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The International Brotherhood of Magicians

01 May

Hocus in Focus BONUS: New Product Reviews Online for May

Category: Blog   Posted by: C. DENNIS SCHICK


At the Table: Live Lectures, Season 1

Michael Ammar, Daniel Garcia, Jason England, Alex Pandrea, and Jon Armstrong. Murphy’s Magic. Available from Your Favorite Dealer. Wholesale from Murphy’s Magic Supplies. $50.

This has to be one of the very best values in magic! This five DVD set offers over ten hours of performances, and explanations from five different professional performers, and a question and answer segment with the audience. Joshua Jay, Eric Jones, and Mike Hankins conducted the interviews and segued the performers into each section of their lectures. I’ll give brief descriptions of each performer and what their lecture offers.

Michael Ammar presents some magic that he has never published before. He borrows a cell phone, cracks the screen, and then repairs it in a very clever routine. He also performs rubber band magic, card magic, and gives some great work with the Topit, Silk through Coffee Mug, Little Hand, and other tricks. In addition, he shares some magic theory and performing tips for television appearances.

Daniel Garcia thrilled the audience with his excellent Visible Bill Switch. It looks like trick photography and will be a welcome addition to any performer’s repertoire. In a routine that fooled everyone, he changed a card selected from a blue deck into a red-backed card and back to blue again. He presented three variations of his excellent Open Coincidence and gave a performance-only demonstration of his Borrowed Cell Phone in Balloon. He also showed and explained an impromptu Stick Through Bill, which is a Jay Sankey creation. He also discussed his vast experience in television consultation work for many magicians including the pitfalls of performance and how to present them.

Jason England is known for his gambling routines but this segment concentrated on commercial magic for close-up magicians. His effects included Triumph, Twisting the Aces, Dunbury’s Delusion/Fingerprint, and others, but he then moved into a little bit of gambling with Poker Tells, Grand Slam for Bro. John Hamman, and Instant Full House.

Alex Pandrea may be young but he has got chops. His “Sweet & Low to Splenda” was “sweet” but performance only. He presented a nice trick where a selected card is lost in the deck, and a lighter is held briefly under the deck. When spread, the selected card had a burn mark on its back. He then made the mark vanish from the card. Alex also presented some mental magic by having a selected card match a prediction card, and then showing that he knew all along what the matching card is, by showing it in his wallet. This is a very nice routine and not what you think it is! He also offers the very nice routines “EliminAce,” “Mystery Card,” and “Two Card Reset.” I really liked his fresh card controls. “Spring Control” takes the card to the top of the deck and “DPS” is a very showy control of a selection. In addition, he created quite a stir with his “Five Sleights in Five Minutes” routine! Wrapping up, he performed a routine called “Four Quarters” with the mis-made bill; his spectator involvement bothered me on this particular piece, but he’s still young.

Jon Armstrong performed an excellent routine with his “Tiny Plunger” effect series. He presented lots of performing information and shared sage advice for culling, the top change, the side steal and the Zarrow Shuffle. He also did some really unique rubber band magic that I really liked. He next did his 25-minute close-up and cabaret performance and explained everything in detail. There is a ton of useable information in his routine that will give performers excellent ideas for their own performances.

All in all, this DVD package is a fantastic deal! For the price, you not only have many excellent routines and tricks, but also many useful sleights and terrific advice for controls and sleights. The question and answer sections were also very useful and give good advice for less experienced magicians.

Highly recommended. Paul Lelekis



Kevin Schaller. Available from Your Favorite Dealer. Wholesale from Murphy’s Magic Supplies. $18.75.

If you like making your own props and gimmicks, Mugshot is a good DVD for you.  Kevin Schaller has created a good DVD that shows painstaking detail. However, I would not recommend that young magicians fabricate these gimmicks, as he uses many sharp objects such as scissors and knives to make small cuts and holes. 

Kevin performs and teaches six different effects. The DVD is divided into sections by performance, basic principles, and explanations. Kevin credits other magicians for some of the tricks that I think he altered to fit his magic. Surprisingly, he does not talk on the DVD. However, there are good subtitles that explain each of the steps needed to create the props. 

The DVD’s title and the names of the tricks have no apparent link to the magic, and may be named more as ways to get attention, especially from younger performers. The tricks include “Singularity,” which is a visual change of a playing card clipped to a baseball hat. Liquid changes inside a drinking cup in “Sham.” A baseball hat shoots out a chosen card in “Firearm,” and a baseball hat and rubber band are used for a trick in “Dark Horse.” A straw penetrates a plastic bottle in “Mask of Sanity.” “Snapback” is a Torn and Restored card trick. 

