Sunday, July 10, 2022

THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN 1969

If You Want It, Here It Is, Come and Get It. Mm...Mm...Mm...Mm

State of the World - 2022: The world’s richest men are eccentric billionaires who, proportionate to the degree to which their hoarded obscene wealth could ease human suffering, have fundamentally taken on the role of real-life supervillains.

State of Mind - 1969: Terry Southern’s anti-capitalism satire The Magic Christian – about an eccentric billionaire who spends his money orchestrating elaborate practical jokes exposing the avarice, bigotry, and hypocrisy of the over-privileged classes – is made into a major motion picture.
Peter Sellers as Sir Guy Grand
Ringo Starr as Youngman Grand

One of the nicer things I remember about the late-‘60s was its social and political idealism. From my pre-teen perspective, it felt like young adults all across the country were collectively waking up to the inequities and injustices of society and were serious in their commitment to the belief that change was possible. 
Capitalism, being what it is, was also doing some waking up at this time. In the form of noticing that the disposable income of this sizable demographic was being freely spent on goods and entertainments that reflected their values, supported and promoted their beliefs, and gave the appearance of being, if not exactly one of them, at least at one with them. 
Raquel Welch as Priestess of the Whip
Despite her prominence in the marketing of the movie, the strikingly beautiful Welch shows up ten minutes before the film is over for all of 30 seconds. Defying all laws of probability for such brevity, Welch still manages to come off stilted and affectless.    

As usual, Hollywood…sometimes the trendsetter, often a step behind, but only rarely ever in pace with the times…found itself in the position of playing “catch-up” in trying to develop projects that appealed to this newly-recognized audience. But the world was changing so fast that the crunch to meet the market demand for suitably “now” motion pictures only exposed Hollywood’s bloated, slow-moving studio system as ill-suited to compete with the immediacy (and, by extension, relevance) of inexpensively-made independent and underground films. 

Sheer law of averages accounted for the rare youth-market breakout success: e.g., The Graduate – 1967, Bonnie and Clyde -1967, Easy Rider – 1969, and Midnight Cowboy – 1970. But as the major studios were still a bunch of conservative white men well past the age of 30 trying to make a quick buck off of the liberal and diverse “Don’t trust anyone over 30” crowd; more often than not the haste to get “Where it’s at” movies into theaters before they became “Where it was” cultural artifacts, resulted in a glut of big-budget miscalculations like Skidoo (1968), Myra Breckinridge (1970), and Terry Southern's Candy (1968). 
Ewa Aulin & Ringo Starr in Candy (1967)
Counterculture icon Terry Southern (contributing screenwriter for Dr. Strangelove, Barbarella, Easy Rider, Casino Royale) wrote the sex satire Candy in 1958 with Mason Hoffenberg. Buck Henry adapted the script for the truly dire film version. 

Relying heavily on the most exploitable signifiers of youth-cult marketability—profanity, nudity, sex, & drugs—these blatantly pandering exercises in desperation were so arrogantly clueless in their lack of understanding of the very public whose dollars they so cynically courted that they came across as being almost hostile to young people. 
By all accounts, the film version of The Magic Christian started out as a sincere, well-intentioned ideological passion project spearheaded by Peter Sellers (who, in his 40s, had joined show business’ ever-growing ranks of over-age flower children and millionaire hippies). But the finished product wound up illustrating the Grand-ish point - “Nothing is so sacred that it can’t be corrupted by money” in ways not intended. 
Grand & Son
A man who has everything joins forces with a man who has nothing,
and together they set about to prove that "Everyone has their price."

