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The International Brotherhood of Magicians

31 Mar

HOCUS IN FOCUS ONLINE: Product Reviews for March 2014

Category: Resources   Posted by: C. DENNIS SCHICK


David Blaine: Decade of Magic


David Blaine. Virgil Films. Available from Your Favorite Dealer,, and other retailers. Wholesale from Murphy’s Magic Supplies. 132 minutes. $24.99. 

This two-disc set combines three of David Blaine’s TV specials: Vertigo, Drowned Alive, and What is Magic? While all of the works feature David as a daredevil and street magician, each video has a different theme. For example, Drowned Alive will appeal most to people interested in Blaine’s work testing the limits of human mental and physical endurance, while What is Magic? offers more of David magic performances, although the latter does include a very impressive Bullet Catch. My favorite trick of the series was a Matrix effect using a hand on What is Magic?; the effect is simple to follow and a lot of fun to watch. Other tricks range from the expected card and coin tricks to more bizarre effects such as snake swallowing and an even creepier one where David pulls a needle and thread through his hand.

I used to wonder how Houdini could keep his audience glued with anticipation for several minutes or longer while he was hidden behind a curtain or inside a milk can. I attributed his success, at least in part, to the style of entertainment that was available at the time and the sensibilities of that era’s audience. After watching Blaine hold his breath underwater for over seven minutes, I have changed my perspective. The sense of anticipation as he attempts this feat is palpable. David knows his character, knows his audience, and continues to push the boundaries of his performance in unique ways. Sometimes I wonder what statement David is making with his art, but it does make for compelling and thought-provoking entertainment. 

As this DVD is intended for lay audiences, it is performance only. It is professionally produced and looks and sounds great. Several bonus features are included, such as a Ted Talk about his world record breath hold. While it normally retails for $24.99, I just spotted it at Amazon for $14.99, which is a genuine bargain. The video will hold up to multiple viewings, making it a good addition to magic video libraries.

Recommended. Jason Goldberg




Mark Wong. Inside Magic Productions. Available from Your Favorite Dealer. Wholesale from Murphy’s Magic Supplies. 1 hour. $35.

This DVD includes a compilation of eight card effects that can be learned and performed with a little practice, along with additional tips on how to present them. Some are not easy and will take more effort on your part. The basics of the effects may be found in books, magazines, and DVDs produced by other notable magicians. The advertising trailer does not show enough of the effects to understand what you are purchasing. The background music drowns out the audio of the explanations and makes it hard to hear and understand Mr. Wong, and the demos are done on the street or other places that are very noisy. 

The eight tricks are a basic offering for beginning to intermediate card workers. Everything is taught in extreme detail, maybe too much. Sometimes the demo version is different from what is taught, but you can learn from both versions. In addition to the effects, Mr. Wong also teaches the double lift, double under-cut, swing cut, one hand top palm, and a few other sleights. You will also need some gimmicked cards such as a double backed or double face card.

The eight effects include pieces such as “Ambitious Aces,” in which two selected aces are placed onto the bottom of the four ace packet. The selected aces keep rising to the top. As a final ending, the selected cards are placed onto the table and the cards switch places from the spectator’s hands. In “BoomerBand,” a card is selected by a spectator and lost into the deck. A rubber band is tied around the deck. The selected card suddenly shoots out of the tightly banded deck like a boomerang. In “Pick-Pocket,” a card is selected, signed, and shuffled into the deck. The performer places a joker into the spectator’s pocket and starts looking for the selected card in the deck. The signed card is found to be sitting in the spectator’s pocket.

This may be on the pricey side considering the number of annoying things (e.g., loud music and noise, lack of crediting) but it may be worthwhile just to get a look at some interesting ideas and moves if you are a beginner or intermediate magician. Advanced magicians will not likely be interested.

