Review: Carnival Magic Blu-ray/DVD

Carnival Magic DVD/Blu-ray boxSTUDIO: Film Chest/Cultra/Virgil | DIRECTOR: Al Adamson | CAST: Don Stewart, Regina Carroll, Howard Segal, Joe Cirillo, Charles Reynolds
RELEASE DATE: 1/25/11 | PRICE: Blu-ray/DVD combo $19.99
BONUSES: commentary, interviews, original movie art postcard, restoration demos
SPECS: G | 100 min. | Family | 1.77:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital stereo

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

The release of Al Adamson’s 1981 family film Carnival Magic for the first time in any home entertainment format exemplifies a theory — my own — that every movie ever made is someone’s favorite movie of all time. No matter how insane, incomprehensible or incoherent, every movie at some time hits someone just right at the right moment and became a lasting loving memory.

Carnival Magic movie scene

Alex the chimp goes ape in Carnival Magic.

How else to explain the effort put into finding the “lost” single print of Carnival Magic (according to the liner notes) and issuing it on DVD and Blu-ray now? There are plenty of worse movies, but few are as … benign as Carnival Magic. It must be the draw of the reputation of director Al Adamson, who earned a cult following with a slew of low-budget B-movies in the 1970s — The Naughty Stewardesses, anyone? — before trying his hand at family entertainment.

Plot? There’s this small carnival, see, and it’s not doing very good business because the beach boy marketing director (Howard Segal) is, like, 19 and has no idea how to use social media. The main attraction is a tiger tamer (Joe Cirillo), who looks like Erik Estrada and becomes jealous of the new magician, Markov the Magnificent, played by the resolute Don Stewart, who talks as if his jaws are wired shut. Markov has a chimpanzee named Alex that can — no, really — speak English! When everyone finds out about Alex, he becomes part of the act too, and the next thing you know, even the 19-year-old marketing director can’t screw up.

Of course, there’s a scientist (Charles Reynolds) who wants to steal Alex to remove his brain. That’s what I’d do with a polysyllabic primate! Before you can say “E.T., please don’t die,” Alex is dead. Or is he? (Waitaminute … E.T. came out in 1982, a year after Carnival Magic. Hmmm….)

Listen, if you are a cult movie fan, you ‘re familiar with this one and probably know what you are getting here. But if you’re new to this title and bring it home for the family, you might end up wanting your money back. As for me, well, Carnival Magic isn’t a contender for one of my favorite movies of all time.

But it certainly prompted me to bang out this review, which makes it one of my favorite movies today.

The DVD even comes with a bunch of special features, including a featurette on the film’s restoration, proving again that this film is loved by someone.


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About Buzz

Buzz McClain reviews DVDs for Playboy magazine and is a former critic for Video Business magazine. But what he really wants to do is direct.