Over the film’s opening credits, we’re introduced to Sir Guy Grand (Peter Sellers), the world’s richest man. Before the credits are over, the unmarried, childless billionaire meets and promptly adopts a homeless man (Ringo Starr), dubs him Youngman Grand, and makes the shaggy young derelict the heir to his fortune. Since the film begins mid-stride and hits the ground running, we never learn what prompts Grand’s impulsive want for offspring, nor what’s behind his mania for using his great wealth to take the piss out of the posh. But it’s certainly not out of the question for us to assume that he's perhaps insane, for it’s something of an anti-establishment movie tradition (a la, King of Hearts – 1966 and The Madwoman of Chaillot - 1969) to depict the lunatics and madmen in our world as the only sane people left. 
Laurence Harvey (in a bit originally intended for David Hemmings)
performs Hamlet's soliloquy as a striptease

The darkly comic “capitalism kills” satire of The Magic Christian was written by Texas-born Terry Southern in 1959, but the climate of counterculture rebellion that was America in the late-‘60s made his episodic evisceration of American excess feel more relevant than ever. At least in theory. 
Peter Sellers had expressed interest in making a movie of The Magic Christian as far back as 1964 while filming Dr. Strangelove (he’d hoped to get Stanley Kubrick to direct). Drawn to what he saw as the satire’s idealistic principles— "It illustrates to the public the truth about power, money, and corruption,” he intoned to a skeptical press— the recently spiritually and politically awakened actor acquired the rights, secured financing, and corralled a slew of celebrity friends to work for scale.
Richard Attenborough as the coach of the Oxford Rowing Team

But in taking four years and some 14 screenplay drafts to reach the screen, a movie idealistically espousing the hippie ethos (signaled by the film’s finale which finds Grand and Youngman choosing “A simpler way,” and opting for a life of vagrancy) felt as though it had arrived a bit late to the party. Close to the 1967 Summer of Love would have been great. During the global student protest year of 1968 perhaps better.
 But the out-and-out worst time for the release of a movie advocating the longhair generation as society’s saviors was in the wake of the two most defining moments signaling the end of the hippie era: the Manson Murders (August 1969) and the Altamont Festival killing (December 1969).
I can’t speak for the UK, but in post-Manson Family America, the notion of a put-on artist staging guerilla acts of protest against the rich to incite anarchy and chaos had lost a great deal of its subversive appeal.
Peter Sellers with friend and fellow Goon, Spike Milligan

Peter Sellers’ involvement assured The Magic Christian would be made, but it also turned Terry Southern’s very American satire into a very British one. Hiring friend and Casino Royale co-director Joseph McGrath to helm and Southern to adapt (with the too-many-cooks assist of Sellers, Magrath, and a pre-Monty Python John Cleese and Graham Chapman), The Magic Christian became (perhaps intentionally) a kind of filmed version of The Goon Show radio program that got Sellers his start in the ‘50s’.
British humor tends to be a little tough going for me anyway, especially when it's very male-centric and sophomoric (I was never a Monty Python fan). But my main complaint with the British setting is that from an American perspective, the targets of Guy's pranks are such obvious prigs and snobs that the satire feels toothless. 
Poking fun at a culture that appears (to us, anyway) to be more openly classist (Royalty, observance of historical traditions, accents denoting class distinctions) is quite different from poking fun at a country that pathologically waves the flag of its egalitarianism when in fact it's ragingly racist, wealth-worshipping, and classist as hell.
John Cleese as the Sotheby's director
Wilfred Hyde-White as Capt. Reginald K. Klaus


WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS FILM
I was 12 years old when I saw The Magic Christian in 1970. Then, funny to me meant: Mad Magazine, The Three Stooges, Bugs Bunny, and Laugh-In. Countless trips to the theater to see Casino Royale (1967) and The Party (1968) had cemented Peter Sellers as my #1 favorite comic actor. And, thanks to several years of involuntary exposure to the music and movies of The Beatles (thanks, sis), I was also a bonafide Beatles fan myself. So, of course, I thoroughly loved The Magic Christian. I thought it was hilarious. And my finding it so made me feel oh-so-hip and oh-so-sophisticated.
Christopher Lee
For those still in the dark, The Magic Christian is the name of an elite luxury liner
with an interior straight out of 2001: A Space Odyssey.