  The DVD has good camera angles and the camera does not shake or move around.  The repetitive music is somewhat annoying, but you can block it out after a while. The tricks are easy to perform but difficult to fabricate. As I have already noted, you will need to be very careful in constructing these tricks. 

The DVD seems good for performers in the 18 to 30-year old age range. As noted earlier, there are fabrication dangers for younger performers. Most of the tricks feel like they would be out of character for a more mature magician. The tricks seem ideal for a younger, baseball hat, jeans-wearing type of magician. I think the magic would work well for either street or stage performers. For the price, the DVD is well worth the investment for the right magician.

Recommended. Arnie Levin






Will Tsai. SansMinds. Available from Your Favorite Dealer. Wholesale from Murphy’s Magic Supplies. $35.

When I write a review, I always consider the total package. Everything from the gimmicks, the clarity and completeness of instruction, its impact on the average audience, cost, and how well a product delivers on its promises all go into my review process. Some items, like Bound, are ostensibly “all about the gimmick” and not much else. Since there are a lot of other factors I consider, products like this become tricky to review. However, since you are reading this, I will do my best to serve and inform you.

Let’s start with what you get for your hard earned money. You receive forty pairs of pre-linked bands and ten individual bands. The bands themselves are really great quality. After much use I can confidently say that the bands are just as durable as the standard #19, the type most rubber band effects recommend, albeit less stretchy. I can tell the difference, but after many trial runs I can say that your spectator won’t be able to tell the difference unless they are an office supply aficionado. This is a subtle but important point since it means that you can switch a pair of unlinked #19s for a linked pair and your spectator will be unaware, provided your switch is performed competently. Best of all, the linked pairs are constructed with no apparent seams. Finally, you can end with linked bands and hand them out without ever having to worry about your audience saying, “Oh, here’s where it’s glued it back together.”

The other item you get is the instructional DVD. It has clear audio and video, easy menus, and the ever enthusiastic Herman telling you about the bands. I honestly can’t bring myself to use the word “teaching” here. Unfortunately, it has 10 minutes of “instruction” followed by 50 minutes of advertisements. The only thing that is demonstrated (all too quickly) is a switch of one pair of bands for another and it is simply not effective. I will guess that is part of the reason why the live performance videos shown are heavily edited. There are a few mentions that these pre-linked bands will find their way naturally into your routines if you already do rubber band magic but there’s no mention of how to do so or even a list of other resources on the topic. The only effect that is even suggested here is that the rubber bands are shown separate and then linked. I don’t want a DVD to tell me how to do my magic, but if I were just starting out I’d probably put these things away thinking there just weren’t many things to be done with them.

Note that I’ve used the word “switch” in this review a few times which leads me to a serious criticism: on the box it says that the effect is “completely done by your spectator at their finger tips.” Nope. It sounds like the bands link themselves. Considering that the case says the bands are “made with the latest technology,” if you’ve never done rubber band magic before this could be downright misleading. Yes, you can make it look like they link in your spectator’s hands but only after a convincing display or a clean switch.

Seeing someone do the “Crazy Man’s Handcuffs” was what brought me into the magic world. I love rubber band magic. The claims on this product and the scant information you’re given would normally make me give this product an instantaneous “Not recommended” review but there’s one thing stopping me. These are the best pre-linked rubber bands I’ve ever seen. Even though, at the time of writing there are no refills available on the website, meaning you’ll have to shell out the full price for a new set of 40, they are still less than $1 each. At that price they can be given away as a souvenir and replaced without hesitation. If you’re hoping for information on how to use these properly or routine ideas with linked rubber bands, this is not the place to go. If you are looking for well-made pre-linked bands that you can use in your magic, these are the ones you want. As a result, I am giving Bound… 

Recommended as noted. Philip R. La Porta



Arnel Renegado. Mystique Factory. Available from Your Favorite Dealer. Wholesale from Murphy’s Magic Supplies. $29.95.

This is described as a Torn and Restored card effect for someone who doesn’t want to take the time to learn how to do it with sleight of hand. The good news is that you truly visibly restore a torn card. The bad news is that you just tear off about a half-inch strip of the card. This is not the four piece restoration you’ve come to know and love.

