“Abracadabra, I sit on his knee. Presto chango, and now he is me. Hocus Pocus, we take her to bed. Magic is fun; we’re dead.” ~Magic (1978)

IMDB Summary: A ventriloquist is at the mercy of his vicious dummy while he tries to renew a romance with his high school sweetheart.

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 83%

Why I love it: Because Anthony Hopkins is a GOD.

Corkey Withers is probably my favorite “Naughty John” on this whole list. Even more so than Dr. Hannibal Lecter, who’s a close number two. Anthony Hopkins, if you’re reading this, I fucking love you.

My brother and I were obsessed with this movie when we were young. It’s far from being a movie about a demented, murderous doll. No one is possessed by anything. It ain’t no Chucky. It’s about a man’s descent into insanity when two separate personas live in one person. Clowns and ventriloquist dolls can be disturbing—especially when they talk shit and murder people—but that’s not the point. Fats could have been a goldfish. This is even worse, because people really do lose their mind.

Corkey is a soft-spoken poor man’s Houdini with an inferiority complex. He shows up at amateur nights with his card tricks and his grandpa shirts. No one cares. Cut to a year later, he’s polished up his act and his agent Burgess Meredith, known as “The Postman” (because he always delivers) with his cigar and his Foster Grants, is pimping him out to an NBC exec. This time Fats the X-rated dummy is with him. NBC wants him, but Corkey refuses to take the necessary medical exam. Now, why would he refuse…?

He books outta town to the Catskills in a cab driven by Marcia Brady’s husband and ends up at a remote lakeside cabin owned by his high school sweetheart Ann-Margaret, who could not be hotter. Oh, and have I mentioned how hot young Anthony Hopkins is? Corkey is intense. He’s so afraid of failure. And he’s mentally tortured by Fats, who has taken on the self-abusive voice of his split personality. They chit chat, she helps him with his card tricks and they get it on. The Postman walks in on Corkey having a heated and disturbing conversation with Fats. He sees what’s gong on here. In one of the most excrutiatingly tense movie scenes I’ve ever seen, he challenges Corkey to sit quetly for five minutes and make Fats shut the hell up. Corkey lasts three minutes. Fats talks him into murdering The Postman. Ann-Margaret’s lumberjack husband Duke comes home, and that guy ends up dead too. Attaboy, shnooko! 

Corkey has a full on psychotic break. The more the accordian music plays, the worse things get. Fats wants Corkey to muder Ann-Margaret, but he loves her too much. So he kills himself instead.

I met Anthony Hopkins once. I was dying to tell him I’d been in love with him for 30 years because of this movie. (And, being Welsh, he’s probably the reason I’m such a sucker for British accents.) Corkey is so tragically, exquisitely tortured as a human being that I wonder where the hell he had to go as an actor to pull it off. The dude can act.

Next: The Last House on the Left



Written by Anne Clendening
Anne Clendening was born and raised in L.A. She's a yoga teacher, a writer and occasionally slings cocktails in a Hollywood bar. She could eat chocolate cake for every meal of the day. She has a huge fear of heights and flying. And fire. She wishes she could speak French, play her guitar better and make cannoli. She's probably listening to The Dark Side Of The Moon right now, kickin’ it with her boxer dog and her hot Australian husband ★