Being at that awkward tween-age—socially invisible, politically powerless, desperate to assert individuality—my inner anarchist delighted in the Bugs Bunny/Marx Brothers-style of “comedy of disruption.” As one critic put it, The Magic Christian was all about "...deflating the pompous, punishing the greedy, and discomfiting the complacent." So, in the adolescent spirit of being attracted to anything you’re certain your parents will disapprove of, I reveled in The Magic Christian’s raciness (bodybuilders in skimpy bikinis!); bad taste (the hunting party with heavy artillery); and ham-fisted satire (the Oxford/Cambridge race). It was an issue of Mad Magazine come to life.
The audacious notion of tossing money into a vat filled with blood, urine, and manure and then getting people to wade through it for the free cash would have a lot more satirical bite today if it didn't sound like something the GOP would actually propose to replace Social Security. 

I also imagine that some of the appeal The Magic Christian held for me was that Sir Guy Grand was like an adolescent boy’s wish-fulfillment fantasy of adulthood. The asexual Guy Grand has no interest in either women or men (nudity and sex are things to be giggled at); never has to answer to anyone, and is saddled with none of the pain-in-the-ass responsibilities of being a grown-up. He just gets to spend all of his time hanging out with his best buddy (adoption adding a new twist to BFF) playing games and pulling wise-ass pranks on authority figures. 
Yul Brynner & Roman Polanski
There are times when you've just gotta let an image speak for itself

"Ah, but I was so much older then. I’m younger than that now."Bob Dylan

Revisiting The Magic Christian after a nearly 40-year gap was an experience by turns amusing, nostalgic, and bewildering. It was great seeing the movie looking so good on Blu-ray, and I especially got a kick out of the many cameo appearances and discovering what things about the film had stayed with me over the years. For example, it was gratifying to find that the pre-credits sequence (my favorite part of the film) was still as clever as I’d remembered it: a distinguished portrait of the Queen is revealed to be a British 10-pound note, after which the audience is encouraged to sing along to a follow-the-bouncing-ball stanza of the Paul McCarney composition (sung by Badfinger) “Come and Get It.” (How tragic is it that my favorite part of The Magic Christian takes place before the film proper even begins?)

Tangoing bodybuilders Lincoln Webb & Roy Scammell provoke and 
 tantalize the racist and homophobic passengers on The Magic Christian.
 

What bewildered me was just how unfunny the film now seems to me. I wasn’t bored, I enjoyed myself, and the film kept my interest, and I still champion the overall idea of the film. But the experience of watching it was entirely laugh-free. Granted, so much of the film’s humor is reliant on shock and the element of surprise, so it can be said that my reaction is at least in part due to my being so familiar with the material.
But that doesn’t account for the benumbing effect of the wash-rinse-repeat satire cycle of the screenplay or the loose-moorings structure of the film itself. It's weird watching an entire film that has no real human behavior in it. At the start of the film, there's a kind of sweet series of crosscuts between Sellers and Starr that juxtaposes the lives of the haves and the have-nots and sets the stage for a humane political polemic that never materializes.
Leonard Frey as Ship's Physician Laurence Faggot (pronounced, Fa-goh)
The Magic Christian -- a movie "The Celluloid Closet" author Vito Russo called "A viciously homophobic film" --never met a gay joke it didn't like. Funny then how it never once addresses the comic or homoerotic implications of a middle-aged man adopting a young man he just met in the park.

Not helping matters is the inconsistent nature of Guy's pranks. The point he's trying to prove to Youngman grows murky as his stunts veer from harmless (turning Shakespeare's Hamlet into a burlesque) to mean-spirited (overpaying a hot dog vendor and insisting on his change from a moving train).

