Cris Johnson here, back with a new review for this week. Before I get to it, a few housekeeping notes...
1. My NEW book of routines, "Cause & Effects," continues to fly out the door. This is very gratifying to me because these are routines I use to make a living. They can do the same for you. Here's the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=12964
2. My newest product is the best thing I've created. It's called "The Mother of All Predictions" and it's a heck of a routine! It's an audio CD type prediction that allows you to predict ANYTHING and uses NO gimmicked CD players, so budget wise, this is within everyone's reach. The link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=13021
3. The upcoming June issue of my FREE ezine will feature aspects of David Copperfield's stage show that I feel any performer can and should incorporate into their professional work. I'm NOT talking about ripping off tricks or scripts, but aspects of performance and professionalism. It's going to be a good read! Sign up by sending me at email to firstname.lastname@example.org. It's FREE!:)
Today's review is Crush, a DVD and gimmick available for $29.95 from Hocus Pocus. The link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=12903
EFFECT: Cause a water bottle to crush! Slowly, as you hold the bottle, the bottle begins to crumple in a most eerie fashion. A non-gimmicked version allows you to do this with a spectator holding the bottle or the bottle sitting untouched on a table.
WHAT YOU RECEIVE: a DVD with both live and studio performances. You also receive a gimmick, which is not made clear in the ad copy. I was surprised when my review copy came with a gimmick.
QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: The street demonstrations look as though it was filmed by Martin Scorsesee - visually, nicely done. It looks like a feature film.
The creator explains the handling well enough. Personally I found the creator to be thorough enough, although I was personally put off by the whole 'street magic' thing. This movement of street magic just is not my cup of tea.
Many proponents of this style of magic seem to believe that the effect is enough. There's no presentation and the entire success of the effect relies on the trick itself. In my opinion, this reduces any effect of magic into an oddity, a puzzle.
While the physical movements are taught well enough and the effect's choreography is effective enough, there is no motivation for this as presented on this DVD. Magic has enough of an uphill battle appearing to be relevant without disembodied effects being presented on a whim. There are other problems, but I'll address them later.
The point is, despite the absence of any sense of presentation whatsoever, the mechanics are taught very well. When I first looked at the supplied gimmick, I thought, "No way is that going to fly." I'm happy to report that the set-up is quite "do-able" for the real world...with some caveats which I'll cover.
ANGLES: The DVD would have you believe this is a close-up effect. Personally, I feel this is best suited for formal standup presentations because of the reset factor, but the fact is, the angles are good on this. There is some "dirty work" which needs to be done at the exact moment the bottle collapses, but with proper audience management, this should blow past spectators..as long as you are aware of your audience and manage them effectively.
RESTRICTIONS: Here's where this effect gets "sticky." The way the demo is shot and the overall 'feel' is that it's implied that you can walk up to a group of strangers and bang this effect out. The fact is, you must have a specific preparation based on the bottle you use.
Without giving anything away, let's just say that different bottles have different characteristics and you're really only ready to make this work with one specific bottle at a time. Don't get me wrong - you can do this with virtually any bottle...but it's not impromptu.
Another consideration is the fact that in order to provide "motivation" for the physical movements for this to work, it's best and most natural to start this effect each time with the bottle full of water. The act of emptying the bottle acts as cover for much of the 'get ready.'
You can technically do the effect without water in the bottle at the start, but again, you lack that acting/theatrical term - "motivation." The end result is this really isn't good for repeat performances in a restaurant situation. If you want to do a "one off," you're fine. And the fact is, i think this works better in a standup situation.
When I say standup, it doesn't have to be a corporate banquet or even a kids' birthday...it could be a busking (sp?) event where the performer on the street performs a 'set' and passes the hat. In this setting, I can envision an eagle-eyed performer keeping an eye out for the type of bottle he/she is prepared for and ask to borrow it from a spectator - bam! Instant miracle.
The other, non-gimmicked version is impressive and relies on science - there's no sleight of hand or gimmicks, as advertised. However, there is a certain preparation...and that preparation only has a shelf life of a few minutes at most. Without revealing anything, let's just say for reasons I can't get into that you can't prepare this before your show and do it more than 5 minutes (tops) into your show unless you have an assistant do the preparation for you right before you're scheduled to do this. Again, in a 'street setting,' I could see an assistant innocently handing a prepared (though completely innocent looking) bottle to you seconds before you launch into this.
MY OVERALL THOUGHTS: This has a lot going for it, as it's unique and well thought out in terms of physical actions. i can't stand the street type of performances with no context as magicians seem (according to various effects' demos) to just ambush spectators and 'show them something.'
However, the silver lining here is the buyer is forced to work a presentation out for themselves as this DVD gives no presentational framework or insight into scripting. That being said, physically this works as advertised.
I'll give this a split rating: For close-up repeat users such as restaurant guys, I give this a 1 out of 10. It's NOT suited for strolling - either version.
For a thing to freak out your friends, I give it an 6 out of 10...with the severe warning that at least in my experience with friends, people I'm friends with are more apt to poke and prod at me to find out "what I'm hiding." Politeness often goes out the door in informal situations, so while this will likely kill in an informal setting, be mindful of friends' busy hands! You're gimmicked up the wazoo when you perform the gimmicked version. With the ungimmicked version, again, you've got severe timing limitations.
For formal stand-up performers (street, banquet, etc) using this in a "one off" way, I think this has a lot of promise and despite the lack of presentational hook, I'll give it a 7 out of 10.
Again, I only give a split rating because of the fact that the way the demo was shot and the style of performing would seem to endear itself to guys who want to walk up to a group and do this over and over. It's great for a one-off, but it's not repeatable as taught. You'd need to do some serious work to eliminate the emptying of the water from the bottle as justification for the physical movements in this effect.
Until next week, send all questions and comments to email@example.com.