The Best 10 Movies About Magic of All Time

So here we go, the best 10 movies about ‘magic’ of ‘all time’. That’s a tall order and will of course become a list that will be challenged by many.

What I have tried to do is collate a list of movies that feature films which have magical themes or very obvious magical references in them. Of course the rash of Harry Potter films, the excellent Lord of the Rings trilogy and even Star Wars could be included. However, from a desire to expand the list of magician inspired or magically themed movies I have left these out as being ‘too obvious’.

For reasons of brevity I have also not included fully animated movies in this list, so the likes of Fantasia, Sword in the Stone and even The Illusionist (Sylvian Chomet’s 2010 film) are not considered.

I’ve also ignored television series, such as The Magician (Bill Bixby trained by Mark Wilson), Jonathan Creek, the quirky 1970’s TV series Ace of Wands as well as specific Colombo, Midsummer Murders, One Foot in the Grave episodes that were based around magic and magicians.

So this brings us to a quick round-up of some of the best of the magician-in-the-movies films I am aware of. Starting with those just outside the Top Ten – not because of any lack of quality, just because they are a little peripheral to the main list.

Passport to Pimlico (1949) directed by Henry Cornelius and featuring great performances from Stanley Holloway and Margaret Rutherford. This great Ealing comedy contains a sequence on the tube train where magician of the day The Great Masoni, drops his case allowing his doves to escape adding to the surreal nature of the comic moment.

Dead of Night (1945) directed by Alberto Cavancanti is a superb Ealing portmanteau horror movie which contained a series of stories about a dream told by a guest arriving at remote farmhouse. The film is said to have influenced cosmologists Hoyle, Gold and Bondi to develop the ‘steady state theory’. They were inspired by the circular nature of the films narrative. However the movie contains a story about a ventriloquist and a less than charming dummy. Ventriloquism is related to the magical arts, hence its inclusion here. The story is the forerunner of one that is actually in the list, Magic, starring Anthony Hopkins.

Thirty Nine Steps (1939) directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The original and perhaps greatest version of this film the climax of which is takes place as in a theatre where a ‘memory man’ is performing. The Memory Act can be considered as a subset of the magical art of Mentalism. The great magician Harry Lorraine is world famous not only for his ‘magic’ act but also for his contribution to the training and development of the human memory.

The Raven (1963) directed by Roger Corman sees the great Vincent Price, Peter Lorre and Boris Karloff as medieval magicians involved a magical duel. This fun, camp and colourful movie loosely based on the Edgar Allen Poe poem The Raven, is not the greatest example of the Corman-Price collection, but is great fun.

Night of the Demon (1957) Jaques Tourneur. This great movie is an adaptation of M R James’ story “Casting the Runes”. Starring Dana Andrews as a sceptical psychologist ‘cursed’ by the Faustian looking magician and ‘cult’ leader Julian Karswell (Nial MacGinnis). In one sequence Karswell dressed as Dr Bobo performs magic at a children’s party. The conversation which then ensues between the psychologist and the magician holds within it a host of performance frames and ideas for budding bizarrists out there!. Tourneur apparently never wanted the audience to ‘see’ the demon. I many ways I wish he had had his way. The film would be even creepier and scarier if the terror was left to the imagination – again bizarre magicians take note!

The Magician (1958) directed by Ingmar Bergman. The only reason that film is outside the top ten is because of the possibility of being considered as being ‘pretentious’ if it is placed where I think it belongs – in the top 5 at least! Max von Sydow plays a travelling magician and ‘magnetic-healer’ (harkening back to the days of Mesmer) caught up in a tale about prejudice, honesty, the class system and….. well the whole thing is multilayered. Sydow is brilliant, he rarely speaks, and Bergman’s visuals are great. The film has been called a ‘thinking mans horror movie/. It is creepy surreal and brilliantly acted and directed.

The Great Buck Howard (2008) directed by Sean McGinly is built around John Malkovich’s character who is in turn based upon the mentalist Kreskin.

