Wednesday, October 27, 2010

White Star & Voodoo Doll

Hey Everyone,

A very SICK Cris Johnson here with more reviews. Yes, I wrote "sick." I guess it comes from being around so many sick people - I've been bombarded with shows (that's good) but since I'm in the north east part of the USA, everyone in schools is sick...including me. (Not good)

Quick housekeeping... the latest issue of "Cause & Effects" goes out next week. I just finished writing it and I have to say I am THRILLED! Good stuff, even if I do say so myself! It's all about show disasters and how to handle them. Sign up TODAY by emailing me at

On to the reviews!

Two reviews and both are SPPPOOOOOKKYY in honor of Halloween! Item number one is the Okito Voodoo Doll! It's only $10 from Hocus Pocus. Here's the link:

EFFECT: A small straw doll is placed in your palm. Eerily, the doll rises to a standing position! No threads or magnets. Ready to go all the time - zero set up.

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: You receive the doll itself which is gimmicked, along with sparse written instructions.

QUALITY OF PROP: Although it's made of straw, this little guy is pretty tough. I've been using mine for 7 years. Treat it right - I keep mine in a small wooden box, which serves to enhance the mystery as well as protect the prop.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: As I said, the instructions are sparse but serviceable. Nothing fancy, and in terms of routines, you'll need to do this on your own.

DIFFICULTY: This is maybe a 1 or a 2 out of 10. This is not difficult technically, but this is a small bit of pain involved....nothing much, but you've been warned. You'll also need a bit of misdirection for the "get ready" that allows you to perform this.

MY THOUGHTS: I still remember the first time I saw this performed. I was completely blown away and years later, I was delighted to find it online and buy one for myself. I love this prop.

Again, you really need to work out a routine for it to do it justice, but this close-up levitation can be done in full light at a moment's notice. What's not to love?

I'm not much of a close-up guy, but this has been a staple in my close-up act for years. (I tip the entire routine in one of my "Cause & Effects" books available right here at Hocus Pocus....shameless plug!)

I wholeheartedly recommend this. A 10 out of 10...providing you have a strong routine.

Review #2 is White Star by Jim Critchlow. It's available for $59.95 from Hocus Pocus. The link is here:

EFFECT: The performer is seated at a table opposite two volunteers. The performer places a small article in front of each person, such as an old coin and an old fountain pen (these are to act as ‘markers').

The performer now takes out from his wallet, a small packet of old photographs which he quickly thumbs through as he mentions to the volunteers that they may recognize some of these as they have appeared in books or programs about the Titanic as they were all passengers on that ill fated liner. The packet is squared and turning to the first volunteer, the performer says that he is going to show him/her the photographs one at a time and if they feel somehow drawn to some, they should tell him and they will be placed in front of them and their 'marker'.

The performer shows the photographs, one by one to the volunteers, who either decides to take one and place it on the pile forming in front of them or reject it. The rejected photographs forming a discard pile in the center of the table.

'Look at this young lady please, what emotions do you think she is feeling.....'

When all the photographs have been chosen to be kept or rejected, the performer brings attention to the discard pile. Thumbing through the photographs the performer starts talking about specific photos (the person's name etc) stressing how absolutely any of the photos could have been retained by the volunteers.

The performer explains that what they have both just done was part of an experiment. He also explains that he has found that the best results only occur when nothing is explained beforehand and that the results are always different (quite true to a point).

The performer then states that the old coin was taken from one of the bodies found in the wreckage of the Titanic and the fountain pen was used by a clerk to write out the list of all the survivors. The person with the coin is asked to turn their photographs over and in doing so they see each photograph has printed on its back, the name of the person, a few details about them and that they DIED! The spectator holding the fountain pen turns their photographs over and sees the similar details but all their photographs have SURVIVED printed on them! The discarded pile is turned over and shown that there is a complete mix, in no sequence of both the DIED and SURVIVED photographs!

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: You get the beautifully produced photos as well as the well-produced 21-page instruction booklet which explains the basic effect as well as several offshoots. Jim clearly loves this plot.

Although the presentation mentions using 'markers' like an old coin and an old pen, they are not included. It's important to be clear about this.

QUALITY: This is first class stuff and intended for professional performers, as evidenced by the quality. First rate, all the way.

DIFFICULTY: Here's the great part: the primary Whitestar effect is dead-easy, which allows you to concentrate on your presentation. There's been a lot of marketed effects advertised as 'easy so you can concentrate on your presentation,' and this one REALLY fits the bill. Interestingly, it's even easier than the 'Out of This World" original effect upon which this is based.

What's nice about this version is the fact that there is no switching of the packets, as in "Out of This World." That, to me, is the biggest selling point in terms of method.

The difficulty from a technical standpoint is 1 out of 10. The neat thing is, although good acting skills will enhance the routine (as in any good effect) here the storyline is so strong that the effect, if presented as Jim does, really carries itself. That to me is a great selling point. I personally reject most 'Bizarre' type effects because I don't have the acting chops to do the effects justice.

Here, any competent performer would probably get a good reaction because of the subject matter. (Notice I said competent!!)

MY THOUGHTS: I bought this effect for a specific show I'm putting together for teens and as such I've been recently looking at a number of unusual effects I normally would not be considering. This was recommended to me by a friend, and after hearing the description, I was less than thrilled. I've never been a fan of "Out of This World." Not because it wasn't a good effect...quite the opposite - it's a GREAT effect, but in my closeup work, I NEVER have the kind of table space for this kind of effect.

Also, because it's a card effect, I feel it would not play as well from stage because the 'action' and revelation is on the table. So, from a visibility standpoint, for me, "Out of This World" fails miserably.

With Whitestar, the subject matter is always topical - The public's fascination with the Titanic seems to be neverending.

My whole point in bringing all of this up is to let me you know, dear reader, that I'm not a fan of table tricks like this.

Then, I was able to see a video of my friend performing this. It floored me, and for the life of me, I could not figure the method out and my friend refused to tip it, insisting that if I wanted it, I should buy it.

I'm glad I saw it performed first, because once I learned the secret, I was delighted and very impressed with the working. I suspect that buyers, upon learning the secret before seeing it performed, would be disappointed. My advice is to NOT give into those feelings! This PLAYS well.

OTHER VERSIONS: As I mentioned earlier, Jim seems to have a fascination with this plot as he offers other variations in the booklet. Each is good in it's own right. I personally prefer the main Whitestar effect, but it's nice to have alternatives.

MY FINAL VERDICT: I'm going to give this a rock-solid 8 out of 10. This plays very strong even though it's not my usual cup of tea. I'd rate it higher, but the sorting process brings it down a bit for me. Don't get me wrong, the sorting is incredibly fair and the spectators do indeed have free choices of cards. To me at least, this necessary sorting of cards (the backbone of the presentation) may drag a bit without a superior presentation.

Who knows, maybe after I've mastered this effect, I may come back and revise my rating!

Next week's review will be Bobby Motta's TASTE.

Until next week...

Cris Johnson

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