The Magus – ‘a bizarre and baffling film’ 1970

A contemporary piece about this ill-fated movie, which although often slated, most notably by Woody Allen ('If I had to live my life again, I'd do everything the same, except that I wouldn't see The Magus') has become something of a cult. The article was found in PHOTOPLAY (February 1970) a British film and pop music magazine. The long winding part about the plot has been mostly excised.

The Magus - a bizarre and baffling film which winds through a labyrinth of fantastic happenings. 

What is a Magus? According to the best dictionaries it is "one skilled in Oriental magic and astrology, an ancient magician sorcerer."

And so to our story:

Nicholas (Michael Caine), a young Englishman, arrives on Phraxos, a lonely Greek island, to take up duties as an instructor at a school for boys, which is being modelled on the British system. He is also escaping from a love affair with Anne (Anna Karina), an airline hostess, who has sent him as a memento a glass paperweight, symbolic to her of the core of life.

Nicholas learns that the English instructor who preceded him the year before had committed suicide, but any further questions he asks concerning this are met any further questions he asks concerning this are met with evasive answers. On returning from a bathe, however, he finds a volume of T.S. Eliot's poems mysteriously left on a rock.

Later, in exploratory mood, he finds a villa on top of the cliffs. This is owned by an elderly man named Conchis (Anthony Quinn), about whom there is a strange aura of mystery… an aura which extends not only throughout the villa, but also throughout the rest of the film. Nicholas is not unnaturally confused…

Quite a lot of this strange, baffling film will keep audiences guessing… although there is nothing baffling about the picturesque scenes (actually filmed in Majorca). The very beautiful pictorial qualities are obviously due to the directorial hand of Guy Green, at one time cinematographer of such films as 'Great Expectations' (1946), 'Oliver Twist' (1948) and 'Captain Horatio Hornblower (1950)… and in his later capacity as director of 'The Light in the Piazza' (1962), 'Diamond Head' (1963) and 'A Patch of Blue' (1966).

As Conchis, Anthony Quinn gives a good performance (as he usually does), but Michael Caine's Cockney intonation seemed to jar against the general surroundings and the actor himself is not asked to do much more than to walk through the bizarre phantasmagoria which is continually enveloping him.

Candice Bergen as Lily is lovely to look at and has an out-of-this world look which seems to blend naturally into the film's more extraordinary world. Anna Karina gives a further display of her versatility as the air hostess Anne (a far cry from her belly dancer of 'Justine')… and Corin Redgrave is chillingly perfect as the Nazi captain.

2 thoughts on “The Magus – ‘a bizarre and baffling film’ 1970

  1. David Green

    I used to work for a major film distributors where the film was referred to by the sales manager as The F……g Magus, such was his opinion.


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