Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Hypno-Clinic Update and REVIEW: Russian Roulette by Larry Becker

Hello, kind reader!

Let's get some housekkeeping tips out of the way...

I've had several signups for my Magic School Summit for this July 15-17. I'm REALLY excited as we're going to cover some great ground. It will THE most in-depth analysis of one of the MOST stable and profitable markets in magic today! For more info, shoot me an email to

My "3 Month Series" on NLP and magic in my "Cause & Effects" free monthly ezine was a resounding success judging by all of the positive feedback I received. Next month's issue is going to be a bit more philosophical and will stimulate you to really think about your magic. Again, email me at

Finally, over half of the 'goodies' I'm selling out of my personal magic stash is gone, but there's still a lot of cool stuff - mentalism (spoon bending), torn & restored card, a no-longer-available version of a Paul Harris classic and more! Email me for the list.

Now, onto my personal life...Last time I wrote about getting my hypno-clinic off the ground. Well, I did my first client the other day - my best friend of 25 years and a smoker for most of those years! He's been virtually smoke free for several days! Woo-hoo!

My wife has decided t leave her salon due to differences with coworkers, so we are now in the process of securing a building for lease that we'll both be using for office/wrk space. It's an exciting time for us, but a little scary. I just keep reminding myself of the struggles we endured 8 years ago when I first moved in with her and had NO clients and NO visibility in a brand new market. Literally 6 months later, I was a full-time magician, making more doing that then I ever had at my 'day job' of 8 years. Sounds like one of my products! (Want the info? Shoot me an email!)

But I only bring that up because those days were much more challenging then what we face now. I never want to give up performing magic, but the road is awfully lonely so I'm looking it reduce it a bit.

Hopefully next week my blog will include news on securing the building! Now onto the review...

This week, I review Russian Roulette by Larry Becker. It's available for $39.95 from Hocus Pocus. Here's the link:

THE EFFECT: Three revolvers are shown on a lazy-susan type of stand. After showing that two of the guns are indeed "live" with blank rounds and a third is empty, the magician plays a deady game of russian roulette, literally risking his life to avoid the two "live" guns as the final selection is put to his temple by the volunteer and fired.

WHAT YOU GET: A DVD that's roughly an hour in length.

First, I'm going to say right off the bat that I'm going to be giving this product one of my infamous and infrequent 'split reviews,' so the format of this blog will be a little different. First the effect...

ROUTINE THOUGHTS: The first time I saw this routine was on a VHS tape (yes, old!) of Larry Becker's, which, if memory serves, was called Stunners Live in which Becker presented some of the routines from his highly acclaimed and massive Stunners book.

I was instantly blown away by the power of the effect. How could an audience NOT be captivated by a routine that ends with the trigger being pulled on a gun that has its barrel pressed against the performer's head?

I really wanted to learn the secret, but since I could not think of a situation where I would perform such a potentially controversial piece, it fell off my radar. A few years later, Becker put the routine out on its own DVD - this week's review - and eventually I succumbed. This is probably only the second or third purchase of a magic product that I've made over the last 5 years JUST so I could learn the secret.

When I first got the DVD and watched the routine again I was just as captivated this time as I was the first, literally on the edge of my seat...even though I knew that Larry came out of it just fine...I mean, it's not like there was ANY chance he blew his brains out and then his esate decided to put out his death as a magic DVD! That just shows you the power of the effect.

Therefore, in terms of pure effect, this gets an easy 10 out of 10. It's easily the most captivating danger-type effect that I've ever seen! Now, onto the product itself...

QUALITY OF DVD: The manner in which the routine is taught is just fine. Larry Becker is joined by Lee Earle and a third person whose name escapes me at the moment and the three sit at a table and discuss the psychology of the routine and the inner workings in detail.

They cover the method and stress over and over how you MUST double-check everything and they really drove home how important it is. This I liked, as they taught it very well. Big thumbs up there.

They also taped the crucial pre-show work with the guy who was going to pull the trigger. That's a big plus as it's the most crucial part of the secret. There's also some extras, such as outtakes, which I really didn't much out of.