Recommended as noted. Bob Patterson


The Quest for Mastery: The Classic Magic of Michael Vincent, Volume 4


Michael Vincent. Alakazam Magic. Available from Your Favorite Dealer. Wholesale from Murphy’s Magic Supplies. 4 DVDs, approximately 6 hours. $80. 

This four DVD set is the fourth volume of Michael Vincent’s Classic Magic series. His latest addition continues to reveal the vast scope of his magic repertoire and his astonishing ability to maintain an extremely high level of performing excellence across an exceptionally wide range of magic effects.  Michael Vincent approaches magic like those students who successfully master other disciplines in which they aspire to excel. He has and continues to do his homework after 40 years in magic. He consumes the literature, studies with the masters, and works hard to develop his physical skills while all the while insisting that the presentation of his art be done with dignity and grace. The result is a distillation of the classics of magic into a refined application incorporating his knowledge and abilities to produce a rendering that surpasses the original. Michael Vincent elevates the Art of Magic. He enhances this achievement by the way he dresses, his posture, and his manner. Of course, having an English accent doesn’t hurt! In short, you like him before he does any magic, so the magic becomes the proverbial “icing on the cake,” which is exactly the way it should be. While the earlier volumes included classics such as the Cups and Balls and the Linking Rings, this volume is devoted primarily to card magic. 

The first disc of the set includes a 28-minute live parlor show at England’s beautiful Eastwell Manor in Kent. The entire show attempts to present the magic at chest height to improve both the visibility and the strength of the presentation. The show includes a Three Fly routine, a variation on “Professor’s Nightmare,” and a number of card routines. Michael explains five card routines from this show including his “Stand Up Triumph” routine. Because his forte is refurbished classic effects by applying state of the art sleights and techniques from all sources to produce a superior contemporary presentation, the material is sometimes incorporated from others that Michael is not at liberty to disclose. One such example is a false shuffle marketed by Homer Liwag that he uses; while the shuffle is not explained, a full explanation of how to purchase the download from Theory 11 is given. Otherwise, the explanationare very thorough, including the thought process underlying the effects, subtleties, and touches that Vincent has added. The other explanations on Disc One are a standup handling of “Twisting the Aces,” “Roy Walton’s “Grown Up Hofzinser,” Hofzinser’s “Remember and Forget,” and “Card at a Number,” Michael’s approach to the well known Berglas plot.

Disc Two begins with a 13-minute close-up card magic performance entitled “The Legendary Conus Aces,” which was first described by Robert Houdin. It is a vivid demonstration of the general theme of The Quest for Mastery that shows Michael going back to his roots and the classics and bringing them up to date. In this performance, the plot has been expanded into a four ace tour de force multiphase routine incorporating handlings from Michael Skinner, an Earle Nelson variation of Paul Harris’ “Reset,” “The MacDonald Aces,” and ending with “The One Shuffle Finale” which is a Vincent marketed item (not explained). Numerous finesses and touches are fully explained and credited.

The great number of concepts, sleights, and methods that Mr. Vincent has brought together in concert with his own modifications make these DVDs the equivalent of a graduate course in card magic. Therefore, being able to identify the sources is important for any serious student. While Michael does an exceptional job in crediting his many sources, giving credit is not necessarily the same as a citation or reference. Knowing that any attempt to give verbal references would greatly detract during the explanations, I looked in vain for a listing of the many verbal credits and any additional information regarding the sources.  Only by accident, upon putting one of the discs in my computer and happening to look at its contents, did I discover a six-page PDF file entitled “Credits and Inspirational Sources.” It is indeed a mystery that the existence of this file is not mentioned on the videos, in any of the menus, or on the packaging. This “bibliographical” listing is invaluable for anyone wishing to research and study the original sources. While Michael makes an extremely conscientious effort to give full credit for moves, concepts, and his inspirations, having such a list rectifies such things as overlooking mention of Peter Kane during the discussion of “Jazz Aces” on Disc Three. Although detailed, a bit more effort might have resulted in identifying the source of Gary Kurtz’s “The Amplified Ace Assembly,” credited as an important part of one of the phases in the ace routine on Disc Two, as his 1995 “Notes From the Summit.” Inclusion of all the moves and subtleties at least by name would have also been a great addition to the list. Such an all-inclusive compilation would have made a good bibliography even better and an excellent outline for taking notes while viewing the DVDs.

