The Magic Christian

1969, Movie, M, 95 mins

Review

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A brazen, irreverent, and wild satire that hits more often than it misses, THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN seeks to prove that people will do anything, absolutely anything, for money--if there's enough of it. Rich, bored Sellers adopts Starr as his son. Starr is a vagrant whom Sellers meets in the park; he seeks to show his new "son" the lengths that some folks will go to for the elusive pound. They go on a grouse hunt and Sellers uses a machine gun to nail the birds. He bribes the coxswain of the boat race at Henley; he pays the heavyweight champion of the world and his challenger to cease punching and start kissing during the title bout; he gives Harvey, the leading Shakespearean of the day, a sack full of money so the man will do a striptease during the most famous of all soliloquies. He goes to a posh restaurant and eats so disgustingly that anyone else would be thrown out, but since he lavishes money on everyone, they accept him. The bribery continues with Brynner, dressed outrageously as a transvestite, singing "Mad About The Boy" to Roman Polanski, whose eyes seem to be searching for the nearest exit. At Sotheby's auction house, Sellers bids the price high on a piece of junk, just to see some Americans attempt--successfully--to outbid him. Finally, he invites scores of the British aristocracy aboard a huge yacht known as "The Magic Christian." On board, the passengers are assaulted by Lee (as a vampire) and others who insult and harangue them, but they endure the attacks, thinking they will be rewarded by the eccentric Sellers. When it appears that the ship is about to sink, the passengers rush on deck, only to discover they've never even left shore. To prove his point once and for all, Sellers dumps a fortune into a huge vat filled with unspeakable excreta, blood, ooze, and sludge. The crowd dives into the yechh as Sellers and Starr leave for the park where they first met. There are so many funny episodes in the film and they go by so quickly that one seldom stops laughing. When Sellers' limo is ticketed by traffic warden Milligan, Sellers gives him so much money that Milligan eats the citation. The authors make their point early in the film, and that's the major problem. As the variations on the theme continue, the repitition becomes somewhat monotonous _ and the bits begin to fall apart. Several major stars appear in cameos, but the picture belongs to Sellers and he does a fine job underplaying the mad peer. Ringo Starr has little more to do than react, but he does turns in a competent performance. Chapman and Cleese, who helped with the screenplay, also appear briefly. Songs include: "Come and Get It" (Paul McCartney, performed by Badfinger), "Carry On to Tomorrow," "Rock of Ages" (performed by Badfinger), "Something in the Air" (John Keene, performed by Thunderclap Newman), "Mad About the Boy" (Noel Coward, sung by Yul Brynner). leave a comment

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