Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Magic Christian


Last night I watched Joseph MacGrath's adaption of Terry Southern's 1960 novel 'The Magic Christian' (1969). Call me culturally biased but it seems to me that this British production of a Southern novel is a slightly more sympathetic adaption than 'Candy'. Nevertheless like 'Candy' it was creaky and badly-outdated viewing in places, even with the author writing the screen-play. The film has a song written especially for it by Paul MacCartney, with the band Badfinger performing 'Come and get it', as well as a number of cameo appearances, including British comedians, Graham Garden, Spike Milligan and John Cleese.

By far the highlight of the film and the funniest sequences occur aboard S.S. Magic Christian, a luxury cruiser including Yul Brynner in glamorous drag and boa-feathers crooning 'Mad about the Boy' to a shy Roman Polanski, a rampaging escaped King Kong gorilla, Dracula in the form of Christopher Lee frightening passengers, a genial but drunken Captain at the helm of S.S Magic Christian (Wilfred Hyde White) which is motored by galley-mistress Raquel Welch wearing a fur bikini and cracking a whip on topless female rowers; I lost count of how many celebrities make a fleeting cameo appearance in this film.

The message that, 'Everyone has their price' by the multi-millionaire Sir Guy Grand, acted by Peter Sellers, to his adopted son Ringo Starr, is demonstrated throughout the film, sometimes with funny consequences. The film's conclusion which highlights Sir Guy Grand's message, is a scene which shows that people will do anything, no matter how degrading to acquire money, even climbing into a large vat of vile fluids to collect bank-notes scattered in it. In essence, Terry Southern's black satire is an acerbic indictment  which satirizes the effects of amoral consumer capitalism upon ethics and morality.
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