MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.
The Magic Christian (1969, 92 minutes)
If Ringo Starr had somehow persuaded the other three Beatles to participate along with him in The Magic Christian, the movie might be looked upon today as a decent successor to their second film, Help!. But if John Lennon is unavailable, then Peter Sellers (a comedic hero of the “literary” Beatle) will do very nicely, not to mention a script by pre-Monty Python stalwarts John Cleese and Graham Chapman. Besides, the Beatles were through with group unity by the end of the ’60s, anyway.
As Badfinger, the under-appreciated Welsh combo recently signed to the Beatles’ record label Apple, bites off its Paul McCartney-produced “Come And Get It,” the film opens with a close-up portrait of Queen Elizabeth. The camera quickly pulls away to reveal it’s the engraving of Her Majesty as seen on a 10-pound note.
The narrative immediately splits in two, first following the filthy rich Sir Guy Grand (Sellers) awakening in his lavishly appointed London town house. Simultaneously, a just plain filthy drifter (Starr) is rudely poked awake with a pointed stick wielded by an ancient gardener working in the park where Ringo’s been sleeping rough for some time. Sir Guy slips a fiver to a strolling violinist outside his home as he fires up the longest limousine ever manufactured by Mercedes Benz. Ringo brushes his teeth using the slimy, algae-choked green water from a public fountain.
On the way to his sumptuous London office, Sir Guy crosses a bridge in a public park and notices a disheveled, unshaven Ringo feeding scraps of bread to the ducks below. “Good morning, feeding the ducks?” asks Sir Guy. “Yes, I feed them every morning,” answers Ringo. “Mind if I join you?” inquires Sir Guy as he removes a slice of bread from his wallet and begins tossing chunks into the pond. Eventually, Ringo gets the notion that this person is up to something more devious than feeding ducks and begins to briskly walk away. “Please don’t go!” begs Sir Guy, finally catching up to Ringo and matching his quick stride to explain in great detail what he has in mind for the two of them.
Sir Guy and Ringo, looking totally out of place with his straggly, unkempt hair and cheap sunglasses, stand across a large office table from a brace of obsequious solicitors and accountants on the other side. Sir Guy is handed a one-page document and a fountain pen for his signature to be affixed to the bottom of the page. He ceremoniously signs the paper, then passes both document and pen over to Ringo who also signs. “Well, Youngman Grand,” Sir Guy proudly addresses Ringo whose name has now been legally changed. Embracing Sir Guy as warmly as if he were the long lost parent he’s never known, Youngman replies, “Father!”