Search the Cinema Head Cheese Archives!

February 24, 2011

Movie Review: Carnival Magic (Blu-ray, 1981)

Al Adamson's vast film resume that just surpassed 20 years before his untimely death, was rich with many contributions to the horror and exploitation genres. Films like Brain of Blood, Blood of Ghastly Horror, Dracula Vs. Frankenstein and Nurse Sherri are just a few that made the attempt at "horror", but none of the titles mentioned frightened this reviewer more than Adamson's 1981 kiddie offering Carnival Magic. Cultura and Virgil Films have just put together a deluxe Blu-ray/ DVD combo pack for this lost film that may give fans of the late schlockmeister a reason to celebrate.

A very well tanned Don Stewart plays "Markov the Magician". Markov is really getting the cold shoulder from many of the other carnies because of his bizarre behavior. What's this behavior? Well, peculiar noises seem to be resonating from the gentleman’s trailer. Not to worry, Markov just has a rambunctious talking chimp pal named "Alexander The Great" living in there that's just itching to vacate Markov's cramped pad.

Buy Carnival Magic [Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack]!

The kid's "monkey-comedy" seemed to be a popular sub-genre during the 70’s. I know, because I was a fed a diet of many of these odd banana-munchers on TV and in the theater. "Alexander The Great" (who’s really a female) does a serviceable job in the monkey acting department. Amazingly, she's better than most the human actors in Carnival Magic. This isn't just your ordinary talking chimp though. The voice-actor who does Alexander's voice sort of sounds like George Burns. This creeped me out a little. Maybe something a little softer like say Nick Nolte would have been more appropriate.

Carnival Magic will never be confused with classic cinema but what will make it unique to some cult film fans is it's uncomfortable (but highly amusing) bits of adult situations. One character loves the bottle and beats his wife (the beating is on the extra features because producer Feltner excised the scene) and there are also threats of violence to the other carnies that include Kirk, the lion tamer using his ferocious pooch to chomp down on Markov. Markov evades death by German Shepherd using his powerful mind-control skills .Suicide is even attempted by one of the main players. Do they survive?? Does it matter? Is this really a kid's movie? You just don't see this kind of material in G rated movies so it's these elements that give the whole Carnival Magic experience a boost of energy we don't quite get from the performances and it's fairly generic script.

One of the best parts of the disc is the wealth of supplements. We get a commentary by producer and writer Elvin Feltner that's moderated by well-informed Cult film historian, Joe Rubin. Feltner also does an interview with Rubin where he talks a little about how Adamson was to work with and that Adamson's wife came in at the last minute to play a buxom carnie. This is also where you'll get to see the aforementioned "wife beating". It's a solid extra feature and covers a lot of ground in terms of the production.

Another very welcome extra feature that I found quite interesting was a short comparison of the film before and after the restoration. There's even a trailer for Carnival Magic included as well some out-takes from the feature. When the film was discovered a lot of unused footage was found.

Carnival Magic overall looks and sounds good on both the DVD and Blu-ray. It's a thirty-year-old film that appears to have stayed in solid shape considering the fact that it was just discovered. My only complaint is on the skin-tones. They don't seem to match some of the actors, particularly Don Stewart. Other than that it’s a very pleasing presentation.

I have to hand it to Virgil Films/ Cultura for giving this movie a shot. Previously they released Mad Ron's Prevues of Hell, so this the second cult film title of obscure nature to see a release. Carnival Magic might not hit with some viewers expecting the exploitation greatness of some of Adamson's more notable features like Nurse Sherri but it's definitely an enjoyable enough viewing to satisfy folks that can see the absurdities that this movie holds.

No comments:

Post a Comment