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Spike Milligan
The Magic Christian
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And Finally

Described as antiestablishmentarian, antibellum, antitrust, antiseptic, antibiotic, antisocial & antipasto.

christian.jpg

The late 1960s were fertile territory for the late satirist Terry Southern, whose novels The Magic Christian and Candy were adapted within a year of each other.

Both adaptations sheared away some of Southern's more acidic tendencies in favor of all-star, plotless comedy skits strung together by slender storylines, though the end results are as different as night and day.

While Candy strives to be a mod, continental exercise in pop sci-fi erotica, this outing instead feels like a celebrity edition of Monty Python's Flying Circus gone completely off the rails (which makes sense, as Pythonites John Cleese and Graham Chapman both co-wrote and appeared onscreen), coupled with good old English slapstick (courtesy of Peter Sellers) and a catchy pop soundtrack courtesy of Badfinger, an ill-fated band designed to cash in on the popularity of the Beatles.

Fortunately their theme song, "Come and Get It" (written by the unmistakable hand of Paul McCartney), is one of the catchiest ever written and kicks the film off in high style, even if the following events don't always live up to it.

While strolling through the park, eccentric millionaire Sir Guy Grand (Sellers) strikes up a friendship with an amiable bum, Youngman (Ringo Starr), whom Guy adopts as his own son.

Together they decide to test the limits of human greed by offering money to an increasingly bizarre assortment of characters who debase themselves completely for a little green.

After attending a striptease version of Hamlet with Laurence Harvey and displaying most un-English bad manners at restaurants and auctions, the father and son wreak pandemonium aboard the maiden voyage of the Magic Christian, a vessel populated by topless slavegirls (ordered by "Priestess of the Whip" Raquel Welch), a stampeding vampire (Christopher Lee), and a scary chanteuse (Yul Brynner in drag) hitting on a jittery Roman Polanski.

Back on land, humanity is put to one final, scatalogical test of avarice courtesy of a giant vat of... well, you'll have to see for yourself.

mike@spikemilligan.co.uk