Next (2007) directed by Lee Tamahori sees Nicholas Cage as a man who can see a few minutes into the future and disguises his gift by working as a lounge magician. Cage is seen as another kind of ‘magician’ in the fantasy movie The Sorcerers Apprentice (2010 directed by Jon Turtletaub) which makes direct references to the Disney Sorcerers Apprentice in Fantasia.

Magic Man (2010) directed by Roscoe Lever stars Billy Zane who plays Darius, the Magic Man of the title. Billed as a thriller, this movie hasn’t received the best of reviews. As I’ve not seen it yet I can’t comment – but maybe a future review of this list may see it included.

So onto the Top Ten

10. Excelsior Prince of Magicians 1901 directed by Georges Melies. This pioneer of film making was a magician before turning his hand to cine-magic. He produced many short films of which this is only one, but many of which featured movie versions of stage tricks that magicians would love to be able to actually do. He was one of the first film makers to feature stop frame, time lapse and multiple exposures. He also hand painted many of the black and white films he shot. A true innovator.

9. The Grim Game 1919 directed by Irvin Wilat. Not the greatest of movies to watch, but from a magician’s point of view a must. It featured Harry Houdini in the title role showcasing his feats of escapology. Houdini, not only a great magician but a great entrepreneur embraced early cinema but to be quite honest he made little lasting contribution to cinematic art. In some ways, perhaps, Melies earlier ‘trick photography’ lessened some of the dramatic impact Houdini’s live performances will have had.

8. Lord of Illusions (1995) directed by Clive Barker and based on his novel of the same name. This film is notable for its magical references. Not only does the ‘evil’ lead character Nix have supernatural powers, but his disciples have them. One of his disciples, Swann, after Nix’s early demise (prior to his later resurrection) uses his magical powers to become a popular illusionist. The staged magic sequences are well done, there is a cameo appearance by the great Billy McCombe and the Magic Castle is represented as a place of secrets. The basic concept that ‘magic is a dangerous reality’ is a great theme for the Bizarre Magicians out there.

7. Cast a Deadly Spell (1991) directed by Martin Cambell, sees Detective, Harry Philip Lovecraft (played by Fred Ward) living in a 1940’s Los Angeles where magic is common place. He is recruited by a rich man to find a lost book – yeap, you’ve got it… The Necronomicon! It’s really a Bogart-esque film-noire with a magical flavour, of course by definition then there are magicians. It’s witty, fun and full of Lovecraftian references. Unfortunately at the time of writing it, unlike its less sharp sequel (Witch Hunt) is not available for purchase on DVD.

Witch Hunt (1994) directed Paul Schrader. A sequel to Cast a Deadly Spell in which detective, H. Phillip Lovecraft played by Dennis Hopper combats the evils and corruption of a magic wielding senator. As a sequel not shoddy, but perhaps not quite as fun as the first movie.

6. The Great Kandinski (1995) directed by Terry Windsor. This ‘made for TV’ movie must be included in this list, not only for its charm and humour, but for its sensitivities. Richard Harris (whose work is admirable) plays a retired escapologist living in a nursing home. The story revolves around Kandiski’s desire to ‘chase one more secret’ and do one ‘final show’. The escape featured is Houdini’s Water Torture cell, which is a testament to the iconic nature of that one illusion.

5. Nightmare Alley (1947) directed by Edmund Goulding. An impressive movie and perhaps one of the all time greatest examples of film noire. Tyrone Power plays a ‘psychic con man’ Stanton Carlyle whose trail of deceit and self deceit take from rags to riches to rags. Of course the magicians out there will immediately see a link to a performer who used to go out under the name Rinaldo, but was better known professionally and now to mentalists’ world wide as Stanton Carlisle. (1928 – 1990). Stanton insisted, despite many good natured challenges, that that was his real name and was not influenced by the Goulding film.

