Howdy, loyal readers! Cris Johnson here, back with another fun-filled review. Before this week’s product, a few housekeeping notes…
First of all, I want to thank my subscribers to “Cause & Effects,” my free monthly ezine. New subscribers are coming in all the time and I couldn’t be more delighted! Next month’s issue will feature an article on a sneaky way to save money on your hotels. I stumbled across this by accident and I’m happy to share it with you.
Secondly, I am actually considering doing something I’ve talked about for five years…starting an agency! Since I am primarily a school guy, I am on the road a TON, but I still concentrate mostly on the east coast. With that in mind, there’s a TON of the U.S. I don’t visit very often.
If you’re a professional U.S. magician, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m just in the planning stages now, but I promise to be fair with your best interests in mind. My (proposed) agency will target different markets, so it doesn’t matter to me if you’re a birthday guy, a closeup gal or a corporate entertainer. These are exciting times and with my 15+ years of experience, I’m sure I can launch an agency to great heights!
On to this week’s review…
Today I’m reviewing Anthony Lindan’s Incredible Suit Jacket Escape DVD. It’s available for $59.95 from Hocus Pocus. Here’s the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=13137
EFFECT: The performer, channeling Harry Houdini, embarks on a considerably LESS impressive outing: rather than escaping from a straight jacket, he’s going to escape from his own suit jacket. Two volunteers help handcuff the performer’s hands behind his back. A curtain is raised and lowered, showing the performer’s progress…or lack thereof. He eventually escapes, but the real emphasis is on sight gags and fun.
WHAT YOU GET: A very professionally produced DVD that covers the suit jacket escape in incredible detail.
MARKETS: Although I haven’t put this in my show yet, I’m working my butt off to get it ready for the fall. I have penciled this in to three of my different shows with a possibility of a fourth. I believe this will play equally well to kids, pre-teens and adults. It may play great for teens too, though I have no immediate plans to put it in my teen shows. I wouldn't do it for daycare shows, but elementary school age through adults and you're probably golden.
There are no off-color jokes or anything that would offend anyone, in my eyes.
DIFFICULTY: I hesitate to refer to any routine as "easy" but from a technical standpoint this is 'easy' to do. Any technical difficulty is contingent on what kind of quick release restraint you have. As I said, Anthony's recommendation for gimmicked shackles is the same choice I made. I know there was a Harry Anderson routine put out a few years ago in which Harry used gimmicked handcuffs, though I've no idea of how fast they release. I only mention this so you know there are options.
I should also mention that your quick release restraint needs to be something you can both get out of quickly and get back into just as fast, therefore the old Siberian Chain Escape would be a poor choice.
ANGLES: This is beautiful, because of the curtain, you’re completely covered as you make your escape and/or set up the various sight gags throughout the routine. Plus, it packs small and plays big, to borrow a tired phrase.
INSTRUCTION: Anthony does an incredible job describing in detail all of the nuances of the routine. In the hands of a lesser instructor, I can see this being described on one side of a piece of paper, but Anthony goes into detail…REAL detail, the kind of detail that shows he’s done this at least 1000 times. He addresses such issues as filling dead time while the spectators lock you up, ways to minimize that potential dead time, reducing the dead time as you introduce the curtain, and so much more.
Additionally, the equipment he recommends is top notch. I’ve already purchased the shackles he recommends and they are first rate. Really, any decent quick-release restraint would work, but I really like the shackles, as they’re big, designed to LAST and are oh-so-simple to use. The spirit curtain (or “curtain of death,” as Anthony calls it) is well thought out in terms of the recommended construction.
MY BACKGROUND: I’ve been considering a straight jacket escape for a LONG time. I have a friend whom I’ve known for 25 years and he does a standard straight jacket escape. He does it in a very stripped down, concise manner, similar to a lot of working pros, including Jeff McBride’s wife, Abbi Spinner McBride.
Frankly, I’ve always considered it boring as hell. To me, there’s no hook, no reason for the escape.
Copperfield did the only straight jacket escape I ever liked, because it had real drama – he dangled upside down from burning ropes! I was captivated. There was a reason for the escape: Get out or die!
Most of us don’t have the staging or ability to pull off true danger, so as soon as you’re locked in a straight jacket (and you’re just going to escape, with no consequences if you do not), you’re in an anti-climax position. If you get out when you say you will, no one is surprised. If you do not, well, you’re a tool… in your audiences’ eyes.
With all of that in mind, I swore I’d never do a straight jacket escape unless I could write a really good script. One that was dramatic or funny…or preferably both!
After struggling with the concept for years, I put the straight jacket escape idea on hold until Bill emailed me about the suit jacket escape, so I got my grubby hands on this before it was even available at Hocus Pocus.
Upon review, I immediately thought, “That’s the answer I’ve been looking for.” I love it because it’s delightfully absurd! The plot is silly, which I love. It involves volunteers throughout the routine, not just for the locking business. The comedy is what gives the journey, the road to the successful escape, a way to hook the audience. Really, no one cares if you can escape ANYTHING. You’ve got to engage them in some way, and laughter is a way to hook any audience into any routine.
I only point all of this out because if I, an ardent anti-straight jacket guy, can appreciate this routine, then anyone can.
MY THOUGHTS: First of all, the routine is very funny. That being said, Anthony has stripped this routine down to make it the most travel-friendly ‘big’ routine possible. By his own admission, he left a lot of possibilities out.
This is a great routine because if you do it exactly as Anthony does it, you’ve got a winner…but if you’re the least bit creative, you’re going to start going through this and come up with ways to really add bits of business, additional sight gags, props and more… and whatever else from your own personality. This is a good thing – no, correction, this is a great thing. As Anthony runs it, this is roughly a 5 minute routine. A 5 minute routine that I can drop right into my act for sixty bucks? That’s a steal, in my book.
However, because this routine and premise is so open to possibilities, I can see me easily stretching this to 10-12 minute routine and still leave the audience begging for more. This routine is a blank canvas…
I personally don’t mind a bit of setup, so with me, once this goes into my set list, I know I’m going to expand, change it, and truly nurture this until it’s my own. The possibilities are endless and I haven’t been this excited about a new product in a LONG time.
A 10 out of 10.
Next week, due to reader request, I’ll be reviewing another DVD, this one called “Thread.” Yup, it’s the one where Criss Angel swallows and then pulls thread out of his eye. Kinda brings me back to my old Bizarrist roots with Tony Andruzzi…
Until next week, send all questions, comments and additional review requests to email@example.com.