor, shaky hand-held photography, and cut-and-paste story-telling. This new DVD is a bare-bones, but lovely full-screen transfer. How could a big-budget comedy with the premiere performer of it's day, 2 of the Beatles(and singing by a third) go wrong? It's well worth your time to find out why. Just once."
Hilarious Comedy Disguising Brutal Satire
Sir Charles Panther | Alexandria, Virginny, USandA | 02/28/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The first time I saw the hunting scene in which Ringo Starr opens up on game birds with a tommy gun, followed by a Peter Sellers-thrown hand grenade, British Army anti-aircraft artillery barrage, and a final flame-thrower toasting, I just about wet myself laughing. It is one of the most unpredictable, insane, fully-developed lambasting of British pomposity I've ever encountered, on film or in print. And this bit takes place early on in this wonderful movie.
The film is a series of excellently written and staged sketches, connected by Terry Southern's original concept of an aging billioinaire, bored with the world and his corporate life who turns his wealth and energies to proving that all things are corruptible. The individuals and groups then corrupted, and the settings for their betrayals are hilarious, including a strip-tease to Hamlet's "To be or not to be" at Stratford-on-Avon, a jaguar disguised as a dog at Cruft's dog show, two heavyweight boxers opting to neck in the ring rather than beat each other senseless, a sham of a Sotheby's rare art auction, and a riverine melee at the annual Cambridge v. Oxford rowing race.
Concealed in the comedy are some serious observations on the nature of modern society, growing more pronounced and direct as the movie continues. By the end, the shots at class systems, sexual repression, greed, religion, vanity and pretension, government, and the Vietnam War are plainly obvioius, and brutal.
This mix of serious satire and slapstick comedy come almost naturally from the cast. International comedy legend Peter Sellers is the lead, but he is not given the freedom to truly cut loose as Kubrick gave in Dr. Strangelove. The Sellers characterizations are stock and well-known, but the situations and venues succeed in making the combination very funny. A very seriously hippie Ringo Starr is the prime supporting actor, bringing along the Yellow Submarine, Help!, and A Hard Day's Night, as well as a deep understanding of the 60s psychedelic drug culture. Added to that are the then-emerging unpredictable surrealistic comedy of Monty Python's John Cleese and Graham Chapman. This all comes together in the chaotic train-disco scene.
Keep a sharp eye out for a number of wonderful, unexpected and well-disguised A-list cameos, including Richard Attenborough, Raquel Welch, Yul Brynner, Keith Moon, John Cleese and Graham Chapman, Spike Mulligan, and Christopher Lee.
This film is a hoot, no doubt, but it's also some very intense black comedy, exceedingly well done."
Magic Christian is Magical Classic, so COME AND GET IT!
Daniel J. Hamlow | Narita, Japan | 08/03/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Peter Sellers is one of my favorite actors of all time. He is British, after all, and starred in the Pink Panther series as Inspector Clouseau.The Magic Christian, in which he plays billionaire Guy Grand, is one of his best vehicles, and what a bonus it is to have Ringo Starr as his adopted son, Youngman Grand.I liken the smattering of cameo appearances as an extension of the guest stars in that other movie based on a Terry Southern novel, Candy. As another note of interest, Candy also featured in a small role as a Mexican gardner, yes, Ringo Starr! But those of us in the know already knew that. Right? Right and double right, as Guy Grand would say.I recognized Joan Benham, who intermittently played Lady Prudence Fairfax in the Upstairs Downstairs series, as a socialite discussing the maiden voyage of The Magic Christian to her friends.Dennis Price, who starred in some Ealing comedies in the 1950's and who was the ill-fated Hector Snipe in Theatre of Blood, plays one of Grand's company executives.There's David Hutcheson, one of the hunters, who gets frozen to death by a hail machine in The Abominable Dr. Phibes.Among the most notable is John Cleese's role as Mr. Dugdale, a museum attendant with a supercilious attitude and voice to match, who is understandably shocked when Grand snips out the nose of a Rembrandt he has purchased. Ringo finishes the scene off with a sensory organ joke: "Keep your eye out for a good ear." Precious!Raquel Welch is the whip-wielding queen of the Magic Christian galley. And finally there is Yul Brynner, who in drag, sings Noel Coward's "Mad About The Boy" before whipping off his wig to reveal his familiar bald pate.Wilfrid Hyde-White, best known as Colonel Pickering in My Fair Lady, has a lot of fun in his role as Captain Klaus, the skipper of the Magic Christian.The songs by Badfinger also give a boost to this movie, such as "Come And Get It" which is the theme that permeates throughout this movie. The somber and heartfelt "Carry On Till Tomorrow" is a perfect reflection of