The effect is very clean. You have a card “freely selected” then tear off a narrow strip from the end. You can then easily, with no moves, burn or vanish the torn piece by your favorite method. With just a simple wave of the card, it restores visibly.

The supplied gimmick is well made and instructions to make it are on the DVD so you can match any back design or use your favorite value, although face cards work better. Construction is straightforward and requires only minimal supplies. If you are performing walk around you will want to make several so people don’t always select the same card.

I’m a little concerned with the price; this doesn’t feel like a $30 trick to me. It is a single trick. There are not many variations (the signed version seems a little convoluted), but it does what it says it does and unfortunately $30 seems to be the current going rate for a single trick DVD these days.

This is probably the easiest Torn and Restored card you can do. If you don’t want to take the time to master a four piece Torn and Restored, this will get you out there amazing people in no time. 

Recommended if you don’t have a T&R in your arsenal. Fred Rosenbaum


Dream Prediction Elite


Paul Romhany. Triangle Production. Available from Your Favorite Dealer. Wholesale from Murphy’s Magic Supplies. $99.99.

I have been following the evolution of this effect since Romhany released the initial version, Dream Prediction, in 2007. At the time it was much talked about in mentalism circles and later became a top-selling item. Romhany’s follow-up release Dream Prediction Lite, which was a smaller and more portable version, also caught my eye, but at almost $200 it was too expensive for my non-professional magic life and the use of a clipboard was impractical for me.

The third time is the charm. Dream Prediction Elite has evolved into a “fit in your coat pocket” leather wallet version that slays people in close-up venues. At the same time, it can be used for stage work or corporate speaking events. The price point is also manageable. In fact, it’s a steal given the impact of the effect, its versatility, and the fact that it's 100% accurate unless you blow it.

Here is what happens. You open up a leather notepad wallet that has a pen in a pen loop, a notepad on one side, and a prediction in an envelope on the other side. After handing the envelope to the spectator, you talk about (for example) how much change they have in their pocket. You write the number and kinds of coins on the notepad. When the envelope is opened and turned upside down, you clearly see the prediction slide out as viewed from the cutout window and onto the spectator’s hand. The prediction is compared to what is written on the paper and it all matches perfectly.  

Any subject or any objects that you choose can be used for the performance. For example, you can ask the spectator for their top three places to go on vacation, ten things on their bucket list, or images from a nightmare. The last one totally freaked out a young lady here in Chile because she thought no one else could have seen what she saw in her nightmare. The impact was so strong that I actually had to stop the performance and calm her down.

Although based on Confabulation by the late Alan Shaxon, this effect does not use stooges, there is no carbon paper or gimmicked paper used to obtain the information, and the delivery system is foolproof. You clearly see the prediction slide out from inside the envelope because it does come from inside it. For those of you with earlier versions of the effect, the envelopes have been improved from earlier versions and are designed by Mark Parker and produced by Alan Wong.

I particularly like that the prediction can be written on a bank note, your business card, rune covered parchment, or anything that works for you. Using a bank note, business card, or Post-it note works as an added convincer because the spectator sees something familiar the whole time it’s in their hand, so there is nothing to raise suspicions.

Dream Prediction Elite should work very well for psychic entertainers. For bizarrists, the gimmick is easy to make so constructing black, parchment, or distressed paper gimmicks with glyphs on them won’t be hard to do. 

Highly recommended. Rolando Santos





Heirloom Deluxe: Emily’s Revenge

Jamie Badman and Colin Miller. Alakazam Magic. Available from Your Favorite Dealer. Wholesale from Murphy’s Magic Supplies. $50.85.

More than just a card prediction trick with a photo revelation, Heirloom is great story-telling. With Heirloom Deluxe, there’s an added kicker ending that borders on the macabre. The original effect was first released in 2003 and sold until 2012. Heirloom starts off with the magician telling the story of how he or she became interested in magic. That’s the jumping off point to an explanation that involves “Uncle Charlie” as a gambler with his need for a lucky card to win lots of money; the spectator predicts that lucky card. Heirloom Deluxe takes the audience further with a few twists in the story, and with different endings possible, that has Uncle Charlie’s wife, Emily, buying him and his “on the side” girlfriend two tickets on the HMS Titanic. Hence, the subtitle for this version: Emily’s Revenge

As with just about all Alakazam DVD and products, the video production and props are of high quality. The DVD has the usual live demonstrations, background by Jamie Badman and Colin Miller, and additional history of the effect and great explanations of “how to” by Peter Nardi. The DVD plays a bit long at 90 minutes, but that’s because of all that it offers. It has lots of clever ideas, additional presentations, and even PDFs that allow the owner to print extra photos and instructions. It also includes an explanation of the original effect, so in a sense it’s two effects in one. If you already have Heirloom, you might want to watch the trailers for Heirloom Deluxe to decide if the new ending is worth the additional cost. If you do own it and purchase Heirloom Deluxe, you can cut out some 30 minutes from the new DVD.

