Newest Reviews
Hate Story
Day of the Outlaw
Twice Dead
Cop Car
Pitch Perfect 2
Mia Madre
Libeled Lady
Wolfpack, The
Light Sleeper
Saturday Island
It Happened Tomorrow
Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir
Comancheros, The
Newest Articles
Page to Scream: Ghost Story and Adapting the Books of the Horror Boom
So Long, Soledad: Vampyros Lesbos and She Killed in Ecstasy
Shakin' with Laughter or Stirred into Action: Silly Bond vs Serious Bond
Green Screen: Ecological Horror of the 1970s
What in the Weird? Arthur C. Clarke’s World of Strange Powers
  Magic Christian, The We are all prostitutesBuy this film here.
Year: 1969
Director: Joseph McGrath
Stars: Peter Sellers, Ringo Starr, Laurence Harvey, Richard Attenborough, Spike Milligan, Roman Polanski, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Raquel Welch, Christopher Lee, John Cleese, Yul Brynner, Dennis Price, Hattie Jacques, Jeremy Lloyd, Ferdy Mayne, Victor Maddern
Genre: Comedy, Weirdo
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: During the current clamour to re-appraise everything from the British sex comedy to the career of Sid James, there’s one area of home-grown cinema which has remained neglected by the Sight And Sound/Ross Brothers/Reynolds & Hearn axis, namely the school of savage sub-Bunuelian satire which ran from about 1968-73. Lindsay Anderson’s Vigo-influenced If… advocated teenage rebellion in a post-Paris riots culture, Peter Medak’s The Ruling Class depicted the House Of Lords as a place literally filled with skeletons, rotting corpses and zombies, and Kevin Billington’s The Rise And Rise Of Michael Rimmer gave us Tony Blair 25 years before the event.

Many of the films which emerged from this movement were couched as comedies, offering opportunities for the fledgling group of writer-performers who went on to create the likes of Do Not Adjust Your Set and Monty Python. Interestingly, the previous generation of humourists threw themselves into the mix as well, leading to Goon/Oxbridge hybrids such as The Bed Sitting Room. From the music world, The Beatles too were known for their love of lunatic wordplay and offbeat sense of fun, so The Magic Christian stands as an archetypal movie – scripted by Terry Southern, starring a member of the Goons and one of the Fab Four, and with psychedelia and protest infusing every frame, it couldn’t be much more 1969 if it were wearing loon pants and clutching a copy of ‘Electric Ladyland’.

Sellers stars as wealthy and successful business tycoon Sir Guy Grand, taking a vagrant (Starr - !) under his wing and spending the duration of the film proving to his adoptive charge that ‘everyone has their price’. It’s a message layered on with a trowel, to be honest, but it does at least lead to many splendid comic vignettes. Spike Milligan does one of his effortlessly insane cameos as a traffic warden who ends up eating a parking ticket, Hattie Jacques takes great delight in acquiring a paperback account of various wartime atrocities, and Sir Guy hits the establishment right where it hurts by sabotaging the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race.

Purchasing tickets for the maiden voyage of new super-liner ‘The Magic Christian’, Sir Guy and his companion find themselves entering a whole new level of madness. Dracula poses as a waiter, Roman Polanski is chatted up by a sexy chanteuse eventually revealed to be a male megastar in drag, the captain is carted off by a gorilla, and the vessel is found to be powered by hordes of topless dollybirds enslaved by the whip-cracking Raquel Welch. With the ship ultimately revealed as illusory, Sir Guy finally confirms his suspicions about humanity by filling a vat with shit and urine, throwing a few quid on top and watching as a crowd of city gents immerse themselves in the mire to get their hands on the cash.

Sellers and Milligan indicate that they were years ahead of their time, Badfinger’s ‘Come And Get It’ and Thunderclap Newman’s ‘Something In The Air’ dominate the soundtrack, and while Ringo might not have been the best drummer in the Beatles, there’s little doubt that he was the group’s most talented actor. The Magic Christian, although very much of its era, is a film which is improving with age. Best moment - viewing the t.v. coverage of Crufts (where a Mr. Mbongo has entered his black panther which proceeds to devour the competing dogs), one of Sir Guy's sisters reacts with disgust, only to coo approval when the channel is changed to reveal news coverage of war, violent uprising and police brutality.
Reviewer: Darrell Buxton


This review has been viewed 13242 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film


Joseph McGrath  (1930 - )

Scottish director of film and TV comedy who debuted as one of four directors on the chaotic James Bond spoof Casino Royale. The Terry Southern-penned Magic Christian was a bizarre comedy whose cast included Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan, while 1973's Digby, The Biggest Dog in the World is a much-loved kids favourite. McGrath also helmed The Great McGonagall, another oddball Milligan comedy, and big screen version of Rising Damp.

Review Comments (0)

Untitled 1

Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.

Latest Poll
Which film has the best theme music?
Superman: The Movie
The Dark Knight
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three ('74)
Star Wars
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
The Great Escape
The Ipcress File
The Magnificent Seven
Back to the Future

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Enoch Sneed
Dan Schneider
Aaron Shaw
Darren Jones
Andrew Pragasam
Ahmed Hasanen
Keith Rockmael


Last Updated: