Cat burglar Henry Clarke and his accomplices the Moreaus attempt to steal diamonds from the château of millionaire Salinas. However, Henry's partners in crime aren't the most emotionally stable people.
The venomous and amoral wife of a wealthy architect tries, any way she can, to break up the blossoming romance between her husband and his new mistress; a good-natured young widow who holds a dark past.
Brian G. Hutton
An English teacher arrives on a sleepy Greek island to take up a vacant teaching post. The last man to hold the post committed suicide under mysterious circumstances. Slowly but surely, he is drawn into a bizarre game engineered by a reclusive local magician. The deeper into the game he is drawn, the more he senses danger... yet cannot seem to untangle himself from the fascinating and compelling influence that the game is having on his mind. Written by
Jonathon Dabell <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Michael Caine lists this, along with The Swarm (1978) and Ashanti (1979), as one of the worst films he ever made. This is mainly down to the fact that no one - least of all the audience - knew what it was about. See more »
You're running away. That's all it is.
Look, in this country I am the typical nowhere man - belonging nowhere, going nowhere and wanted nowhere.
Oh, Nicko, this is life, not an existentialist novel.
See more »
Being an arty psychological puzzle - and one which might well be not just incomprehensible but also meaningless - I'd always been interested in checking this film out; the fact that it was a critical and box-office failure made it doubly fascinating. Still, what must have seemed like the turkey of the year when new has, with time, acquired a certain charm all its own! On the surface, the film is certainly good-looking (shot by Billy Williams in numerous European locations, mainly a sunny Greek island) and boasts a fine score by Johnny Dankworth (which, in keeping with the film's theme, seems oddly unsuited to what's going on); the star cast responds competently to the mystifying plot (structured like a Chinese box - where past events are constantly re-enacted, identities exchanged and, of course, nothing is what it seems). Still, while Anthony Quinn may be everybody's idea of a Greek larger-than-life character, here he is saddled with an unbecoming Picasso hairstyle and, underneath it all, Michael Caine may well have been mirroring the bewilderment felt by his character since, in his autobiography, he singles out THE MAGUS as his worst film ever (though I personally would beg to differ and choose THE ISLAND  for that unenviable spot)!
Actually, it all reminded me of L'INVENZIONE DI MOREL (1974) - another obscure island-set drama where a man intrudes upon a remote community sharing an exclusive fantasy existence: incidentally, that film was partly shot in my native country and also featured Anna Karina (who in THE MAGUS has the rather thankless role of Caine's jilted girlfriend - though her performance is quite good and his callous treatment of Karina has a strong bearing on the main character's ultimate personal growth) as the mystery woman who captivates the hero; with this in mind, as I lay watching the film under review, I wondered at the possibilities had Karina exchanged her role with that of Candice Bergen (who's too young for her role but great to look at nonetheless).
Then again, the subject matter was far more congenial to a Joseph Losey rather than the journeyman Guy Green...and one can only surmise how different - and more significant - the film would have been in the former's hands! As it stands, there are some undeniably compelling passages but also a lot of shallow modishness (the skin-flick with Bergen and Julian Glover[!] at the climax is plain risible) and lame moralizing (the WWII flashback scenes, featuring a bizarrely but effectively cast Corin Redgrave as the Nazi Commandant, being especially maudlin).
At several points towards the end, it feels like the story is coming to some sort of conclusion but it just goes on and on, peeling off yet another layer to the meandering enigma; to get an inkling of what the film is like, just imagine watching two of the more cerebral episodes of the cult TV series "The Prisoner" (1967-68) back-to-back! In hindsight, the film's epitaph may have been delivered by none other than Woody Allen who once remarked that, if he had to live his life all over again, he would do everything exactly the same...except watch THE MAGUS. As for myself, I wouldn't mind taking another look at it in future: by then I'd be over the initial "shock" and could perhaps appreciate it better...
8 of 10 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?