CARNIVAL MAGIC (director: Al Adamson; screenwriters: Bob Levine/Mark Weston/story by Elvin Feltner; cinematographer: Darrell Cathcart; editor: Jim Abels; music: Martin St. Lawrence; cast: Don Stewart (Markow), Jennifer Houlton (Ellen), Howard Segal (David), Mark Weston (Stoney Martin), Joe Cirillo (Kirk Wylder), Regina Carrol (Markov’s assistant), Charles Reynolds (Dr. Poole), Diane Kettering (Kim, Kirk’s assistant), Mike Allen (Sheriff); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Elvin Feltner; TCM; 1981)
“Mildly interesting low-rent melodrama.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Al Adamson (“Nurse Sherri”/”Five Bloody Graves”/”Girls for Rent“) directs this mildly interesting low-rent melodrama. It’s based on the story by Elvin Feltnerand is written byBob Levine and Mark Weston. The pic is noted for its detailed observations of carnival life, and how it blends together being a kiddie pic and an adult melodrama. What makes the film bad is how clumsily it’s executed and how leaden is the acting. Trudi the chimp might give the best performance.
Markov the Magnificent (Don Stewart) is a mind-reading magician in a struggling small town traveling carnival (filmed in North Carolina). Since his beloved wife died in an accident, the grief-stricken Markov’s best friend has been Alex, a chimp, who can talk and drive a car. The intelligent chimp is a secret that Markov hides from the carnival people until the carnival boss, Stoney Martin (Mark Weston), fires Markov to appease his rival, the depraved lion-tamer, Kirk Wylder (Joe Cirillo). But the boss’ tomboy daughter, Ellen (Jennifer Houlton), talks dad into keeping Markov if he puts the talking chimp into the act. Markov agrees and the popular act saves the struggling carnival and takes the place of the lion-tamer’s act as the main attraction. Upset that he lost his carnival status, the drunken venal lion-tamer, with the help of his girlfriend assistant, Kim (Diane Kettering), snatches the chimp and turns him over for cash to an unethical animal research group headed by the diabolical Dr. Poole (Charles Reynolds).
Losing his chimp puts Markov in a funk. But things turn for the better when the lion-tamer’s bimbo assistant Kim realizes she made a mistake and phones Stoney to tell him where he might find the chimp. The carnival people swarm the animal research center, but find the chimp took poison to commit suicide rather than submit to being dissected while alive. Miraculously, through the power of Markov’s prayers, Alexander the Great is brought back to life and all is right again in the fair grounds.
REVIEWED ON 11/2/2010 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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