Disc Three has two close-up card performance sets. The first is seven minutes and deals primarily with the card magic of the late Larry Jennings. Jenning’s “Revelation” and “Open Travelers” are dealt with at length and enhanced with contributions from Paul Harris, Darwin Ortiz, Randy Wakeman, R. Paul Wilson, and others including, of course, Michael Vincent. The modifications made to “Revelation” are excellent improvements to one of card magic’s great and seldom presented routines. The explanation portion is a short course in card magic unto itself. The second twelve minute long set begins with a routine entitled “The Swing Beat Aces,” which is basically adding the “O’Henry” ending to “Jazz Aces;” the credits on this could probably be expanded in that the work of the late Frank Thompson and some others is not mentioned.  Also included is “The Vincent Combination,” an exercise in card control that incorporates the work of Darwin Ortiz, Gene Finnell, Martin Nash, Dai Vernon, and others. This segment concludes with Vincent’s handling of Cy Endfield’s “Gambler Out Gambled.” This is advanced card work.

Disc Four contains updates and revisions to effects that appeared on the first three volumes of The Classic Magic of Michael Vincent series. While the references to material on the other DVDs poses some limitations for those who do not own the earlier volumes, Vincent explains most items in sufficient detail for one to appreciate their improvements, although you will not have the benefit of all the presentation details from the earlier videos. The disc also includes a bonus presentation of Marlo’s “The Devilish Miracle” and a performance and explanation of “The Progressive Revelation.”

The production quality of these videos is excellent. Michael Vincent is an outstanding teacher and the fruits of his forty years as a student and performing artist are most evident. The man is a connoisseur of card conjuring. While not for the beginner, this set is certainly ample motivation for anyone who seriously cares about their magic to acquire the entire set of The Classic Magic of Michael Vincent.

Highly recommended. Bill Wells


Sucker Peep


Inside Magic Productions. Available from Your Favorite Dealer. Wholesale from Murphy’s Magic Supplies. $30.

This is an effect that will “kill” your audiences because you first show them how it’s done, and then when you repeat it they think they know but will be fooled big time. A card is selected and returned to the deck. The deck is cased and you have the spectator think of the card. You proceed to name it correctly. You then show the spectator that the case has a hole cut out of the back, allowing you to see the index of the card which has been controlled to the bottom.

You proceed to show them the handling. Everything looks the same and you ask, “You know how it’s done, right?” They answer in the affirmative. You hand them the box and when they look…the hole is not there any longer. It seems as though the case has healed. It’s all examinable, and they have no clue!

The DVD shows the performance and then describes how it works. Constructing the gimmick is easy and should only take you about 20 minutes. The DVD goes into the greatest detail on the instruction of the gimmick that I’ve seen and covers the explanation of the sleights needed. The sleights are all very elementary to anyone who has worked with cards for a short time. I believe this will floor your audiences. There is no palming, and your hands are empty before and after. It is a very clever piece.

I believe that the price is a bit high for something where you must construct the gimmick.

But, I’ve paid more for tricks that I ended up not liking at all. I like this effect. If it came with the required props, I feel it would be a fair price. That’s my opinion, however. You might like it enough that $30 would seem like a great deal! Remember though. you must have this with you at all times to be ready to perform it. It’s not an impromptu item.

Recommended if you don’t mind having another deck in your case. Tom Craven






Craig Squires. Alakazam Magic UK. Available from Your Favorite Dealer. Wholesale from $44.50.

Apple iPhones are everywhere; it seems almost everyone has one. So, having in your pocket (or inside your iPhone case itself) a gimmick to make iPhone owners see you move their phone’s Apple logo will give you a truly magical experience. Jaws will drop, squeals will happen, and your reputation will soar.

