I was never aware of what “Carnival Magic” was until “Mystery Science Theater 3000” covered it years ago. I’d never seen an alleged kids’ film that was so adamantly uncomfortable, and droning, and inappropriate before. Al Adamson, who was known mainly for adult exploitation films, took his hand at making a children’s adventure film, ends up making in inadvertent cult item that promises to confuse and dumbfound movie lovers for years in the same ilk as “Manos: The Hands of Fate,” and “Troll 2.” I don’t know if I’d call it a cult gem, but it certainly is a cinematic oddity.
Markov the Magnificent is a magician and mind reader whose career has hit the skids. However, when he teams up with a talking chimp – after a while, no one is really all that amazed that monkeys can speak. With the chimp named Alexander the Great, their dirt poor Stoney Martin Carnival finally has a chance to be a success. Then again, Kirk the alcoholic lion tamer and the doctor who wants to examine Alexander’s brain may screw it all up for Alex and his owners.
“Carnival Magic” looks an awful lot like Al Adamson took a few of his buddies and crashed some kind of low rent carnival that factors in to the premise of the film by convenience. The movie is a surprising precursor to “ET” coincidentally, as Alexander is basically a talking a chimp (if you call grunting “yes” talking, that is) who becomes the target of scientists that want to dissect him. He begins to die slowly from sadness the more he’s in possession of the scientists. Aside from being called “Carnival Magic,” there’s nothing at all magical about Adamson’s film, as it meanders back and forth between carnival goers and weird locals.
As well there are a slew of sub-plots all of which never add up to an entertaining kids film. Even calling it a kids film doesn’t excuse the inherent laziness and god awful production qualities. Even stuffing a monkey on screen almost immediately loses all novelty, as Alexander is something of a raunchy character through the very end. I think Adamson and co. approached this movie with the idea that it could possibly appeal to kids and families, but I don’t know any kid that could find this movie remotely exciting or appealing. Even for its schlock value, it doesn’t bring too much to the table.
For better or for worse, “Carnival Magic” is a movie you normally wouldn’t see on Blu-Ray and for that it just might grab its fair share of collectors. Otherwise it’s a tedious often inappropriate movie that tests your endurance and patience.
The new Blu-Ray and DVD from Severin Kids includes “A Boom To Science – A Critical Appreciation” by Zack Carlson & Lars Nilsen. There’s also an audio commentary with Cult Film Historian Joe Rubin and Producer Elvin Feltner. There are a series of outtakes, original TV Spots, and the original trailer. Also included is the bonus feature film, the ninety two minutes “Lost,” along with twenty two minutes of rushed footage for the never produced Al Adamson kids film “The Happy Hobo.” Finally, there’s the inclusion of the original “Lost” trailer.