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  • Composed by Jerry Goldsmith
  • La-La Land Records / 2015 / 43m

A well-reviewed psychological thriller, Richard Attenborough’s 1978 movie Magic was written by William Goldman based on his novel.  It starred the great Anthony Hopkins as a mild-mannered ventriloquist, Corky, with a foul-mouthed dummy called Fats representing the flip-side of his dual personality; Ann-Margaret played his love interest, Burgess Meredith his agent.  Particular praise was lavished on two members of the production – Hopkins and the composer, Jerry Goldsmith, whose brilliant score was absolutely vital to the film.

Directer Attenborough gave one of his finest acting performances in The Sand Pebbles, which featured one of Goldsmith’s finest scores, and I wonder if that had a part to play in him being hired for the film; maybe it was just because of his ability to get inside a film, particularly a psychological one like this, and in particular a character and make the audience feel something that isn’t there in other aspects of the production, the great trick of a master film composer.

Jerry Goldsmith conducting

Jerry Goldsmith conducting

This is no better illustrated than with the main theme, heard in full over the opening titles (remember them?) which is a sweet melody given a creepy edge thanks to the harmonica, used throughout the film to represent Fats.  Goldsmith takes the theme and does so much with it in the score, with suspense versions, romantic ones, outright chilling ones.  By doing so, allowing everything to spring from the roots of that theme, the composer cleverly links everything together, the dual personality subtly revealed by the composer’s music.

There isn’t a great deal of outright action here but when it does come it’s very effective.  The early “Corky’s Retreat” is vintage late 70s Goldsmith action, at least at first before that theme is heard again.  “The Lake” is an exceptional piece of suspense music, little colours playing off each other – the harmonica, plucked strings, jabbed piano, frantic string runs.  “Duke’s End” is a little piece (barely a minute) but incredibly striking, with its frenzied strings – chilling stuff.

The two most romantic moments are “Didn’t Remember Me” and “Appassionata”.  In the former an overt love theme is heard which is then brilliantly twisted on its head in the subsequent “Memories”, the composer using it almost like his “Piper Dreams” love theme from The Omen, romance on the surface but a whole lot of stuff going on beneath it.  “Appassionata” is the score’s standout piece, with its most fluid, soaring orchestral version of the main theme, springing from romantic twinkles of the piano before a violin and then all the strings take over.  Just as you think this is the real thing, no edge at all, Tommy Morgan’s harmonica appears again in the closing moments to cast a shadow.

1978 was some year for Goldsmith (as were a great many other years, let’s be honest) – Magic was one of six movies released that year with his music, with The Boys From Brazil perhaps the pick of the bunch at showcasing his talents for writing music that brilliantly enhanced the film – and was just brilliant music away from it.  And that, as Paul Daniels would say, is Magic also.  La-La Land’s 2015 release adds a solitary, very brief track compared with the previous Varèse Sarabande CD Club edition and features a fresh remaster – and features great liner notes by Julie Kirgo and package design by Jim Titus, the best in the business at what they do – and while it’s possibly not enough to justify an upgrade for those who own the earlier album, it’s a must-buy for everyone else.

Rating: **** 1/2 | |

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