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
Bedazzled (1967)
I'm of the opinion that the truest screen interpretation of Terry Southern's Guy Grand is to be found in Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka (think about it...all he does is play tricks on the greedy and self-interested!). And for a good example of the kind of lively, in-the-spirit-of-mischief chemistry lacking in the pairing of Sellers and Starr, I really think Peter Cook and Dudley Moore hit paydirt in Bedazzled


PERFORMANCES
I’m gonna lead off by saying that I truly love the look Peter Sellers devised for Sir Guy Grand. Simultaneously dashing and screwball, it’s said that Sellers sought to approximate the look of a young Albert Schweitzer while portraying Grand as a kind of British Groucho Marx. He’s considerably more successful in the former than the latter. I think Sellers is far too inspired a comic actor to ever be uninteresting, so I can’t say I don’t enjoy him in The Magic Christian. But the screenplay doesn’t provide a character for Sellers to play and he doesn’t appear particularly interested in supplying one on his own. So, outside of an accent and a whimsical swath of hair, his Guy Grand very nearly doesn’t exist.

But he's in good company with the charming but wholly superfluous Ringo Starr. In a role not in the book and was written with him in mind (contrary to erroneous claims that John Lennon was first considered) I suspect the intention was to mine the silent, Chaplinesque quality Starr brought to his well-received solo bits in Help! and A Hard Day’s Night. And certainly, if you saw him in Candy, you know a Ringo Starr with no dialogue is the best possible course of action to take. But, like Sellers, he's not given a character to play and brings nothing to the part but a droopy mustache and Rita Tushingham eyes.
"Well, you know, Youngman, sometimes it's not enough merely to teach. One has to punish as well."


THE STUFF OF FANTASY
At least one aspect of The Magic Christian has not changed a bit for me over the years. The soundtrack to this movie is terrific. I love the infectious "Come & Get It"--particularly the soaring strings instrumental arrangement that accompanies the closing credits. It gave me goosebumps the first time I heard it blaring through the speakers at the movie theater. 
But the song that really stands out as the one I most associate with the film is Thunderclap Newman's youth rebellion anthem "Something in the Air." I think it's brilliant. I heard it for the first time in The Magic Christian theatrical trailer and instantly fell in love. And I'm still crazy about it. One of my all-time favorite '60s songs. In 1973 the singing group Labelle covered it in a version that combined it with Gil Scott Heron's poem "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised." You owe it to yourself to give it a listen...to use one of my favorite Magic Christian quotes: "It'll tighten your wig."


THE STUFF OF DREAMS
What keeps The Magic Christian among my list of "tarnished favorites" is that despite not feeling as strongly about it as I did when I was a kid, I tend to think of it as one of the last of the optimistic flower-children/hippie films. The Nixon era of disillusionment and cynicism was right on the horizon and the idealism at the heart of The Magic Christian had already started to be replaced by the snark and smirk of movies like M.A.S.H. (1970).
In the ensuing decades, capitalism has done its job so well that today, social media is full of individuals just managing to get by financially who nevertheless seize every opportunity to be the white knights and front-line defenders of the Jeff Bezos and Elon Musks of our culture whenever a legitimate criticism is voiced regarding the morality of being grotesquely rich in a civilized society that tolerates hunger.

In such an atmosphere it's impossible to completely dislike a movie that associates wallowing in money with wallowing in feces, blood, and urine.
A hippie at heart, Sir Guy Grand has the three-pointed star hood ornament
 of his Mercedes-Benz reconfigured as a peace symbol. 

Copyright © Ken Anderson   2009 - 2022

9 comments:

  1. Wow. Just wow!

    A movie like 'The Magic Christian' really does demand as much context re the 60s Counterculture today as it did then. In fact, the passage of time really underscores how millions of us bought into the Utopian values of it all while never questioning what would sustain it, or how the Capitalism we opposed would so devastatingly be replaced by the Advanced Capitalism few are currently bothered by. For a musical reference, few recall Bob Dylan's most biting 'Masters Of War'.

