Jason Coffman Discusses “Carnival Magic,” the Opener for Facets Night School’s Master Edition

Carnival Magic will be presented on 35MM(!), the way God intended, as the opener for Facets Night School Masters Edition. It’s one of the last films by Al Adamson, sleaze film extraordinaire, who is probably more famous over how he died than for his films.

Legendary Lew recently caught up with Jason Coffman, Co-Director & Programmer at Chicago Cinema Society, to ask about this unusual must-see film.

LL: You’ll be presenting the 35MM print of the film Carnival Magic by Al Adamson. Tell us a little about that film.

JC: For whatever reason, Al Adamson decided to make a couple of “children’s movies” in the early 1980s. He made Carnival Magic in 1981 and a film called Lost, and after Lost he retired from the film business. AdamsonIf you’ve ever wondered what a “children’s movie” made by someone with no idea what that means, Carnival Magic is a perfect example. There’s magic and a talking monkey, and beyond that there’s a lot of really inappropriate stuff.

LL: Adamson was known for exploitation movies. Since this is a G-rated family film, what can you tell us about any similarities, if any, to his “sleazier” fare?

JC: Adamson often cast his wife Regina Carrol in his films, and she’s in Carnival Magic, too. She’s the lady wearing the extremely tight shirtsreginacarrol whenever she appears on screen. The villainous lion tamer in the movie is genuinely nasty, he’s an abusive drunk. Not really the kind of character you usually see in a kids’ film.

LL: What would you consider the best parts of Carnival Magic?

JC: It’s hard to decide where to even begin, it’s such a strange film. The voice of Alex the talking monkey is pretty amazing, in that it’s actually sort of believable that a monkey would talk in this way. A creepy, guttural voice. More likely to scare the hell out of kids than endear the monkey to them. The part where Alex kidnaps a woman is pretty fantastic– he steals a car and there’s an inept police chase and everything. So that’s a lot of fun.

LL: What do you hope audiences will take with them after watching this film?

JC: I hope people have a new appreciation for Al Adamson and that they’ll be willing to explore cheap exploitation movies more. A lot of people might see one Adamson film and just write him off, but if you dig in to his filmography you’ll find he made crazy stuff like Carnival Magic. It’s really weird, really entertaining, and unless you’re willing to give this kind of thing a chance, you’ll never find stuff like this.

Thanks, Jason, for giving a little more insight to Carnival Magic.
Be sure to catch this jaw-dropping, weird film (thoroughly recommended by yours truly) as it kicks off Facets Night School’s Masters Edition.

Check out Jason’s work with Film Monthly and Fine Print.

Carnival Magic in 35MM (from The Chicago Cinema Society Archive)
Saturday night, March 30th, 2013 at Midnight
Facets Multimedia
Admission: $5 or FREE for Facets Members
Students: Get one FREE small popcorn with valid student ID.

One final note: The producer of Carnival Magic, Elvin Feltner, I’m told is currently in ill health. We’ll be providing a get well card to sign for him and also have a donation jar available.  Thanks!

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