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The Curator of Schlock #124 by Jeff Shuster

Magic

(Written for the screen by William Golding from the novel by William Golding. Oh wait! That’s William Goldman.)

Okay. You’re Curator of Schlock has a confession to make. I’m afraid of dolls. I’m not talking about Barbies or Cabbage Patch Kids, but those creepy porcelain things they used to give out to kids during the 1800s, the kind if you stare at them long enough, they stare back at you, the kind that rummage around in your attic when your trying to sleep. But the worst are the ventriloquist dummies because they have the tendency to KILL KILL KILL!

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Case in point, 1979’s Magic from director Richard Attenborough (the old man in Jurassic Park) and starring Sir Anthony Hopkins as Charles “Corky” Withers. Corky is a squirrely little man who does card tricks for nightclub audiences, boring them to tears before screaming at them for ignoring his pathetic act. A year later, he pops back on the nightclub scene with a ventriloquist dummy named Fats and the crowd goes wild. Corky gets himself a talent agent by the name of Ben Greene (Burgess Meredith, obviously) and pretty soon he’s being booked on the Tonight Show and there’s even interest in developing a television pilot starring him and Fats.

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The trouble is the network needs him to go in for a medical exam before they can commence filming. Corky flips out and pays a cabbie to drive him out to the Catskills where he grew up. He books a room at Bed & Breakfast run by his high school crush, Peggy (Ann-Margret). One thing leads to another, and Corky and Peggy end up having a torrid affair. Peggy’s married ,so that may cause some issues when her husband gets back, but Corky has more important things to worry about.

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First, he gets into raging argument with Fats about when they’re going back to New York City. Ben Greene shows up at the cabin during their blow up and becomes concerned that Corky is losing his mind. He gives Corky an ultimatum: don’t operate Fats for five minutes or he’s getting the doctors from the funny farm. Corky makes it to four minutes before shoving his hand up Fats.

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His agent leaves to notify the authorities and Fats orders Corky to beat Ben Greene to death with him. I guess ventriloquist dummies make for swell murder weapons. Later that night, Corky tries to submerge the body of his agent in the middle of a lake, but Ben Greene regains consciousness so Corky now has to drown him. 

Peggy’s husband, Duke (Ed Lauter) shows up the next morning and Corky has to play it cool so Duke doesn’t suspect that he’s sleeping with his wife and murdering talent agents on his property. Do any of you think this is going to end well?

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Magic is a profound cautionary tale.

Five Things I Learned from Magic

  1. It is disconcerting to hear Burgess Meredith use the F word.
  2. Ventriloquist dummies make the best wingmen.
  3. If you’re going to murder your talent agent and dispose of the body, dispose of his Rolls Royce too. 
  4. Asparagus tips > French-cut green beans.
  5. Wood puns + sex jokes = comedy gold.

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Jeffrey Shuster 3

Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124, and episode 131) is an MFA candidate at the University of Central Florida.

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