4. House of Games (1978) directed by David Mamet. OK not really a magic film, but features a performance of one of my all time magic heroes, Ricky Jay. Ricky is one of a group of con-men in this Hitchcockesque thriller. Mamet, as always does a great job in capturing mood and the movie explores human motivations and behaviours. Ricky Jay is of course no stranger to the big screen, with roles in the Bond Movie, Tomorrow Never Dies, Magnolia, Buck Howard, The Prestige and many more. This, I believe however was his first venture onto the ‘big screen’

3. Houdini (1953) directed by George Marshall with Tony Curtis in as Houdini. This movie does have a lot to answer for in that it creates some of the longer lasting myths about the life of the genuinely ‘mythic’ Houdini. His death on stage as a result of performing the ‘water torture cell’ is not fact, but the movie certainly hints at it. The ‘brush with death’ in a frozen river; the first performance of the ‘straight jacket’ at a Magicians Society dinner almost surely never happened – but the romance and innocence of the moment saves it. The magical advisor on this movie was Dunninger.

I suppose it is worth mentioning in passing that in 1998 there was a TV movie about Houdini (directed by Pen Denshem) and an earlier attempt at a biopic remake in 1976 with Paul Michael Glaser in the title role (directed for television by Melvile Shavelson). The movie Death Defying Acts (2007) directed by Gillian Armstrong focuses on Houdini’s documented interest in mediums and psychics and he is really the vehicle through which another story can be told.

2. Magic (1978) directed by Richard Attenborough and staring Anthony Hopkins. In the film Hopkins’ character starts out as a magician, but sees success as a ventriloquist. The movie charts the fall into insanity as the relationship Hopkins has with his dummy ‘Fats’. It’s a classic movie with some of the creepier overtones being softened by, what some claim to be, slower sequences of sentimentality.

1. The Illusionist (2006) directed by Neil Burger and staring Ed Norton. The pace and the feel of this film is wonderful. It is a love story with some great performances from a superb cast. The magical advice came from Ricky Jay and Michael Webber. Norton as Eisenhiem is the ideal stage magician. The cinematography is brilliant, the plot nicely involved and with, perhaps a few surprises.

1. The Prestige (2006) directed by Christopher Nolan. Whilst The Illusionist is sumptuous and engaging and at its core ‘hopeful’ and ‘romantic’, The Prestige is darker and deals with revenge, envy and competitiveness. Great performances from Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale as the feuding magicians each with a ‘secret’ and a narrative that is non-linear make the film engaging and well worth the little effort you need to keep up with the tangled web of intrigue. The ‘prestige’, the finale of the film, contains revelations that may surprise. Intelligent scripting brings the emotional tension to life and the rich magical references (Chung Ling Soo, The Bullet Catch, The Water Torture) make this film a must for magicians. Ricky Jay appears as an established stage performer and Michael Caine is great as the illusion builder – although I would never ask him to build me a vanishing bird cage!

I really can’t separate these two films in terms of quality of acting, direction and story so they share first place billing with the less serious….

Magicians (2007) actually deserves a Gold Star in this list. Directed by Andrew O Connor and with script written in collaboration with David Britland, Andy Nyman and Anthony Owen and others this is a magical tour de force. Opting for a comic look at the world of the conjuror, Magicians, sees Mitchell and Webb rattle through some great one-liners; pay homage to some key magicians and have a real knock at some of the oddness that is part and parcel of the magic scene. The great Pat Page makes an appearance, and most of the magic ‘stalls’ at the magic convention hosting the competition at the centre of the films plot were provided by well known magic dealers.

Peekvid TV Shows Dexter a Good Time Party

Are you a fan of the new hit Showtime series, “Dexter?” I sure am and if you missed the

13th episode, don’t worry, Peekvid TV has got you covered in blood. If you like a good

mystery and a great guy who plays a serial killer, then you will be drawn into the dark

world of Dexter. He is a serial killer with more twists and turns then trying to find what

your looking for in Google.