    It IS a deeply-flawed movie, and its Britishness doesn't work in its favor I'd say. I've never 'got' Peter Sellars (or 'Monty Python') at all so that doesn't help me enjoy it for what many may find of delight and/or meaningful.

    Our current class system (which enslaves more than are ever are likely cop to) is apparently built on the theory that if you sniff a rich man's backside you'll be doubly blessed when he farts in your face. These are the people who laugh at hippiedom!

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    1. Hello, Rick – Thanks so much for reading this and commenting! And especially for appreciating, if not the “deeply-flawed movie” that THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN most certainly is, its ‘60s cultural context when contrasted with today's boundless cult of wealth worship.
      I was inspired to rewatch THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN on the heels of many of the discussions Bruce and I had during the pandemic lockdown. When COVID revealed (at least here in LA) that the first response of our wealthiest neighborhoods was to buy up and hoard all the life-sustaining goods from stores. Later, they were the first ones protesting in the streets…not joining those concerned factions protesting injustice and the rising wave of fascism…they were protesting having to wear masks. Being “forced” to care about the welfare of others was as un-American as you could get.

      In my opinion, the utopian ideals of the ‘60s, the civil rights movement, and such, were unsustainable dreams because they called upon us to care about one another without a “what’s in it for me?”
      Of course, the “what’s in it is a society that doesn’t feed on the most vulnerable, but that’s too long-form. Capitalism delivers the immediate payoff. As does cruelty and greed.

      So much of our culture today is ripe for the kind of self-eviscerating
      satire that THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN at least intended to pull off (I want to live in a world that sees people who buy $30,000 handbags and spend six figures on a watch as absurd, not enviable). But as you say, Advanced Capitalism has a pretty vice-like grip on society right now. And when it comes to absurdist comedy, even The Three Stooges is no match for The Supreme Court.
      Satire is good. THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN could have been better. But you gotta laugh or else you'd cry.
      Oh, and as much as Bruce is a far more dedicated Anglophile than myself when it comes to comedy and humor, he too doesn’t “get “ Peter Sellers either, nor can he tolerate Monty Python.

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  2. This film can be found in its entirety on YouTube and so after reading your review I went there to take a look. Oh my (shaking head)........I have to admire your eclectic taste in films. One has to be dedicated to the whole notion of cinema to extract value from The Magic Christian. I mean, I get the point but the point is SO muddled by bizarre imagery that one has to work hard to find it. I do agree that Peter Sellers is appealing here (too bad the film wasn't better). Ringo Starr is...just kinda there. But I don't think acting was his forte (did you ever see "Caveman?"). I have to confess to skipping through the movie quite a bit but having to watch the entire scene of Yul Brynner in drag. It was ....transfixing...like a train-car accident. But you know, I'm kinda glad that these sorts of films exist. It would be a boring world if every movie made was one that I liked. If nothing else, films like the Magic Christian push boundaries. And in the end there's nothing wrong with a movie that haphazardly and fumblingly tells that "we need to get it together." Sadly, that message is even more relevant today than it was in the sixties.

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    1. Hi Ron –
      First off, thanks so much for letting readers know that THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN is available to watch on YouTube (they’ll know exactly who to “thank” after the experience) 😊 I had no idea it had been uploaded.
      Secondly, if I were teaching a film course, I would give you extra credit or the academic equivalent of hazard pay for venturing forth with this film unarmed either with nostalgia for that awkward cultural transitional period this movie so perfectly evokes (‘60s into ‘70s), or the safety net of a fondness for (or even familiarity with?) the short-lived phenomenon of “psychedelic cinema.”

      The muddle that is THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN is at least partially by design. Influenced by experimental theater, underground cinema, and groovathon theatrical “happenings” all seeking to replicate or enhance the experience of taking drugs, elliptical and non-sensical movies were something of a craze. You were supposed to let the sensations of what you were seeing be the experience, the quick-changing imagery and often disconnected events being a safe “trip” and “freak-out” for the audience.

