Cris Johnson here...writing to you from our new salon / hypnosis clinic! We've got the floors in, most of the equipment piled up, etc. We have to paint and put together the equipment. I believe we've got about three weeks of stuff to go.
This week, I'm going to break from the typical format and post two reviews...one item from Hocus Pocus and another from the magic of Puck!
The item from Puck is only currently being offered from Puck's website - www.puckmagic.com/products.htm - and it's pretty awesome, called "Shoe Business." It retails for $85.00.
EFFECT: You call the "Practical Joke Hotline" on speaker phone to teach the audience a funny gag. You make a mistake following the instructions and inadvertently fill a spectators shoe with a bottle of liquid. This six minutes of comedy is virtually self working as all you do is follow the audio instructions like the old Vanishing Bandana Trick. What makes this routine so great is the tremendous amount of built in laughs as well as a surprise magical finish that really fools the audience. This is a fresh and modern take on the " Magician in Trouble " premise.
WHAT YOU RECEIVE: Two gimmicked cups, a 'cell phone,' the audio CD, the DVD with performance and explanation, and written instructions.
QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: This product is a joint venture between Puck and Scott Alexander. Scott is the one on-camera performing and explaining everything. If you're familiar with Scott's other releases, you know Scott does a phenomenal job explaining things and this is no different. What's nice about this is not only does Scott explain things well in terms of the work but he also explains how to make more gimmicked cups.
QUALITY OF PROPS: As mentioned before, the cups are simple plastic cups easily made, which is nice because if all you have on you is your music (the audio track), you can easily put this effect together and have an instant 6 minutes of fun. The cell phone is a simple toy prop, but the real value of this routine is the audio CD and the script, and here's where this release shines.
DIFFICULTY: This is one of those releases that is almost self-working. There's some practice involved as far as loading the shoe and some work in terms of rehearsal (to fine-tune your acting as you listen to the CD), but it's all relatively easy, maybe a 2 out of 10 at the most.
MY THOUGHTS: I'd rate this so far as one of the best effects to come out in the last 12 months. It was really released late last year, but since I got it in 2011, I'll consider this one of the top releases of the year.
This is so strong because it's so funny, and it's a nice variation of the Vanishing Bandana, which, strong as it is, is so widely performed that I've avoided it. Shoe Business is a twist on an old classic and I can see myself using this a LOT because it's the classic Magician in Trouble plot, which audiences of all ages respond very well to.
A 10 out of 10 and so far for 2011, my TOP pick. I know I do not usually review stuff outside of Hocus Pocus, but this was so damn good that I had to post my thoughts.:)
Now, back to the usual Hocus Pocus review...this week it's A Touch of Glass by Peter Loughran. It's available at Hocus Pocus for $54.95. Here's the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=12708http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=12708
EFFECT: Sample Effect 1 - The performer introduces a small piece of tissue paper and draws a picture of a bottle on to it with a marker. The paper is now lit on fire, and suddenly a real full size 750 ml glass bottle of wine begins to materialize from the neck down, until the entire bottle has appeared! It looks like REAL MAGIC or a HOLLYWOOD SPECIAL EFFECT!
Sample Effect 2 - The performer introduces a wine glass with silk filling the inside of the glass, proving that nothing can be hidden inside the silk. His jacket, vest or over shirt is shown empty, and his sleeves are rolled up. The silk is removed and shown empty, the silk is gathered up and a real full size 750 ml glass bottle of wine instantly appears!
WHAT YOU RECEIVE: Several gimmicks designed to work in a variety of ways to keep the bottle (yes, it's a real bottle) safe & secure until you're ready to produce it. You also receive written instructions.
QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: Peter does a fine job of explaining the different effects that you can do with the system. I was able to understand the concepts easily, which is nice, because in past years, I've gravitated toward learning magic off of DVDs.
ANGLES: The effect is covered fairly well from parlor or stage but I would not presume to do this in a close-up situation. The fire production (both versions) are more angle-sensitive but the production from a silk covers you well.
DIFFICULTY: I'm still blown away after learning the effect and going back and watching Peter perform the effect on his demo video. Peter makes it look like real magic and it looks so smooth.
I've been working with the effect for a while and I feel as though this effect is sort of like dove steals - it takes 'tinkering' to get it just right. I remember when I was learning my dove act years ago, it took me a great deal of time to fine-tune everything, from how the dove fit next to my body without bulging through my jacket, the exact position inside the jacket of the dove pocket, etc.
I found the fire production to be exceedingly difficult in terms of timing, as flash paper burns very quickly and while I found Peter's suggestion of how to 'modify' the flash paper to make the effect easier a good thing, overall that particular effect was one I set aside for the time being as I went through $10 of flash paper in about 5 minutes of practice and had no progress to show for it.
I switched to the silk production and found that to be a better choice for me. The handling is very similar but you're not fighting against the speed of the fire.
The bottom line is this - this effect is much the same way in terms of my own experience with dove productions - it's coming along, but it will take time. I'll rate the difficulty as a 7 out of 10. While there is no back-breaking sleight of hand, the timing, components of the productions system and tinkering with getting the hidden bottle to rest in the right spot according to your body type means that in my opinion, this will take practice, but it's worth it.
MY THOUGHTS: This REALLY looks fantastic when you do it well, as Peter does. It takes some work and tinkering to make it 'fit' you, but the components that work with the bottle are well made and I feel Peter has a winner here.
I also appreciate the fact that Peter gives you different options in terms of effect. Rather than being a one-off, you've got different possibilities and I can also see the creative performer using this 'system' to produce other objects as well. I give this a solid 8 out of 10 - rehearse and put in the time and you've got a beautiful effect.
NEXT WEEK: I review The Moment by Christopher Taylor.