The Magus (1968)

the magus poster 1968 movie
5.5 Overall Score
Story: 5/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 8/10

Good locations

Wastes the story

Movie Info

Movie Name: The Magus

Studio: Blazer Films

Genre(s): Drama/Suspense/Mystery

Release Date(s): October 4, 1968 (Italy)/December 10, 1968 (US)

MPAA Rating: R

the magus michael caine candice bergen anthony quinn

Hey guys…did any of you get to read the script? Just wondering.

Englishman Nicholas Urfe (Michael Caine) has taken an assignment on the isle of Phraxos.  When he encounters a strange man named Maurice Conchis (Anthony Quinn) on the Greek island, he finds himself brought into a mysterious game of life, death, and love.  Who is Maurice?  He claims to be a dead man, a doctor, a movie maker, and a lover of magic…and Nicholas doesn’t know who to believe when he encounters a woman named Lily (Candice Bergen) who also claims to be playing different roles in the story.  Nicholas wants the truth, but the deeper he goes into Maurice’s games, the more questions he has.

Directed by Guy Green, The Magus is a mystery drama.  The film is an adaptation of John Fowles’ 1965 acclaimed novel, and Fowles adapted the script and cameos in the film as a boat captain.  The film was released to critical pans and bombed at the box office.

I read The Magus years ago and kind of forgot they made a movie of the story.  The twists and turns of the novel were like a complex puzzle box that just kept folding in on itself until Nicholas and the reader wasn’t sure what was happening.  It wasn’t frustrating as much as interesting.  Here, the story comes out as frustrating instead of interesting.

the magus anna karina michael caine

Hey, girl…I’m not about commitment ok?

Even reading the novel, the fact that Nicholas puts up with all the games is a bit of a challenge.  Here, Nicholas (who isn’t that nice of a guy) seems to give Maurice unnatural leeway that tests even the most patient person (which he isn’t).  The ideas and concepts of the novel of “what can you believe” do carry into the film, but by the end of the film instead of caring, I just wanted it to end…I didn’t care about the outcome.

Michael Caine is alright as Nicholas Urfe and he does have a bit of swagger and aloofness needed for the character.  Anthony Quinn feels a bit hammy in his role, and I feel he would have worked better if he had played down his role.  Anna Karina feels wasted here, and I think she would have been better suited for the Candice Bergen role (who struggles with her accents although she is playing an American).  Many of the actors involved in the movie felt they didn’t really have much direction in the film after its release, and it kind of shows sometimes.

the magus anthony quinn drug sequence costume

Call me…Magical Mr. Mistoffelees

One thing that The Magus does have is a lush location.  The Mediterranean is always great looking and the film combined locations in Spain and Greece (primarily Spain) for the film.  I would have loved to have seen more use of the location simply because it was beautiful.

The Magus is a disappointment in that I recall liking the novel.  With a strange post-modern twisted tale, it was going to be difficult to adapt and seeing this picture, it obviously was (Fowles was not happy with the adaptation though he wrote it).  For years the picture was “missing in action”, but finally was released on DVD in 2006…but it might have fared better if it had remained a mystery.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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