      But removed from the zeitgeist, I think your response to the film might be the norm; a slew of bizarre images that don’t feel worth the work it would take to try to make sense of it all.
      I found your comments enjoyable and informative, for I’ve no idea how this film comes across to the uninitiated.
      Maybe this is one of those movies that should be seen in environments that offer no control or escape (like on an airplane or in prison). The silliness of it all just makes it too tempting to want to lean on that fast-forward button.

      I’m glad you gave the movie a try, and your comments are very straightforward and honest, yet very even-handed as well.
      Especially in recognizing that it really is a shame the film is something of a misfire on so many counts, because the points it wants to make are still so relevant and the targets of its scornful satire are still so deserving.

      I very much appreciate your reading this and being inspired or made curious enough to check it out. A splendid time is never guaranteed for all when it comes to the films that are important enough to me to write about here, but the spirit of adventure is a great thing to have when it comes to being a movie-lover. Also, apparently…a remote control. Thanks, Ron!

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  3. Thanks for your explanation of the approach this and other films from that era used. It really does clarify for me why someone would purposely fill a movie with bizarre and almost nonsensical imagery. I'm not sure I LIKE the movie any more than I did but I think I understand its vision better. Here's the YouTube address for anyone who wants to check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FE2zTnOJ94I.

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  4. Well, there's another movie you've talked me out of seeing, though as always you've made me happy to have read about it. I'm a little surprised that you haven't yet reviewed _Head_ and _The President's Analyst_.

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    1. Ha! Thank you, Allen. Perhaps I saved you a headache. Kidding aside, I'd hate to think my personal response to a movie could dissuade you from taking a chance on a film you might actually like (especially since humor is so subjective). However, I'm comforted by the knowledge that you've at least read enough of my musings to know that my tastes follow a predictably unpredictable pattern that no one could (or should) take as a film’s endorsement or repudiation.

      Certainly as it pertains to the twin social satires represented by Bob Rafelson's HEAD (not too bad, actually) and THE PRESIDENT'S ANALYST (I really couldn't get through that one). I think PUTNEY SWOPE and Melvin Van Peebles' THE WATERMELON MAN are two good examples of American satires that work for me and are likely candidates to write about (although I still can't say that I find either one to be particularly funny).

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  5. Thanks to you, Ken, for writing about this film and thanks to Ron for the tip that the film is on YouTube. This is a film I’ve known about since it opened, but never saw… until this week. My vague recollection is that the reviews were mixed and the film was not financially successful in the U.S. My clear recollection is that the suits involved expected the participation of The Beatles to guarantee success. Zillions of The Magic Christian soundtrack LP’s were produced and, subsequently, ended up in punch-out bins in discount stores everywhere. The large number of punch-out LP’s seemed, in my young mind, to confirm the reviews, so I never saw the film and I didn’t even buy the punch-out for 99 cents. (And I even bought Smashing Time, entirely on spec.) Before home video, when a film was gone, it really was gone. And often forgotten. So it was with me and The Magic Christian.

    My skepticism was great, but I liked it immediately. I greet every film from the UK with skepticism. Some turn out to be magnificent. Others, merely British. This one is a bit of both. In decades past, I spent a year living in London for school. Living there completely changed my understanding of the UK. It is a tiny island, about the size of Michigan, yet its population is 20 per cent of the US population. Once I teased those facts from an encyclopedia in the Wood Green library, the British class system began to make sense. It helped explain the rigid paternalism that is everywhere. (They often can’t see it and will deny it. It’s ingrained.) By design, the pubs have historically closed at 11 pm and the London Underground closes at midnight. You must go home. Where you belong. In the UK, you have to remain in your place. There is a strict paternalistic control applied to everything. The chaos of The Magic Christian is confusing to American eyes. To the British, this film must have been radical, challenging to the social order, and personally threatening to some or thrilling to others.