Craig Squires has literally thought outside the box. Whereas a number of tricks have appeared in recent years using the electronics of smart phones, Squires focused on the case itself. In so doing, he has created a clever gimmick which can be used for a variety of routines.

The basic move (i-move) is to borrow someone’s iPhone, move the logo from where it is supposed to be down the back to the bottom, and then move it back again. With your own patter and personality, just think where you could go with this. You may notice that the name of this trick is a play on words describing what it does: the logo goes! 

With the help of several friends including Dave Loosley, Peter Nardi, Mark Grey, and Greg Wilson, Craig shows several other routines that might fit your style. The included DVD does a good job of demonstrating the various routines. In “Lo-Go,” you make the logo vanish entirely, then bring it back. You’re a “card person” and you want a card application? No problem. With “i-Find,” the logo not only vanishes, but then appears on the back of a selected playing card. This has a double impact. In “i-Jump,” you make the spectator’s logo jump to your phone and back again. The DVD covers other ideas and variations, and you will think of other uses for the gimmick. A sleeve of extra logos comes with the gimmick, and you can order additional ones if you need to. Use these to make the logo jump to wherever you want it to.

The routines are relatively straight-forward and easy (with practice, of course). The same can be said for the basic handling. Even if you have small hands, you should be able to perform this. All in all, this is a clever, solid idea. The gimmick will last a long time, as long as there are iPhones or until they change the design and the black ones don’t exist anymore. I initially thought that this trick was a bit pricy, but then I thought of how much it cost to design and make the gimmicks, so it’s a bargain if you get years of good use from it. The impact it has on spectators is worth the price of admission. It truly packs small (and flat) and plays big! 

Highly recommended. Dennis Schick


The Stolen Cards


Lennart Green. Essential Magic Collection. Available from Your Favorite Dealer. Wholesale from Murphy’s Magic Supplies. $35.

This handling by Lennart Green has previously appeared, without the special deck, on Volume Seven of his Green Lite DVDs and on Disc Three of his Master Files DVD set. This version comes with a 33 minute DVD and the special deck needed for the effect. Lennart Green is that rare performer who is both a master technician and superb entertainer. The Stolen Cards is a perfect example of his latter talent and does not require his technical skills. The effect is easy to execute, and what carries the day is how the trick is presented. In Mr. Green’s hands it is a strong piece of entertaining and mystifying card magic with multiple endings. 

In the effect, two faceup indicator cards are taken from a deck in which all of the backs are different. These cards are placed in the deck at two different points determined by the spectator. When the indicator cards and two adjacent cards are taken from the deck, the faces of the adjacent cards are each shown to match the indicator cards. Next, the back of each card is shown to match its mate. Finally, the entire deck is turned face up to reveal that all of the cards are the same and different from the two indicator cards and their mates. Mr. Green’s explanation of how he “stole” the cards and how valuable they are to him is delightful and employs subtleties that help sell the routine. 

This is a strong routine that will appeal to lay audiences. However, it is not a new effect and even the presentation is quite similar to earlier marketed routines. It is based on “The Gemini Twins” from More Self-Working Card Tricks by Karl Fulves and David Van Vranken’s idea to use a deck of assorted casino back designs. David added the feature where the backs of the cards match in addition to the faces. Van Vranken also suggested the extra climax wherein all the faces of the deck are of a contrasting color to the two selections. Scotty York marketed this basic effect in 1993 as “Quintuplicate Coincidence” with additions by York, Jamy Ian Swiss, and others. York’s trick came with an 18 page manuscript and a special deck of cards reflecting backs from a mix of 12 or 13 casinos and identical faces except for the two matched pairs. In some respects, “Quintuplicate Coincidence” may be considered a superior effect. The presentation’s theme was quite similar in that the deck was the result of “obtaining” cards from various casinos where the magician has played. In Green’s presentation, the cards have been “stolen.” A deck very similar to The Stolen Cards deck was also marketed under the name Kaleidoscope Cards in both bridge and poker size with 25 different backs and with all different backs in commercial and cancelled casino backs. Daryl also sells this deck made up of cancelled casino cards. There is even a commercially available deck made up of all different grunge art backs. There are numerous others who have published and marketed effects using decks or packets of different back designs going back to Clarke “The Senator” Crandall and his Rainbow Deck.