  Heirloom Deluxe and the original Heirloom both call for a wallet as part of the presentation. After all, family heirlooms such as old photos and letters could be kept there for “safe keeping” and to have on hand to show anyone. However, one does not have to purchase the “special” Heirloom Wallet or the Deluxe version to perform the effect. That said, the deluxe wallet, produced by Tony Curtis and priced at $68, and also known as a “shogun wallet,” is perfect for Heirloom and other effects that require easy outs. Peter Nardi spends a good amount of time discussing his “Instant Indexing System” that enables the magician to easily keep track of the needed Uncle Charlie photo that can be done with nearly any wallet on the market.

The Heirloom Deluxe package includes the DVD, custom photos designed and printed to look pre-aged, four custom printed letters, the original Heirloom PDF (where it all began), the movie file (the original Heirloom DVD footage packed with ideas, including a full explanation of Peter Nardi’s Instant Indexing System), the Underground Collective PDF (a collection of bonus routines and tips for Heirloom), Silent Past PDF (a great routine using Ben Harris’s incredible Crossroads principle), Silent Past Images PDF, Letter for original Heirloom PDF, Heirloom Redux PDF (Mark Elsdon’s super slick streamlined version of Heirloom), Peter Nardi’s “Letter Out First “ handling PDF, and finally, the full script for the “Emily’s Revenge” presentation!

No sleight of hand is required, only the ability to tell a good story.

Recommended. Danny Selnick



Max Francis. MagicTAO. Available from Your Favorite Dealer. Wholesale from Murphy’s Magic Supplies. $24.95.

In Hospitality, you pour the complete contents of a can into a glass; the can is now empty. Just to make sure, you place a straw inside the can and take a sip. Oops, the can is not empty. You pour this liquid into a glass. It now contains a completely different colored liquid! To the audience’s amazement, you have just produced two different drinks from one can. The liquids are real and drinkable with no chemicals or coloring. 

This is done with a simple gimmick that is supplied. You are supplied with only three gimmicks, which does not give you much to practice with. However, I did it successfully in front of other magicians without any practice. You should use two very different colored liquids such as cola and milk, as the contrast will help the effect register with your audience. Once you try it out you’ll find it’s actually very clever and very practical. The gimmick is something that is readily available in bulk from a store near you or can be ordered from a Linking Ring vendor for about $7 to $8. The DVD gives you detailed information required to obtain the gimmick.

The method requires you to set up the can in advance and out of sight from others. You need to have the can sitting nearby waiting for the right moment, perhaps like you have been drinking from it. It can be a one-time performance at a walk around, or with the help of the wait staff it could be repeated at other tables. This would require several cans to be set-up in advance. To help in preparing the effect, you will need an empty liquid dishwashing soap bottle. The one described in the DVD is English, but in the United States try a Joy or Ivory liquid soap bottle.

The DVD includes a bonus effect. You turn a cocktail shaker upside down to show that it is empty. Place the lid on the shaker and start to shake it as if you were mixing a cocktail. You then take the cap off and pour two glasses of a cocktail drink. You’ll need to buy a cocktail shaker set and an extra something that’s pretty easy to find online. It would play well in a bar situation or as part of a routine where you need to use liquid.

The gimmicks supplied are fine, use any can, and the DVD is well produced with very good audio and lighting. If this sounds like it might be for you and fit your act, then you’ll be very happy with the method and with your purchase. It’s very easy to do and is appropriate for any level of performer.

Recommended . Bob Patterson


The Mullica Wallet

Tom Mullica. Heinz Minton Magic. Available from Your Favorite Dealer. Wholesale from Murphy’s Magic Supplies. $85. 

This trick comes with a Mullica wallet, a one page instruction sheet, a playing card reading, “The other wallet Dummy !!!,” and a DVD of Tom Mullica demonstrating the trick. The basic effect is a Card to Impossible Location. The spectator selects  a card, signs it, and returns it to the deck. The card is then discovered in the performer's wallet. The card is actually found in a wallet within a wallet. One must remove the inner wallet and unzip it to produce the card. 

