The Magic Christian


THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN has a handful of laughs in an otherwise smug and sloppy 92 minutes, an hour & a half of 1969 satire intended to rip holes in the gas balloon of society’s pomposity—Britain, anyway, representing the ‘civilized world’—but mainly serves a star-studded (or loaded) showcase for how good drugs were at the time, particularly for those who could afford them in quantities great enough to waste on a spite dump like this. Way too clumsy and self-satisfied to score with anything beyond sophomoric scorn for everyone not ‘groovy’ enough to be ‘with it’. I remember dutifully trekking to see it with a stoned crew of pals, and laughing as if Beatle-programmed at the ‘daring’ takedown of what we were told was the status quo. Har har: the joke was on us: it’s really just one group of rich, spoiled, connected swells wanking on another.

Terribly directed by Joseph McGrath (he helped ruin 1967’s Casino Royale), who co-wrote (or co-opted) the script with counter-culturist Terry Southern, updating and continent-shifting Southern’s 1959 novel, with injecting input spat from John Cleese, Graham Chapman and star Peter Sellers. Sellers and co-star Ringo Starr seem to be enjoying themselves.

On hand to show squares how uncool they/we/you were/are is an assortment of British supporting players with some international/Hollywoody names as poster bait. A few of them are funny (Wilfrid Hyde-White the best), some are embarrassing (Yul Brynner, Laurence Harvey, Roman Polanski), others adrift (Richard Attenborough, Christopher Lee); the biggest half-dressed draw (Raquel Welch) is on screen for about as much time as it takes to read this paragraph.

Creep alert

With Leonard Frey, Spike Milligan, Roland Culver, Edward Underdown, Cleese & Chapman, Ferdy Mayne, Graham Stark, Victor Maddern, Isabel Jeans, John Le Mesurier, Rita Webb. Paul McCartney’s song “Come And Get It” is performed by Badfinger: a relic, by relics, for relics.

Critics were not impressed, and boxoffice was sad, $2,000,000 in the Nam-mired States placing 97th in ’69. Pretend it’s five decades back, you’re fourteen or fifteen and pot cost ten bucks a bag: you’ll think it’s hilarious and ‘deep’.

Subtle with a capital-ism S–t




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