The cards in The Stolen Cards deck are from 50 different poker size commercial decks. There are no casino cards. The performance and explanation of the effect runs nine minutes with an additional 48 seconds devoted to mentioning Fulves, York, and others whom Mr. Green credits with the effect. The remainder of the 33 minutes of running time on the DVD contains advertising for other EMC video and shots of Essential Magic Conferences. The production values of the short DVD are excellent. At one point in the explanation Mr. Green says to insert one of the matching pairs faceup into the deck when they are actually inserted facedown. However, if one is watching, this should not pose any difficulty in understanding the very simple set up and execution of the effect.

You will have to decide if you wish to have a nice rainbow deck made up of the same face cards in poker size and a nine minute demonstration and explanation of Lennart Green’s version of this fairly well known routine for the $35 price. The basic effect and deck are available in a number of versions from other sources.

Recommended as noted. Bill Wells




AmbiDECKstrous - TRICK


Jonathan Pickard. Magic Box. YFD. Dealers contact $30.

If you haven’t been paying attention, you might not have noticed that the U.S. Playing Card Company has changed the box design for the Bicycles. It now has some text and a small Ten of Hearts displayed. That means that all of the tricks that rely on a full card back on the rear of the box will no longer work. Oh woe, what’s a magician to do?

Jonathon Pickard has come to your rescue with AmbiDECKstrous. The provided routine is a two-card transposition, with the card shown on the back of the box changing from the first selection to the second. The back of the box first has a Seven of Diamonds printed on it, and then moments later you show the Ten of Hearts.

The trick requires some sleight of hand, which is taught in an included booklet. A QR code links to online video tutorials. The provided routine is good, but I’m sure you will come up with plenty of your own ideas once you get the gimmick in your hand.

The trick seems a bit pricey. The booklet is well produced, has a color card stock cover, and is full of photos. What you are really buying, though, is the gimmick, and the price seems high for one card. I would have preferred having more than one card provided, as I know I will dirty or lose this one. But, if you are a card person you should have this in your arsenal.

Recommended. Fred Rosenbaum


Celestial Mechanics - DVD


David Davies. Alakazam Magic UK. YFD or Dealers contact 90 minutes. $30.95.

         David Davies is a talented card manipulator from the United Kingdom. Celestial Mechanics offers 28 exceptional moves, cuts, and flourishes. Many of these moves and flourishes are of Mr. Davies’ own design while some are renditions of moves by Brian Tudor, Chris Kenner, Ben Earl, Lennart Green, Marc Decoux, and others. The entire DVD contains a multitude of flourishy, “eye-candy” moves. The DVD is very well produced and offers crisp, clear video that shows the moves and performances from at least two different angles to provide very easy learning.

“Bling,” “Pulse,” “Kolyvagin,” and “Knothole Cut” are visually pleasing multi-packet cuts that David teaches very nicely. “Yoda” is a cool four-packet cut where the cards jump between the hands. “Sideswipe” is a very nice cut with a four card revelation. “Clockwork Cut” is an eye-pleasing remix of Brian Tudor's Revolution Cut. “Harlequin” is David's back-to-front rendition of Chris Kenner’s Sybil.

The many other cuts and flourishes on the DVD are all very aesthetically pleasing. I have learned many flourishes and various cuts from other DVDs over the years, and this one has provided the easiest learning experience for me! The work will likely only interest those with some technical skill with cards or who have the willingness to spend time learning, but it is worthwhile. Those who wish to just learn some tricks will not be interested, but for those who want to learn, this DVD is definitely…

Highly recommended. Paul A. Lelekis


The Dance - DVD


Brian Platt. Platt Magic. 1 hour. YFD. Dealers contact $24.95. 