Ringo Starr's pre-Grand life, as he is harassed by all sorts of nasty people, a groundskeeper, a bobby, and a hideous crone who gives him heck because of his sunglasses.What I find infuriating is that the album by Thunderclap Newman, who sings "Something In The Air" during the scene where all sorts of people swim around in a huge vat of urine, manure, and blood to get tenners, is criminally out-of-print, which means we only have Tom Petty's version of it on his first greatest hits album, which is good by the way. But that's a mere minor complaint.My two favorite scenes involve the strip tease version of Hamlet featuring Laurence Harvey, and the auction scene, during which Grand signals his bids in the most unconventional ways. The auction ends at the expense of a social-climbing American couple purchasing a Lancier painting.The climactic scene of chaos inside the Magic Christian is the high point of the movie, and perhaps mirrors that chaos and turmoil going on, especially the upsurgence of the hippie generation, student revolutionaries, and anti-Vietnam protests in the late 1960's.Comparing the movie to the novel, I say both are effective, but it was impossible to make the movie exactly like the book, but most of Grand's schemes made it, such as the Silky hair conditioner, the hot dog vendor, the opening of the stores with low introductory "get acquainted" sales, the newspaper that printed the news with foreign words, and the aforementioned vat of urine schemes were included. In the novel, Grand is having tea with his two sisters, and the story keeps intercutting between the tea party and his schemes, which were narrated in the past tense rather than being presented in present tense as it was in the movie. It would have been interesting if the subtle corrupting of the films (the novel) had been included. A classic period piece of the 1960's, and one that I hope will be enjoyed by all for all eternity. The Magic Christian is available, so, as the song says, "if you want it, here it is, come and get it.""
"Sometimes its not enough merely to teach. One has to punish
landru141 | Planet Houston | 06/27/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Few films come along that I watch and say "Yeah, that's exactly right. That's exactly how I feel." The Magic Christian is one of them. Its a perfect satire of our culture and perfectly relevant today as it was then. Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr are well-suited to each other in this off-kilter satire of a billionaire looking for everyone's "price". Why? To prove a point. To punish as well as teach.
Some may disagree with me, but I think the movie outdoes the book by some miles. (...) In fact, we have TV shows dedicated to just this fact. Don't people eat bugs on Fear Factor or Survivor? Do horrendously awful things for that all-mighty dollar? Yes.
Sir Guy Grand, a grand guy (Sellers), and his adopted son Youngman Grand (Starr) commit the ultimate heresy by faking a gigantic luxury liner for the cream of society only to mess with their heads with gorillas, Christopher Lee in full Dracula gear, and Yul Brenner in drag singing "Mad about the Boy" to Roman Polanski. In short, this film is dangerous and brilliant.
(PS to the reviewer who mentions the Beatles. John isn't in it, its a double ... and Paul isn't singing, he just wrote the song for Badfinger.)
Unfortunately, I can't give it a five for two reasons. 1. Much of the dialogue is ADR'd and Sellers can't give quite the subtle performance he might have done ala Strangelove (another Southern writing project.) 2. The DVD is pretty much a slap-dash full screen copy of the crappy version that was out on VHS for years. I hope one day they put out a good version. "
From Different Eyes.
Katherine E. Zuckerman | Boise, ID | 02/10/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this movie in the late '60's when it was made. I liked it then. I had not seen it since, but have been contemplating attitudes toward money lately and remembered the movie. It is interesting how 36 years (or so) can change one's perspective. Although the movie did not change (obviously), my attitude toward money has changed. I still have a certain amount of disrespect for money and for selling the days of my life for money. I still believe that people are much more greedy than they need to be. All of these things stayed the same, both in the movie (of course) and in my mind. I now have enough money to meet my basic needs and even a few "wants" that are not needs. When I first saw the movie, I was on the outside, not always knowing if I would have enough to secure basic needs. Either way, this movie is a biting satire and can allow one to step far enough from the current attitudes toward money that one might have and start to explore them from a different perspective.
Even if the viewer does not want to have that deep of an experience while watching a movie, it is interesting to see how many well known people, both living and (now) dead are in one movie; sometimes just walking through in the background, sometimes with important parts.
This movie is part of the culture and should not be missed."