Howdy, loyal readers!
I'll get to this week's review in a moment, but first, I want to once again give everyone who has checked out my amazing "Mother of All Predictions" book a BIG thank you! The orders continue to come in, making this one of my best selling releases of all time. It's truly a 'worker.'
This principle allows you to mail an UNGIMMICKED audio CD to a client WEEKS or MONTHS in advance. On the day of the show, THEY open the envelope, remove the CD and play it for the audience, using ANY ungimmicked CD player! The method is bulletproof and I credit much of it to mentalist Lee Earle.
Check out the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=13021
Secondly, my next issue of "Cause & Effects" ezine is being prepared at this very moment. For all of you travelers out there, this issue will feature an EASY way to save money on hotels. It's something most hotels don't want you to know. I don't believe for a second I'm the only one who knows about this, but every magician or entertainer who travels I've told this to did NOT know this, so if you're not signed for "Cause & Effects," do it TODAY!
Signing up is FREE and can be done simply by shooting me an email to: email@example.com.
Future issues of "Cause & Effects" have been planned out nearly 3 years in advance, so I ain't going anywhere any time soon!
Here's this week's review...it's Thread by Wayne Houchin. It's available for $29.95 from Hocus Pocus. Here's the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=10935
THE EFFECT: The performer swallows some sewing thread...and then pulls it out of his eye!
WHAT YOU GET: A very well produced DVD that outlines two different ways to do this along with a bonus explanation of how to do Wayne's handling of the classic Gypsy Thread.
MY INTIAL FEARS: First of all, any time someone tells me that so and so created an effect for Criss Angel, my defenses go up. I will state here and publicly that I can't STAND Criss Angel. It's NOT because of his magic either. (If you must know, I'm a certified hypnotist. On Mindfreak, Criss Angel did some things in his hypnosis episode that could have seriously injured people and served as a bad example to any fledgling hypnotists out there. End of rant.)
Therefore, when I received this DVD, I expected to hate it. The DVD case cover looked gross - Wayne pulling the thread through his eye with a pained expression.
I do love geek magic, having been inroduced to it at a young age by Harry Anderson's wonderful "Needle Thru Arm" presentation. To me, it's the right way to present geek: it's a glimpse into the performer as a real person, is funny, and had a reason for being. Plus, even though the illusion is so strong, Harry tells you that it's still not real.
My problem with all of the "Criss Angel clones" out there is so many of these folks, on their DVDs, present an effect as just something to freak out strangers on a street - no presentation, no script and no freakin' warning. It's ambush magic. Bad, bad, very bad.
That's what was going through my head when this DVD came. Now, to my thoughts...
PRESENTATION: The DVD starts and it's apparent it has incredible production values. Most of it is filmed in a wonderful looking theater that screams 'character.' Wayne introduces his concept for the effect, in essence saying that as his opening effect, it allows him to share some of his very personal motivations and thoughts to the audience.
From there, we see a clip of him doing Thread for a group of teens and they predictably, in best David Blaine fashion, freak out. It's a startling effect, no question about it.
Then we move to apparently how Wayne normally presents it in a stage situation. He is introduced, walks out and banters with the audience. He's well spoken, at ease, and has good stage presence. He actually does the Gypsy Thread first as a lead-in to the Thread effect and surprisingly, the two link together pretty well.
His presentation really does serve as way to get to know this guy as a real person and I'm completely charmed, laughing at his jokes, his responses, ad-libbed, to audience members, and his verbal set-up of Thread is terrific: he warns them something 'geeky' is coming, but he doesn't completely tell them what it is...only foreshadowing.
By the time the presentation is over, I see enough paralells in Wayne's work with my own and I immediately see where I can easly add this to one of my shows for high schoolers.
I'm hooked - how about the instruction?
INSTRUCTION: Wayne proves to be a skilled teacher, carefully walking you through the two methods of doing the effect. One is called the "Geek Method" and is the one that from a technical standpoint is actually the easier of the two. The second one is pure sleight of hand and is tougher from a rehearsal standpoint because it's a bit more involved.
He explains everything clearly, talks about the pros and cons of the sleight method versus the geek method, and happily for me, the camera angles go a great job of capturing all of the necessary work and details. Big thumbs up.
What I found so disarming about the DVD, though, is how honest and straightforward Wayne presents himself. He knows who he is and plays to his strength. He's not trying to be the 'dark and mysterious stranger' that so many of these street magic thugs seem to be trying to be. Wayne presents himself with a casualness, humor and a little...geeky. Pun definitely intended.
I found his interviews on issues of character and staging fun to soak in as well.
Oh, and his handling for the classic Gypsy Thread? Simply, easy and effective. I don't know if I will use it as a lead-in for Thread as he does, but it's a nice bonus.
At the end of the DVD, proper credit is given to the origins of the the key concept of Thread as well as additional resources for Gypsy Thread. It's not a complete list, but enough to get the viewer started. He knows his history and honors it.
PRODUCTION VALUES: As I've hinted, this is a first rate DVD. The action sometimes shifts to black and white footage and back to color, but it all works. It's all very artistic. I'm told Theory11 puts out great stuff. This is my first experience with one of their products, but I have a feeling it will not be the last.
MY THOUGHTS: I'm stunned beyond belief. I went into this expecting to hate it, but Wayne Houchin has put out a great DVD. In terms of rating, I'm going to give this a 9 out of 10. I'd go a full 10, but the geek method of doing this can cause discomfort for some users and one will probably not know til one tries it for themselves.
Wayne does a great job with this and it's been his opener for a decade. When I did a bit of research on this, I found so many users on other sites reviewing this just as I feared...stuff like "WOW! I got this today and did the trick a few times for my friends and freaked them out!"
They got it and performed it the same day? Exactly what I hate about this type of geek magic. I know it's not Wayne's fault if people do not properly prepare for an effect, but the fact is they do. To anyone reading this, I have a few tidbits of advice:
1. Practive ANYTHING magic-related until you can do it flawlessly.
2. Write a script or presentational hook, a reason for doing this. (No, "Hey this will freak you out" does not qualify in my book.)
3. Be aware of WHO you performing this for. I admit I'm adding this to my teen shows, but I have 15 years' experience and know what my audiences like. This is NOT something to do at little Johnny's 6th birthday party.
I usually don't give warnings like this in my column, but I've read a LOT of "reviews" on this, so I have seen many who gravitate to it.
Overall, great DVD. I'm excited to start working on this for myself.
Next week, another review, so check back soon!
Questions? Comments? Review requests? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cris Johnson, CH, C.M.NLP