Please keep in mind that Peekvid is not the only free movie watching site on the internet.

I reveal my “secret” list of free movie sites at MovieDownloadMatrix.com. If you can

put up with all the pop-ups on Peekvid, you will enjoy the easy navigation and simplicity.

I reveal two free movie sites that do not have the annoying pop-ups! Pop-ups are like

a cheese grater on my last nerve. Ouch! That hurt like Tabasco sauce on a paper cut!

Dexter uses whatever means necessary to kill off the psychos, who slip through the

cracks of the law system. Fortunately, Dexter has the dream job of being a blood

spatter forensic expert. He uses his dark cutting edge skill to catch and, with his

serial killer instincts, kill the monsters of society. Just the kind of guy you want

living on the block in New York City for a good time party.

Unlike all the other shows on TV, that focus on catching serials killers(CSI/Criminal Minds),

you get a chance to look at the world as Dexter sees it. You get a chance to take revenge

on the serial killers, through the dark eyes of Dexter. The filming of the show is well-done

like a steak at the Outback. I sincerely believe that Dexter will keep Showtime looking

bloody good and it is about time.

If you want a show where you say, “Wow! I should have thought of that!”, then Dexter is a

real artistic piece of work, who pulls at your heart strings. One scene shows Dexter

like he is at a good time party! He is dreaming about all the people cheering him on for killing

all the low lifes of society. As he is walking through the crowd, there is confetti flying

everywhere, now that is what I call a good time party!

FACT: Confetti really does enhance the gaiety of a festive event or parade.

Peekvid TV has the Dexter episode where he finds out his brother is also a serial killer.

There is only one problem for dear old Dexter, his brother is a serial killer, who wants

Dexter to kill for the joy of the kill. He does not follow the same code of killing that

Dexter does. He tries to bring Dexter over to his world and he lovingly says, “you will

be free Dexter.” While he is teaching Dexter to be free, Dexter’s sister is tied down in

saran wrap on a cold steel table. Will this loving family work out their deep-seated

issues? Will Hillary Clinton be the next President of the United States? If you have

some time to “kill”, then run on over to Dexter’s place and bring some hot sauce!

Why Spanish-Language TV Will Be Around for a Long Time to Come

When Susana Rivera-Mills phoned relatives back in El Salvador from California, one of the frequent topics of conversation that straddled the bicultural divide was the telenovela airing on TV in both places. “It was a way of connecting, of shortening that distance,” says Rivera-Mills, a professor of Spanish linguistics at Oregon State University. “It’s one of those traditions that are passed on.”

Spanish-language television has flourished well beyond its beginnings half a century ago as an ethnic niche medium to become one of the biggest media markets in the United States, driven by the growing Latino population as well as its content.

Univisión, which launched in 1962 as Spanish International Network, now ranks as the fifth largest U.S. broadcast network, and its primetime ratings routinely best those of the four bigger mainstream networks. A host of smaller players provide local and national broadcast programming, plus pay TV channels offering sports, news and movies, all in Spanish 24/7. Most have launched since 2000.

Behind that juggernaut growth undoubtedly lies the sheer heft of the U.S. Hispanic population – around 54 million or about 17 percent of the U.S. population, fuelled by four decades of immigration waves from Latin America, chiefly Mexico.

The fact that Spanish is spoken across an entire region contributes to Hispanic TV’s clout compared to other ethnic media, which tend to remain small niche outlets serving immigrants from one country, says Mark Hugo López, director of Hispanic research at the Pew Research Center. The growth of Asian immigration has eclipsed that of Latin Americans since 2010, but Asian media is unlikely to ever have the presence of Hispanic media since each Asian country has its own language, thus creating a fragmented media market.

But a deeper part of Hispanic TV’s story relates to the roles that the language of Spanish and television plays in Latino households.

Unlike other immigrant groups, Latin American immigrants tend to retain their home language through generations, driving use of Spanish media.

