Friday, October 30, 2009

Escape! Volume 1

I have been looking at lockpicks lately so the timing of this video's release couldn't have been better! Danny Hunt has put together a DVD explaining lockpicking and escapes in a very organized, user-friendly method.

This first volume deals mostly with padlocks and handcuffs, and how to escape them using tapping or using lockpicks. He does show how to use shims as well for padlocks, but some of the newer locks are made to defeat this method so it may not work if you try it at home.

Because Danny is from the U.K. (and the video was filmed there), some of the locks he demonstrates are not going to be familiar to an American audience. It's still interesting to see how they are defeated though.

Danny takes you step by step through each type of lock and how to defeat it. He shows you which lockpick is perfect for each individual type of lock just before he tears into the lock itself. He does a bang-up job of beating each one within seconds.

I haven't watched the second volume so I can't attest to how good it might be, but this one is great for anyone interesting in putting an escape routine into their performance (or if you just want to know how to pick a lock for fun). There aren't any real stage performances here, and I think Dixie Dooley has a better set of DVDs strictly for those grand stage illusion escapes anyway.

Is there anything here you won't find on YouTube from some kid breaking locks in his basement? Well, there's a little, yes. He shows you how to make your own gimmicked handcuffs, which is a nice little bonus. You also get some thoughts on performance and structure in escapes. Volume 2 reaches more into the stage escape area, so it might be a little stronger for a magician. Still, if you're interested in picking locks, this is a well-taught DVD on the subject. The only annoying thing is the swimming text title shot just before each segment. Sometimes the segments are less than a minute long, so you have that title shot flowing at you quite often. It's a minor thing though, so don't let that keep you from buying this!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Til Death Do Us Part

I have a policy of never purchasing an effect that the creator refuses to show any part of it in the demo video. While they may tout the effect as "The most powerful effect you'll ever perform" or "The closer you've been waiting for", if they don't show it in the video that usually means it's so easy to figure out you can't even watch it once and be amazed. When I saw "Til Death Do Us Part", the demo video showed nothing more than glowing praise for how powerful it was. I went against my policy and bought it anyway.

I should have stuck with policy.

Even the back of the box doesn't tell you anything about the effect other than how incredibly powerful it is. Inside you find 10 old photographs of married couples, an envelope, the teaching DVD and the "gimmick". The routine takes about 5 minutes to perform from start to finish, and if you amaze anyone with it you've found the perfect audience for a D'Lite performance as a closer.

Hand the spectator a black envelope to keep for later. Then you show the spectator the photographs while letting them decide which one "gives off strong negative emotions". If they can't pick the right one, then do what they do on the video and magician's force them into it (it's so painfully obvious too). Tell this spooky tale about how the wife killed the husband and ask them to tear the photograph in half. She ripped out his throat, so tell them to tear the husband's photo in half again. Have them arrange the pieces on the table and then tell them to open the envelope.

The pieces match! Kind of.

Even in the demo video, the pieces do not match perfectly. They're close, but it's not like "Holy cow! It's the same!" It's more like "Yep, that's pretty much how you'd tear a photograph twice". This isn't amazing to anyone, and the storyline isn't compelling enough to make it seem remotely spooky. They call this a mentalism routine, but there's nothing mental about it. I think even Derrin Brown would flop with this one.

If you're doing this at a Halloween party with the right ambiance you might get a "Huh, that was weird" kind of reaction, but it's not "an effect that will stay with the spectator long after it's over" or anything.

I will give Alakazam points for including the PDF files here so you can make as many "gimmicks" as you need later on, but it's a minor thing for an effect of this price. I can pretty much guarantee you've already figured out how to do this and create this effect on your own just from reading my description. And now you know why they wouldn't show any of the performance online. Save your money and skip this one.

Friday, October 23, 2009

iDeck by Noel Qualter

Take a deck of cards, throw in music, wrap it in an iPod theme and you've got a great little effect! Noel Qualter's "iDeck" is a wonderful trick that seems impossible but is so simple you can concentrate on the routine rather than some difficult moves.

In essence, you show a card box that looks like an old iPod. The cards inside all have various songs on them from different artists. The spectator chooses a song-card and keeps that song in mind. The cards are placed back in the box and a set of headphones is brought out. After a little magical attachment to the box, the thought of song begins to play through the headphones! The best part? You can repeat the trick with a different song instantly!

This effect might seem a lot like Adam Grace's "Ringtone" trick, and it does have some similarities in method, but this one seems a little more relaxed and the margin for error is practically zero. Between the two, this is the one I prefer and perform more often. It is almost angle-proof and allows the card magician to step up his routine to something slightly different. You could go the mentalism route with this, I suppose, but it's not necessary. This isn't meant to be a heavy "Criss Angel Space Man" routine; it should be fun.

The DVD that accompanies this really goes into a lot of detail in set up and handling. There's nothing hard to do in performing this, and you can have the whole thing ready to go about 10 minutes after watching the DVD. Noel also offers some great suggestions on how to make this trick truly spontaneous to the audience you are performing for by putting all of the songs in the playlist on your iPod so you can take five minutes in the bathroom and change it all up. The list of songs is very diverse and you're pretty much guaranteed to find at least a couple for everyone you encounter. You just need to pick your audience member with your song choices in mind.

Noel also includes his "Cut and Restored iPod Headphone" routine (and the materials necessary for it). It's a cute little effect that you can do to really shock someone if you see them holding their own iPod.

The only down side to this effect is that it's rather pricey. That will keep some folks away from this one.