One thing that I found frustrating was Larry had several stories he wanted to tell, things that happened over the years involving the routine and there were times the two gentlemen would let him continue and there were times Larry would get cut off so as to get back to whatever topic they were on.

This drove me nuts, as hearing real-life 'road stories' of magicians fascinates me, as that's often where the REAL lessons come from! (If you have a Magellan Levitation, shoot me an email and I'll share a secret tip I learned 'from the road' last week!)

The other thing that REALLY drove me nuts about this DVD was the fact that it would not play at all on one of my DVD players (the upstairs one in our house) and it would play in one in our basement...and both players were purchased the same year, so they couldn't have been too far off from each other in terms of when they were built.

When it did play, the DVD would 'skip' ahead several seconds in a very annoying fashion. I was able to get the full gist of everything, but it was really annoying. I haven't tried the disk on my computer yet, but for me it's usually the most reliable way to play a DVD.

Because of all this, I'm only going to rate the DVD itself a 6 out of 10. That skipping nonsense is REALLY annoying, and the DVD not playing at all is annoying too.

Now, onto the method...

METOD OVERVIEW: After learning the secret to this routine, I am appalled that Becker put out a DVD on it. Now, I don't want to come off as harsh because Lee Earle has always treated me very kindly, especially allowing me to use one of his concepts in one of my product releases.

The reason why I'm appalled is because the method to this routine could possibly kill you.

Let me repeat it.

If you do this routine, you could die.

Now, it's like any type of dangerous trick...if you follow the method exactly, you will succeed and you will be fine. It's a method that WILL work. I want to stress that, so no one can accuse me of saying later that the method "won't work."

I'm not saying that at all. It will work, but there's a risk.

I'm going to tap dance around the method, but I'll just say this: at the point of the routine where the spectator puts the gun barrel to your head, you are literally putting your life in his hands, because if he does not follow your instructions exactly, you could die.

Now, let me clarify...the spectator is NOT in on it. You are NOT using a stooge. EVER. There IS pre-show work, but that is only to train the spectator in terms of gun safety and the parameters of the routine. The person is NOT told the secret and to them, they go into the routine believing that you truly are playing russian roulette.

Now, the reason why I hate this method so much is because the successful completion of the routine depends on them following your instructions exactly. If they deviate from it in one crucial way, that's when danger can happen.

I may sound like a hypocrite for coming down so harshly on this because I do perform some danger routines, but each and every one is dependent on MY maintaining control and making sure I myself do the things I need to do. With this routine, it's up to someone else.

Now, to be fair, if you've worked with the person before the show, everything should go fine. Again, not a stooge...but I'm a firm believer that people can have "brain farts" anytime at all. It's how the mind works! Pair that up with the fact that the spectator is in front of everyone, the stress is there...

Becker claims that even though you are firing blanks, the muzzle blast and sound being fired against your head is still enough to kill you if the routine goes wrong.

I know SQUAT about guns and have no idea if that's true or if Larry is merely making the routine more dramatic, but at this point, with this routine, I'm willing to believe it.

People may wonder why Becker does such a dangerous routine in his show at all? He reveals his motivations on the DVD, which are very personal and while I understand the reasons, I still think it's a needless waste. Magic is about illusion. Once you've introduced real danger, you're taking away a big part of why magic is mAGIC and you're crossing into the realm of side show geeks.

My suggestion is if you want to add a "gun" routine to your act, get Velocity by Scott Alexander (if they're still available). It's a 100% SAFE routine. Completely and totally safe and audiences love it.

I also want to stress that I like the routine...watching safely on TV! Knowing what I know, I could never feel comfortable watching it live. I also respect both Becker and Earle (especially lee!) as two classy guys whose work I love.

I'm not going to give the method an actual score as I can't decide on one - on one hand it WILL work if followed exactly, but again, there is a risk by using a volunteer.

I also feel if I give it too high of a score it's like I'm endorsing it and if some magician blows his brains out, I want NO part in the chain of liability...sorry, it's just that I've met too many magicians who don't properly prepare before putting a new routine into their acts, and no amount of warnings by Larry Becker is going to change how some of these clods conduct themselves.

Not recommended.

NEXT WEEK: I review Retro Gravity, Devin Knight's new manuscript on the street self lev.


Cris Johnson

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