It’s a new year and man, last night I had an awesome show. So great to get my groove on!
I want to give a big shout out to my buddy Peter Loughran and his new effect Creature Shock, which looks absolutely incredible! This new release and his Witchcraft are on my "must buy" list.:)
On to this week’s review: DVD number 1 of Docc Hilford’s Monster Mentalism Set. It’s called “Attack of Monster Mentalism.” You can buy the whole set or the DVDs individually from Hocus Pocus. By itself, this DVD is $34.95.
First I want to give some overall thoughts on Docc Hilford himself. I first found out about Docc from the New Invocation magazine, which he took over from Tony Andruzzi. Docc’s writings were delightfully weird and practical.
Years later, I had the opportunity to watch Docc on the Desert Brainstorm series. On those DVDs, I thought Docc’s performances were melodramatic, drawn out and just plain boring. Nonetheless, I decided to get the Monster Mentalism DVDs because many of the effects sounded intriguing.
After watching all four DVDs, I was blown away by how charismatic Docc was. His charm and personality seemed to leap out of the TV screen. Where was this guy during the Desert Brainstorm DVDs? When watching the Monster DVDs, I could instantly see why so many people are drawn to Docc…but this incredible gift of his certainly does make his material more challenging for other people to perform, as least from where I sit.
FORMAT: Each DVD, assuming you hit the play from beginning feature, begins with a sort of psychedelic, 50’s motive musical introduction that goes on…way…too…long. Then Docc, wearing a sharp suit, performs his set in front of your typical L&L audience, including “Frontrow Frank,” and at one point, Docc evenly gently chides Frank. After the effects, Docc sits and explains them with his good friend, David Alexander, sits with him so the two can banter about performing philosophy, not only pertaining to the included effects but also performing as a whole.
As the two talk, you get a sense of their real life relationship and the casual way they dialog is helpful to making these DVDs very enjoyable to spend time with these two men.
Here are the effects on Disk One along with my thoughts and ratings using the 10 scale…
TIME WILL TELL – This is a time effect, as the title would suggest. A spectator sets his time to any time he wishes and the mentalist reads his mind, writing the time on a billet. This is good effect, but a key thing to keep in mind with billet work is NOT necessarily the physical work but the fact that there is often a lot of fiddling and writing going on before “stuff” happens, so the biggest challenge, then, is keeping the audience’s interest during all of this. The journey truly is paramount, here. 5 out of 10.
JAILBAIT – In essence, this is a re-working of the old “numbers” trick that comes with magic sets…the one where you hand someone several cards with numbers on them, they think of a number and then hand the cards that have said number on it back to you and without them saying a word, you’re able to reveal the number. Docc’s handling is a little different, giving the piece another “logical disconnect” and framing the effect with a delightfully absurd premise that I easily fell in love with. From a marketing perspective, Docc reveals a way to use this to put your contact info in people’s hands. It’s a charmer, great for strolling and one of the best pieces on the whole set. 9 out of 10.
DEAD OR ALIVE – As the subject title would suggest, this is a living/dead test with billets and a swinging pendulum. I use pendulums all the time in my hypnosis work as a ‘convincer’ and can attest to the power of using it in the deception arts too. The handling of the billets is simple, angles are good, etc. Unfortunately, since Docc’s premise is of a living/dead test, you are dealing with, potentially, powerful memories and therefore a routine like this has to be handled with kids’ gloves. In fact, even though Docc keeps the proceedings light and upbeat, the participant for this routine got a little “misty,” as in teary-eyed, causing Docc to immediately work to keep her mood 'light.' I can see this being unbelievably powerful for séance work, but caution is advised. Another 9 out of 10.
T-4-2 – This is a card mindreading effect, specifically the divination of a card (of course) and like all card effects in mentalism, you’ll have to decide for yourself whether adding cards to a pure mentalism performance is for you. Since this is a mentalism DVD with Docc Hilford, he’s not afraid to mix up mental magic, mentalism and even regular magic, so the viewer will have to make the determination whether it’s right for them. Personally, I feel effects like this are way too dry for a regular magic show so if I were to ever use it, it would be in the context of a mentalism show. This is just OK in my book. 5 out of 10.
HARD AND SOFT DRINKS – This is a billet effect in which the mentalist uses a hat to contain several billets that have drinks’ names written on them. The magician is able to use his mojo (and a little billet work) to reveal the chosen drinks. I thought this was the weakest effect on the entire disk. Docc is charismatic as hell to pull this off, barely, as even the L&L faithful didn’t seem blown away. The idea of using alcoholic drinks in a mindreading routine for adults is a great hook t get the attention of adults but the billet work just takes too long to set up and using the hat struck me as very unnatural. Personally, I would probably take the overall premise of the routine and combine it with Bob Cassidy’s fantastic two billet routine, Name/Place, off of his Mental Miracles DVD. That handling is streamlined and smooth as hell, without Docc’s clunky hat to muck things up. 3 out of 10.
UNCLE KLINK – This is Docc’s handling of the 7 Keys to Baldpate effect, which is the effect of finding which key out of 7 is the right one to open a lock. The problem with an effect like this is that the ending is telegraphed to the audience the moment the premise is set up, so the unlocking of the lock is decidedly anti-climatic to say the least. However, Docc has wrapped a delightfully macabre routine around this old plot and added in a simple escape from chains wrapped around your wrist. The plot is terrific as the script makes the whole “testing of the keys” part of the routine riveting theater with a lot of suspense and black humor. The escape at the end is a great added climax. It’s a sensational routine and I’ve seen other performers use this almost verbatim and it transfers just fine out of Docc’s capable hands into another performer’s. Highly recommended. 9 out of 10.
So, realizing there are some absolutely great routines here along with others I did not care for. I will give this DVD a 8 out of 10, with the additional remark that if you’re looking for new or fancy routines, this is not for you. The biggest value is the scripting, particularly how Docc breathes new life into dusty old relics.
I’ll be back next week with the review for the second DVD in the series.