The Dance is a simple plot. Coins jump first into one hand and then to the other hand. I have employed the techniques used in this video many times in my own coin magic, but this one absolutely had me bamboozled. 

The “Tumbling Muscle Click Pass” and the “Casual ROV Muscle Click Pass” will have you passing two, or even three, coins invisibly from one hand to the other. “The Flash Transfer/Shooter Split” is an invisible method of transferring a coin from one hand to another invisibly. “Tenkai Pennies” is a classic of magic and Brian’s take on this classic is an excellent version. Properly performed, your spectators will be clueless. In addition, Brian teaches the basic Muscle Pass. Don’t worry, you don’t have to perform the “Coin That Goes Up!” His simplistic variation is easy to do.

The material within this DVD will lend many ideas to performers who like coin magic. There are a number of techniques within that can be applied to many of the performer’s own coin routines. Intermediate to advanced performers will find some real gems in this DVD, but I would strongly state that this is definitely not for any type of beginner, as the techniques are fairly advanced. Overall, this is a well-produced DVD, the videography is clear, and the techniques are easy to understand.

Recommended. Paul A. Lelekis


Magic Made Easy - DVD


Johnny Thompson. L&L Publishing. 1 hour, 12 minutes. $34.95.

This DVD offers a good variety of tricks using cards, coins, ropes, and a few miscellaneous items. Very little sleight of hand is generally needed, making the effects ideal for beginners, yet the tricks can still get strong responses. For example, I’ve performed for years a variation of “My Card Finds Your Card,” where the spectator’s and magician’s selected cards find their way next to each other. With the right presentation, it can get a very strong reaction. 

While it’s not blue, the video seems to be aimed at adult audiences. For example, one of the tricks uses a matchbox. The DVD is a transfer from a video originally produced for VHS. Most of the tricks have held up over time, but not all. For example, one involves a wrapped sugar cube, which isn’t commonly used nowadays. “Find the Matches” is a sucker trick, a genre effect which most also wouldn’t recommend for beginners these days.

The material is presented in a very straightforward manner, focusing almost entirely on the mechanics, with very little attention on presentation. The tricks are performed live for an enthusiastic L&L audience, and the audio and video are good throughout. The Egg Bag is offered as performance-only, but it’s a black bag in front of Johnny’s black jacket in front of a black backdrop, making it hard to follow. I think more recent offerings that cover both technique and presentation serve as better places to start. However, the tricks offered are still better in the aggregate than some of the one-trick DVDs on the market, and are good places to begin learning easy tricks that can still get good responses.

Recommended as noted. Jason Goldberg 


Welcome to My World - DVD


John Stessel. YFD. Dealers contact 90 minutes. $30.

John Stessel has contributed seven effects for the real world entertainer on this nicely produced DVD. Some are quite original and make for excellent street magic entertainment. Each effect includes a performance and explanation.

“Arrow” is a nice bit of showy manipulation where the Ace of Spades jumps to the middle of the deck and finds a selection. “Bendable” moves the fluted elbow of a drinking straw, which can be handed out for inspection, from one end to the other. “Merge” is a very striking and visible change of one card to another while they are encircled by a rubber band. “Black Hole” is a very nice effect that uses sound as well as sight to make coins change, vanish, and appear with a gimmicked card box. “Ice Breaker” is a nicely done visible change of a pack of Ice Breaker candies from one brand to another. John also presents two very nice effects using elastic invisible thread and two excellent methods for always being set for performance with invisible elastic thread.

All in all, the effects will provide many intermediate to advanced magicians with some nice effects that you can use for many different venues. The videography and explanations are excellent and John’s ideas are quite unique.

Recommended. Paul A. Lelekis

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