November 27, 1978 12:00 PM

The title conjures up images of rabbits coming out of hats, but this picture is not kid stuff. The only transformation that takes place is when Anthony Hopkins, a ventriloquist and magician on the verge of the big time, suffers a personality split and, per horror film convention, insinuates his darker side into his dummy. Simultaneously he and childhood sweetheart Ann-Margret are falling in love, a project doomed not only by the deterioration of his mind but also by the fact that she is married. Actor-turned-director Richard At-tenborough contrasts murder and madness with beautifully serene Catskill scenery to cast a tense spell. Burgess Meredith, as Hopkins’ manager, and Ed Lauter, as the husband, are excellent. And so is the underappreciated Ann-Margret. But Hopkins, who learned card tricks and ventriloquism for his demanding role, provides most of the razzle-dazzle: His performance is true on-screen magic. (R)

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