15 July 2024

Magic (1978)
Contributed by Robert J. Kelly

Robert J. Kelly is a professional graphic designer and illustrator by day, comic book historian by night. His work can be found at www.namtab.com. Some of his blogs include The Aquaman Shrine, TreasuryComics.com, and Hey Kids, Comics!

In 1978, I was seven-years-old and at the time, my Mom was working weekends. That meant I spent Saturday nights with my Dad and one of the few things he and I had just between us was watching the re-runs of the original Star Trek, which were blanketing the airwaves.

Around this same time, the movie Magic - starring Anthony Hopkins as a demented ventriloquist - was out in theaters. And the trailer for it was a creepy, slow push-in on the doll as it talked right into the camera.

It was so creepy, in fact, that whenever it came on...my parents would change the channel, lest I get too upset and freak out. Keep in mind, this was in an age before remote controls, so my parents actually had to get up out of their chairs to change the channel. I was either a well-loved child, or they simply couldn't take their son devolving into a blubbering mess.

Anyway, one Saturday night...my Dad and I were having our regular dinner (pizza, yum!) and enjoying the adventures of the crew of the Starship Enterprise. During a commercial break, my Dad went upstairs to go the bathroom, leaving me alone in front of the TV.

I think you can see where this is going.

In the middle of the block of ads came the commercial for Magic. I think it took about half a second for me to spy those creepy, dead eyes of the ventriloquist dummy, and I ran screaming upstairs, probably two steps at a time.

I got to the bathroom door - still closed - and began pounding on it to be let in, I was so terrified. I can only imagine what must have been going through my Dad's head as he heard his son pound the door and scream as if he was being stabbed.

In what seemed like an eternity, my Dad opened the door and retrieved me. He calmed me down, apologized for his lack of oversight, and we went back downstairs. By that point (of course) the commercial was over, and I uneasily sat back down to finish my pizza and watch the rest of the episode.

I'm sure whatever it might have been, it paled to the fear I was feeling that even something as comforting and fun as Star Trek could be interrupted by a jolt of pure terror.

Years later, when I was toiling away at a video store and watching movies by the metric ton, I screwed up the courage to take our beat-up VHS copy of Magic home and watch it. Of course, it didn't come close to inducing the white-knuckle fear the trailer had instilled in me, and I had to chuckle that I ever got so scared over something so silly.

Here's the trailer I'm referring to. Despite having seen the movie, I still can't quite watch it comfortably, so for those of you with stronger constitutions than I, have fun.

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