Volume 15, Number 04, Fall, 1997

Fred Olen Ray's Little Miss Magic

Starring Russ Tamblyn, Vanessa Koman, Michelle Bauer, Ted Monte, and Special Guest Star Tommy Kirk. 1997. (Firebird International)
Reviewed by Anders Monsen
November 1997

Proof that talent indeed does run in the family Little Miss Magic is an endearing, funny, and enjoyable movie. This soon to be released Fred Olen Ray movie stars young Vanessa Koman, daughter of Prometheus Award-winning writer Victor Koman.

Vanessa plays a young witch apprentice (only a few hundred years old) who must undertake a difficult test in order to become a true witch. Vanessa is assigned to a young couple, Richard (played by Ted Monte) and Kristin (Michelle Bauer). Their marriage is collapsing. Richard is a rising star in a business firm pushed higher and higher by his ambitious wife. A villainous rival of Richard's, Greg (played by Steve Scionti who has an amusing scene where he does everything backwards for several minutes) hopes to gain Richard's job, and his wife.

In the midst of this, Richard and Kristin are handed an orphaned distant relative, Deirdre (Vanessa). Tension ensues as Kristin sees a rival and someone who could upset her well-planned life. Deirdre's test is to reconcile the couple with creative use of magic and charm.

The movie is quite light hearted, with amusing sound effects, funny visuals, and characters you care about. This is Vanessa Koman's first leading role and her confidence is remarkable. Previously she played a bit part with Marc Singer, as a young waif in a future dark America (Cyberzone). She was ten years old at the time. When she was 11 she appeared in Fred's Invisible Mom. From the ages of 12-13 she starred in Little Miss Magic. As Vanessa says, "I make a movie every year."

She is quite restrained for a 12-year old, with a strong screen presence. The story is well told, although Michelle Bauer's transformation at the end from bitch to mom is a little too sugary. However I'm sure that's due to the writing, not the acting.

In-jokes abound. There's even an amusing scene at a party with cameos from Brad Linaweaver and Victor Koman. Other credited guests include Buddy Barnett (publisher of Cult Movies, a magazine that runs more Linaweaver material than even Prometheus), and Bretigne Shaffer, daughter of noted anarchist, Butler Shaffer, author of Calculated Chaos.

The villain reads Moon of Ice in his hot tub while plotting his deeds, and Vanessa reads the recent horror anthology Weird Menace, which features stories from among others dad Victor Koman, Brad Linaweaver, Bill Ritch, and Fred Olen Ray himself. One of Fred's favorite character actors, Robert Quarry, plays the Master, the ultimate Judge as to whether Vanessa succeeds or not. He appeared in some of Vincent Price's final films for AIP, appropriate because Fred uses the AIP castle as the Master's home.

Russ Tamblyn plays the friendly warlock, Brenden Moran. He was in West Side Story, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, The Haunting, and Tom Thumb. Tommy Kirk turns in a wonderful supporting role. He plays Mr. Kenner, browbeaten by his busybody wife who's obsessed with spying on their neighbors, Richard and Kristin. He was one of Walt Disney's stars, in movies like The Shaggy Dog and The Absent Minded Professor. He also appeared with Boris Karloff in The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini. A Ghost poster appears in a scene in Little Miss Magic.

Kirk also played the young boy who has to face a difficult decision in the classic Old Yeller. I discovered this reading about Kirk's difficulties working for Disney; they wanted to control his every action in movies, as well as his life.

Little Miss Magic would be a natural to be released around Halloween. We don't know when it will appear, yet, except it will first reach the world via Pay-Per-View. I am sure it will be available on video a few months after that.

Fred Olen Ray has broken out of his B-movie action genre with this great movie. This is a wonderful feature length debut for Vanessa Koman and I hope we see more of her on the big screen.

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