    “My Fair Lady” informs us, “An Englishman’s way of speaking absolutely classifies him. The moment he speaks he makes some other Englishman despise him.” That explains Ringo being cast in this movie. Listen to his accent and listen to the accents of every other person in the film. His Liverpool accent stands alone in a sea of the most upper class British speech of every other character. That’s not a distinction that conveys much in the US, but in the UK, it would be. He only has to say one word, and everyone knows he’s ‘not our class, dear.’ That Guy Grand would adopt someone from Liverpool and make him his son is nearly meaningless in the US, but it’s explosive in the UK. Maybe even more so in the 1960’s. Every time Youngman is introduced to another family member, friend or business associate, and welcomed warmly, another barb is thrown at the British upper classes. It still goes on. Ask Meghan Markle how welcoming they are to an outsider. They have a class system they are trained to maintain. Don’t rock the yacht. The makers of The Magic Christian used the social upheaval of the late 1960’s to run wild, thumb their noses at convention and break every rule.

    I think my experience living in the UK makes all the difference. The film is still entirely too episodic. There’s not much narrative, just Guy and Youngman dropped into a series of stodgy British circumstances. Hilarity ensues. I thought I would hate it. I didn’t. Great performers doing outrageous things for our enjoyment. What’s not to like about that? I particularly chuckled at Guy making his point that capitalism makes people grovel in shit for a few pounds in a film that made actors grovel in shit for a few pounds. Christopher Lee? WTF? Peter Sellers had the best wig EVER!

    Thanks for dredging this one up from the past. Its intentions are so good.

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    1. Hi George – I’m so glad you watched the film! With your contribution, we now have the pleasure of reading two perspectives of THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN from individuals seeing it for the first time. A fine illustration of the fact that when it comes to a movie as offbeat as this, there's no single side that the critical blade is apt o fall on; much of it is a matter of taste and one’s personal sense of humor. And in your case…a familiarity with the culture that is the target of so much of the satire.
      I’ve often wondered if THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN played better (or failed more understandably) to British audiences. In your citing of the whole thing regarding accents and class in the UK, you provide a good example of what is lost in translation.
      A particular sight gag that eluded me until this very year (that I later read was not easy to arrange) is the brief shot of Ringo brushing his teeth in a public fountain and being shooed away by the police. I thought it was amusing in and of itself, I had no idea that the big laugh was that he was in front of Buckingham Palace. I just never noticed!

      Which just illuminates the point you make in detailing how deeply ingrained the British class system is and how much more incendiary THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN may have been in its native land than here where most folks probably showed up for Raquel Welch. A sad commentary is that both here in the US and abroad, the same satire would apply today as in 1969 . They don’t call it the status-quo for nothing.

      You also reminded me of how those MAGIC CHRISTIAN soundtrack LPs were a common sight in remainder bins in record stores, That’s how I got mine. But in recounting how that public stamp of failure impressed upon you that perhaps the critics were right about THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN is precisely how I managed to miss out on a lot of movies in the ‘60s and ‘70s that I later wound up loving; I paid to much attention to the misleading designation of “flop.”
      I think I was in film school when I better came to realize how off-track my personal tastes were and that it was foolish to allow a film’s financial or critical success to determine whether or not I should see it. In fact, in my experience, I have been burned more by movies that were hits (TOP GUN…possibly the worst time I’ve ever had watching a movie) than the flops.

      It seems like you approached THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN with a reasonable amount of trepidation and found yourself rewarded by what you aptly described as “Great performers doing outrageous things for our enjoyment.” And you liked Sellers’ terrific wig!
      At the end of the day, it IS nice to say about a film, successful or not, that its intentions were good.

      Thank you, George. It’s a lot of time invested to read these long posts and compose ideas and thoughts for this comments section. I hope you know how sincerely this is appreciated.

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