Heinz Minton supplies a very good quality wallet that you would be happy to carry. The new wallet is a little bit stiff, and it takes a while for the side containing the inner wallet to stretch to allow easy handling. The instruction sheet is bare bones but along with the DVD suffices to teach you the trick. You do need some very basic card skills to have the signed card returned, located, and controlled. However, it is not necessary to palm a card with this method. If you don’t have a favorite method of controlling a card, you will have to go elsewhere for this information. If you need presentational ideas, I recommend Eugene Burger’s Mastering the Art of Magic or Bill Abbott’s Cocktail Card Magic.

There is only one bad angle, and that is looking up from below. The ideal performing situation for this trick is a cocktail party where everyone is standing. You can carry it in your pocket, it can be done surrounded, it resets instantly, and is very strong magic. The trick and wallet have been around for a long time, and I’m glad it is being reintroduced to the magic community.

Highly recommended. Bob Carnathan


Your Card Is

Grant Maidment. Magic Tao. Available from Your Favorite Dealer. Wholesale from Murphy’s Magic Supplies. $20.

Grant Maidment presents this addition to the ever popular Color Changing Backs card effect. A card is selected, signed, and lost in the pack. You show a set of four of the same cards, perhaps four jokers, and note the backs are all blue. One by one, each joker turns face up from face down. You then place the four cards in the spectator’s hand and ask them to wave their other hand over the cards. One card turns face down. You take the remaining three face up jokers and show that they have now each turned into a different color back with the words “YOUR SIGNED CARD” and an arrow written on the back of the last card. When the spectator turns over the card in their hand, it is their signed card. 

Your Card Is is a variation of the classic Twisting the Aces with a modified plot, and the addition of a signed card in the spectator’s hand provides a kicker ending. The DVD and cards comes with a bonus trick, “Chameleon Deceptions.” Oddly, the first routine on the DVD is actually this bonus routine. In the effect, four of the same cards, such as four jokers, turn from face down to face up. Waving over the cards, the backs turn into different colors. This is another variation of the classic plot but with an added color change ending. “Chameleon Deceptions” is the same idea as the title effect on “Your Card Is,” but without the need to palm a card from the deck, which is nice should you not be comfortable with palming cards. However, if you do “Your Card Is” as suggested, you’ll have writing on the back of your cards, which won’t make sense if you perform “Chameleon Deceptions.” 

This is a great effect for beginners and those looking for a great little packet trick to amaze their friends. However, you will need to practice the Elmsley count to perfection as it is used throughout the routines. The DVD explains all of the sleights you may need to practice to perform the effect. Gary Jones provides an idea that does away with one move. Both routines use many of the same moves. Those with more advanced experience in card magic will find this revisit to the classic a delightful experience. 

The supplied gimmicked cards are Bicycle brand with different colored backs. The DVD quality is decent and about 37 minutes long. Maidment teaches both effects very well. 

This is a nice packet trick for walk around magicians. It’s a solid routine with a fun and surprising ending, and magic that happens in the spectator’s hand is always powerful.

Recommended. Bob Patterson





Sizzle - TRICK

John Bannon. YFD. Dealers contact $27.

Here is a new word for your magic vocabulary: Bannonsize - To take a classic, stunning, visual, and complex packet trick and rethink it so that the visual impact is still there without the knuckle busting moves. 

For Sizzle, Bannon has taken Alex Elmsley’s Dazzle and turned it into an easy-to-do six-phase routine that will leave you smirking because of the strong reaction you will get from the audience. The effect plays out as advertised. “A packet of cards consisting of three red backed Jokers and an Ace of Spades is shown. A red backed Joker is set aside, and replaced with a blue backed Joker. Instantly the other red backed Jokers change color to match the blue stranger. Then one of the blue backed Jokers is removed and replaced with a green backed Joker; the other Jokers in the packet turn green as well. This happens a third time as a purple Joker turns the packet purple. The Ace Of Spades is then removed and shown to have an orange back design. Now the Jokers are shown to have multi-colored backs.”

The final clincher comes when the packet of Jokers is flipped face up to show that every card has changed into a royal flush in spades. 

Everything is examinable at the end and it’s all done with just nine cards. Bannonsize your magic. 

Highly recommended. Rolando H. Santos

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