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The Magic Christian

The Magic Christian is a 1969 British satirical black comedy film directed by Joseph McGrath and starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr, with appearances by John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Raquel Welch, Spike Milligan, Christopher Lee, Richard Attenborough and Roman Polanski. It was loosely adapted from the 1959 comic novel The Magic Christian by the American author Terry Southern, who co-wrote the screenplay adaptation with McGrath. The film also features pre-Monty Python appearances of John Cleese (credited) and an uncredited Graham Chapman, who had jointly written an earlier version of the film script.

Plot

Sir Guy Grand (Sellers), an eccentric billionaire, together with his newly adopted heir (formerly a homeless derelict), Youngman Grand (Starr), start playing elaborate practical jokes on people. A big spender, Grand does not mind handing out large sums of money to various people, bribing them to fulfill his whims, or shocking them by bringing down what they hold dear. Their misadventures are designed as a display by Grand to his adoptive charge of the notion that "everyone has their price" — it just depends on the amount one is prepared to pay. They start from rather minor spoofs, like bribing a Shakespearean actor (Laurence Harvey) to strip during a stage performance of Hamlet and persuading a traffic warden (Spike Milligan) to take back a parking ticket and eat it (delighted by the size of the bribe, he confusedly eats the banknotes as well, followed by the ticket's plastic cover) and proceed with increasingly elaborate stunts involving higher social strata and wider audiences. As their conversation reveals, Grand sees his plots as "educational".