Research by the Pew Hispanic Trends Project shows that from 1980 to 2010, the percentage of Hispanic households that spoke Spanish remained consistently at about 75 percent, while the number of Italian, German and Polish speakers dropped by 55 percent, 33 percent and 26 percent, respectively, over the same period although the number of people claiming that ancestry rose.

“We’re still at the beginning of this Hispanic immigration wave, which really started in the 70s and 80s, so we don’t know how it’s going to be 100 years out, as with the Italians and Germans, but there’s a real emphasis on maintaining Spanish and connecting to their home country,” says López.

Younger Latinos may be English-dominant, but due to the Hispanic culture’s tradition of close family ties, they often grow up around extended family who tune into programming like “Sábado Gigante” and novelas. Hispanic TV becomes part of the comfort of “home” for younger generations, as well as reinforces their learning of Spanish.

“They see their moms crying to the soap operas. There’s an emotional attachment,” says Felipe Korzenny, founder and director of the Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication at Florida State University.

Content is a key sustaining element of Hispanic TV. Spanish-language TV offers current events from around Latin America and U.S. topics of interest to Hispanics, such as immigration reform, as well as sports popular among Latinos, like soccer and boxing. Entertainment shows feature Hispanic celebrities and performers. “They offer a lot of programming you can’t get elsewhere,” says Robert Thompson, professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University.

Hispanic television also has a wealth of readily available programming to tap. Mexico, with a long history of cinematic production, is a major source of movies and TV shows. Programs are also imported from Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil and other countries. This programming offers “cultural compatibility” for the U.S. Latinos, particularly the foreign born, Korzenny says.

That compatibility isn’t always offered on mainstream TV even when Hispanics are featured. ABC megahit “Modern Family,” which stars Colombia’s Sofía Vergara as a fiery, sexy bombshell with an accent, is the top rated English-language show for Hispanics, but its Hispanic ratings pale in comparison to Univisión’s soap operas – 1.1 million Latinos watch “Modern Family,” 3.6 million watch the telenovela, according to Advertising Age’s 11th Annual Hispanic Facts Pack issued in 2014.

“Sofía Vergara is funny to non-Hispanics because she’s a stereotype,” says Linda González, chair of the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies. “She’s not so funny for Hispanics.”

Latin American programming, with its melodramatic rags-to-riches novela plots, isn’t always relevant to Hispanics’ lives in the United States, either. Telemundo, the No. 2 Spanish-language broadcaster owned by NBCUniversal, produces novelas and other shows that incorporate themes important to U.S. Latinos, including college education, diabetes prevention, and Census participation. That has created an additional avenue of Hispanic-specific programming not available on mainstream TV.

“We see time and again that it is a not some sort of life-stage choice to give up Spanish-language TV and move to English-language TV for good,” said Mike Rosen, NBCUniversal’s executive vice president of advertising sales for news and Hispanic groups, in a statement. “It is quite the opposite, a choice made every time the viewer picks up the remote, seeking the best, most relevant and engaging storytelling, event or sports programming, without language as a limitation. And we also see time and again that when we put great content on the screen, Hispanics across all language fluencies and generations will tune in, from Spanish only to bilingual. The key is to program and produce content that is relevant to today’s U.S. Hispanic, and they will come.”

Part of that includes adapting mainstream TV programs popular with Hispanics for Spanish-language, such as NBC’s “The Voice” with “La Voz Kids” on Telemundo, and making edgier, character-driven telenovelas and shows that continue for several seasons, Rosen notes.

Although several outlets focusing on providing Hispanic-themed TV in English have launched in recent years, Spanish-language TV shows no signs of slowing. In 2009, Liberman Broadcasting launched Estrella TV, a national network. In 2012, Fox ramped up Noticias Mundo Fox, a news channel.

“The Spanish-speaking population is projected to continue to grow at least through 2020, probably to 2030, and maybe further,” López says. “Spanish-language media will continue to be on a growth trajectory for the foreseeable future.”