Film Comment Back Issues 728x90 Film Society of Lincoln Center

Sixties Pick: The Magic Christian

By Violet Lucca

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(Olive Films, $24.95)

The Magic Christian Peter Sellers Ringo Starr

“Everyone has their price,” Sir Guy Grand (Peter Sellers) assures Youngman (Ringo Starr), the hirsute vagrant he’s plucked out of a park and made his heir. Establishing an instant rapport, the pair play increasingly complex pranks upon London’s unswinging posh set, culminating with the launch of The Magic Christian (a supposedly transatlantic luxury liner whose sham maiden voyage is afflicted by choppy seas, a drunken captain, and Yul Brynner in drag) and their inviting people to fish pound notes from a vat filled with feces, blood, and vomit. Though in Terry Southern’s original novel Sir Guy was more interested in “making it hot” for the middle class and lampooning prim bourgeois taste, Joseph McGrath’s movie version remains an acerbic, late-Sixties dark comedy classic.

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