Cris Johnson here, back with another review at Hocus Pocus. This week I take on...Pro Viper III!
Before this week's review, a few quick tidbits...
First of all, I performed Alive for the very first time a few days ago. Alive is a fantastic prediction effect where the animal chosen by your spectator from a deck of 52 different animal cards becomes real. The link is here: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=12140
The only reason I bring it up is because at the time that I reviewed it in December, I had yet to perform it and I gave it a 10 out of 10. That's a gutsy thing to do, but I stand by it because when you've been a working pro for several years, you get a good sense of how certain effects will play and then it's a question of prop durability and reliability.
The result of my first "live" performance of Alive? It KILLED! It's a live animal effect, so I knew it would rock. I happen to love rats, so I really enjoyed this. GREAT effect, built to last and I can't praise it enough.
I'm having a NEW contest! Email me your idea for the name of my as-yet-untitled monthly newsletter for magicians. The contest winner will receive a FREE copy of my as-yet-unreleased new book of magic routines and essays.
A few things I'm most proud of in the upcoming book:
- a Rising Card effect where the card box is thoroughly examined, the deck is examined and shuffled, a card is selected and signed, and yet the selected card rises out of the deck! Oh, and it can be done with a borrowed deck and surrounded. The "gimmick" is CHEAP, too. No electronics! No deck alterations! Plus a way to use this as ADVERTISEMENT for your shows...
- the FUNNIEST Arm Chopper Routine EVER! Honestly, this routine has evolved over the last 10 years and it ROCKS! The funniest bits of business happen before the prop is ever introduced.
- Fully developed routines for the old Blister effect, Okita Voodoo Doll, Pro Viper and many more.
To enter the contest, send your name ideas for the newsletter to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
OK, on to the review...
The Pro Viper has been around a while, but it's featured again on Hocus Pocus, so that means they're available again.
THE EFFECT: A card is selected and lost in the deck. The deck is sat near a wicker basket which contains a snake. Despite the fact that the magician never puts his hands into the basket, after some by-play, the snake jumps out of the basket, causing the volunteer to jump. Amazingly, the fake snake has the selected card in its mouth!
PRICE: $525 The link to Hocus Pocus and this great effect is here: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=299
WHAT YOU GET: A wicker basket and lid, the 36" long spring snake (specially gimmicked to get that card in his mouth without you going anywhere near the inside of the basket), the special electronic gimmick which is sturdy. Don't abuse it, but in normal traveling conditions, it should be fine. You also receive a sturdy cloth bag with a rope drawstring for transport, a transmitter and DVD instructions
ANGLES: If you're on a raised platform above your audience, you could in theory do this surrounded. If not, you need to mind your angles just a tad to hide the method of getting the card into the snake's mouth. I will say in complete honesty that I have had people look right at the method without any thought and even after the effect is over, they never connected the two. I'm NOT saying to be careless, only that angles are not bad at all for this.
OK, first of all, full disclosure: I've been using this baby for the last year and I LOVE it. I'd been waiting for it to come out again for years, as they were unavailable for quite some time. A well-known magician friend of mine has like 4 of the older Pro Viper II models, as he never wanted to go without!!
Once I finally received mine, it went into my show rather quickly. This plays for 10 people or 1000! Why? The surprise is so strong. When that snake jumps, it gets an incredible reaction.
In my opinion, this is one of the few effects in magic where if you know exactly what will happen, it doesn't spoil the surprise. Let's consider the Seven Keys to Baldpate effect, for example. Once that lock is locked, you need to have a KILLER presentation for this or else the audience is going to be bored because they know the conclusion - the lock will be unlocked. Good effect, but you need superior presentational skills.
The Pro Viper is more like an Alfred Hitchcock movie - Hitchcock used to say that his psychology of suspense was that if you tell the audience what is going to happen, they will whip themselves into a lather anticipating it.
That's the idea with the Pro Viper - In most presentations (mine included) you tell them the snake will jump out. It's the suspence, the tension, followed by the release, the snake finally jumping out, that makes this pay off so well.
So right away, you can tell I'm a fan of this effect. There are a few snags, however.
After doing it about 60 times, my unit stopped functioning. Wasn't the batteries, nothing. I sent it back to Hocus Pocus and within like 4 days, I had the unit back - better than new, literally, as it was quieter and even better.
What I'm saying is this: the Pro Viper II got a reputation for being unreliable. Paul assured me that the Pro Viper III is better, with better electronics. In fact, he assured me that mine was the only one they've had any kind of trouble with.
With that in mind, why tell you, the reader, about my unit's issue? Two things: one, total honesty in my review and two, the INCREDIBLE customer service with Hocus Pocus. It wasn't like I had my unit for two days and it died - it was like 6 months later and Paul STILL took care of me...and this was MONTHS before either of us had thought of doing this review column.
So, I bring all of this up because if you've hesitated about buying one of these because of its past reputation, DO NOT HESITATE - buy from Paul and you're covered.
On to the review...
The transmitter is very tiny and is easily palmed. I just drop mine in my pants pocket and casually reach in during the routine because if you build up the suspense in the basket the audience is watching the volunteer as she/he approaches the basket and not you!
Also, when I perform, I always use a wireless head set microphone. I also have a Virtual Soundman controlled with a wireless transmitter.
Even with those other transmitters in play, I have never had any issue with the function of Pro Viper. I'm told the original model had some issues in this area, but technology has made this a moot point.
The snake is very well made, and the method is getting the card into the snake's mouth is clever indeed.
I will say this: Although Terry competently teaches the effect on the DVD, his live night club presentation I thought was lacking. Oh sure, it got a good response, but he burned through this effect - start to -finish - in like 2 and 1/2 minutes. I was very surprised, as this prop is so good, it warrants a better build up.
Nevertheless, the DVD instructions are fine.
Incidentally, Terry's handling involves tearing a corner out of the card to use as "proof" later, verifying it was not just a duplicate card. terry's corner method works fine, but if you wanted to use a signature on the selected card, you can do that too.
Terry doesn't provide any handling suggestions for a signed card effect, but if you can control a selected card to the top of the deck and add in a false shuffle, you're covered. If not, I include my own card handling for this effect in my upcoming book (cheap plug).
The ice thing about this effect is the fact that the motor/electronic housing can be taken out of the basket, so if you wanted your snake to appear from a different place, you can do it. When I fly, I just use a paper lunch sack. Packs flat, yet allows me to do this effect when I fly without using the bulky basket.
OVERALL RATING: I'll give this a 9 out of 10. It's a GREAT effect, with a GREAT response. Mine has been rock-solid since I had it repaired. I only take off a point because with any electronic effect, you do have to be careful when packing it, especially when flying.