Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, August 10, 2017


Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr
THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN  (1969). Director: Joseph McGrath.

Wealthy Sir Guy Grand (Peter Sellers) has no son and heir, so he picks up a tramp he calls Youngman (Ringo Starr) and adopts him. Grand and son enjoy seeing how much people will do for money, and it turns out to be quite a lot. The last third of the film takes place on the title ocean liner, where there are riotous -- but, unfortunately, not very funny -- proceedings on board. The climax has Guy putting cash in a pool of literal crap and watching men dive for the loot while Thunderclap Newman's "Something in the Air" plays over the action. Meant to tackle sacred cows of the period, The Magic Christian is merely awful and tedious, although there are times when you just can't turn your eyes away. The picture has the distinction of being the one Peter Sellers movie in which he clowns around but just isn't funny, and Starr, while adequate, is just along for the ride. There's a lot of homo-eroticism in the picture -- such as two dancing gay bodybuilders, and two boxers who begin making out instead of punching one another (for such a "daring" movie it's strange the way the camera cuts away before they actually kiss) -- and, alas, Leonard Frey of The Boys in the Band is forced to play a character named Laurence Faggot (pronounced Fag- go). What's meant to be shocking and sarcastic is just silly and asinine. Wilfrid Hyde-White [The Browning Version] is fine as the captain of the Magic Christian; Laurence Harvey [Life at the Top] seems to be having fun doing what might be called a Shakespearean striptease; Raquel Welch wields a mean whip in a galley scene; and Patrick Cargill and John Cleese are somewhat amusing as discombobulated employees of Sotheby's. Christopher Lee even shows up wearing his Dracula teeth and threatening to put the bite on a lady passenger. But the best cameo hands-down goes to Yul Brynner [Westworld], who is frankly astonishing as a somewhat odd-looking songstress warbling Noel Coward's "Mad About the Boy" in a cocktail lounge. Otherwise, this is a criminal waste of time! The whole film looks as if everyone involved was completely stoned all during filming.

Verdict: One of the worst movies ever made -- aside from a "fabulous" Brynner. *.


angelman66 said...

Have n ever even heard of this one, Bill, and if it truly is as bad as you say---well then I can't wait to see it! Looks like areal curiousity to say the very least!
- Chris

William said...

That it is! Yul Brynner has the most surprising and delightful cameo of his career. Almost worth sitting through for that!