Two of our favorites among the many short featurettes we’ve produced over the years will be included on the forthcoming Blu-ray release of Magic (1978). This super creepy ventriloquist gone mad tale — the inspiration for a smorgasbord of kids’ nightmares in the late 70s/early 80s — was directed by Richard Attenborough and stars Anthony Hopkins, Ann-Margret, Burgess Meredith and a dummy called Fats. The main featurette “Fats & Friends” is a history of ventriloquism as told by master vent Dennis Alwood, and, for the first time in 28 years, features an on-camera performance by Fats himself. The second featurette entitled “Screenwriting for Dummies” is the US debut of an in-depth interview with legendary screenwriter William Goldman.
The making of Fats & Friends was a true collaboration with Alwood, who served as ventriloquial consultant on Magic. Alwood boasts one of the most impressive resumes in modern ventriloquism having been the official successor of Edgar Bergen as the partner of Charlie McCarthy and having carved out quite a name for himself with his buddy Dudley (who also appears in the doc). Alwood is quite the expert in the history of ventriloquism and has an impressive collection of vintage dolls (many of which make an eerie cameo in the piece). The featurette traces the history of vents in popular entertainment and includes some rare archive footage of Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy, Jimmy Nelson & Danny O’Day, Arthur Prince & Jim, A.C. Astor & Sentimental Mac and many more. We wanted to bring the doc right up to date by shooting at the official ventriloquist annual convention in Ohio but the event holders do not like the negative stereotype that movies like Magic perpetuate about all vents being a little bit crazy so access was denied.
Of more importance to us however was to track down and revive the original Fats. After some painstaking research we tracked down producer Richard P. Levine in New England and lo and behold he was still in possession of one of the two Fats dolls created for the movie (inspired by the image of Hopkins, much to the chagrin of the esteemed thesp who was genuinely spooked by his doppelganger). After some persuasion and assurances Levine agreed to ship Fats to us in LA on the proviso that he would be restored under Alwood’s supervision. So the ailing doll was lovingly returned to his former glory then reanimated at Hollywood’s famous Magic Castle especially for this documentary short.
The William Goldman interview was conducted by frequent Severin collaborator Gary Hertz in New York a few months later but unfortunately did not make the deadline to be included on Dark Sky’s DVD of Magic. Therefore we’re very happy that it’s receiving it’s US debut on the Blu-ray. One of the great screenwriters in modern cinema (Butch Cassidy, All The President’s Men, Misery), bestselling novelist in fiction (Marathon Man, Magic, Princess Bride) and non-fiction (Adventures In The Screen Trade), Goldman had eluded us in our previous attempt to interview him for Anchor Bay’s DVD of The Stepford Wives. His experiences on that film (directed by Lord Attenborough’s childhood pal Bryan Forbes) was not as successful as on Magic so he did not want to participate. This time around he had no such qualms and gladly told us about the transformation from bestselling book to major Hollywood movie, some candid anecdotes about the development of the project and his satisfaction with the production as a whole and the personnel involved.
The hi-def transfer of Magic was supervised by cinematographer Victor J. Kemper and the disc will also include interviews with Hopkins, Kemper, behind the scenes footage and that terrifying TV Spot.
Magic will hit Blu-ray from Dark Sky Films on October 12th.