Sunday, February 5, 2012

REVIEW: Curse of Monster Mentalism

Hi Everyone,

This week's review picks up where last week left off. We move to Volume 2 of Docc Hilford's "Monster Mentalism" series of DVDs. It's available for $34.95 from Hocus Pocus.

Here's the ad copy:

Docc Hilford is the crazed creator of the renowned Cassandra Deck, author of over 30 books on mentalism and consultant for a dozen television shows. He's joined by professional mentalist David Alexander to discuss the psychology behind each piece. Monster Mentalism is an astonishing collection of useable effects and the diabolical methods that have made Docc Hilford infamous.

Volume 2 - Curse of Monster Mentalism

Mentalism is killing people -- but not in a good way. Death by dullness. However a MONSTER is loose. A creature that's set on revenge. Vowing to destroy a contemporary tediousness that's growing like a cancer.

Tear away from the safety of your father's mentalism. Give yourself completely to the curse. Become one of us . . .

Nightmare Coin -- Have you ever dreamt you walked past an empty house at night? Have you ever been unable to wake up from a nightmare? From the acclaimed book, Band of the Hand, comes a chilling routine that turns a spectator's ethereal dream into a solid, spendable nightmare!

Rasputin's Secret -- The man who couldn't die! Rasputin used a palace as a playground. His unbridled lust and alcoholic gluttony knew no bounds. His surreptitious secret, and a special deck of cards, allowed him to know the past, the present and the future. Information that freed him from the mundane laws of society. Now you can possess his secret . . . his life style . . . and his deck! IMPORTANT NOTICE: This specialized deck still sells for $25. Tell no one.

For One to End -- Do you believe that speaking certain words can influence a person's thoughts? One man did and used his awesome ability to wreak havoc throughout a quiet seaside resort. Psychic expert Banachek declares Docc Hilford's original technique to be, ". . . one of the strongest psychological subtleties in print today!" See the unedited, director's cut.

40,000 Words -- Like a brain that will not die, this hoax will assault your senses with a barrage of clandestine information. Psychically removing a mentally selected word from a spectator's brain will propose no problems, but can it be done without des­troying the surrounding living tissue? You must see this!

Rhineless ESP -- A quiet laboratory. A simple test between two people. And a mental power so astounding that when unleashed, it threatens to destroy an entire university. See this with someone you love so they won't have to suffer through another night of the dreaded Two-Person-Code!

1 in 10 -- See that man? He's different. He makes remarkable statements, boasts incredible intelligence and successfully demonstrates his claims. But he has something normal men don't -- the incredible power to erase your memory, leaving only facts he wishes you to retain. Now even the simplest card tricks hold dreadful intensity. WARNING: This routine contains powerful concepts and is intended for use by responsible individuals.

As I wrote last week, this DVD series features effects performed in front of the ever-overacting L&L group. I should also point out that most of the time, the effects are presented out of other words, in one sequence, Docc may be standing performing a parlor or 'stage' effect then the DVD cuts to a crowd reaction shot of applause and then we see Docc seated at a table preparing to perform a close up set. This is a tad unfortunate because from my perspective, seeing a pro transition from one effect to another in a set list would be invaluable in addition to seeing said performer perform and get a sense of why s/he puts their routines in the sequence they do. (As we had the opportunity to do with Max maven's Nothing performance).

Be that as it may, there are some gems in each DVD as well as a few things I did not care for.

Let's go through each effect in turn...

NIGHTMARE COIN: Essentially, this is a story-telling routine that links to three invisible (as in just talked about) coins and one real coin is produced from thin air, the one a spectator chooses.

From a story telling standpoint, this routine is terrific. The effect, a production of a coin selected by a spectator, is an OK effect. It didn't blow me away but it was very nice. This routine is anchored by a strong story which illustrates why Docc is so charismatic.

The workings of the routine from a technical standpoint are not difficult at all. Good effect, better routine...this is one I'd probably find a different "trick" to use with the story. Docc's was just fine, but to my tastes, all of the build up could be better spent on a more appealing effect. I should also point out that I'm not a coin guy. Other than a good 3 Fly routine, most coin work bores me to tears, so I'm not exactly objective.

My rating: 5/10. Four of the points were for the story and Docc's acting.

RASPUTIN'S SECRET: This is a mentalism card effect wrapped around the tale of Rasputin. Honestly, if I try to recap the effect, I'll just muck it up, so I'll skip to the chase and say it's a mind reading trick done with a gimmicked deck. I don;t mind spilling the beans on that because Docc's ad copy mentions that the trick deck is still sold for $25. He tips the workings here, so you can decide for yourself whether to buy it or make it.

Honestly, after watching the effect several times, I personally felt it was a bit on the convoluted side, so I'm even habing trouble recalling it.

I am also not opposed to mentalism with cards, but I feel the most straightforward effect possible is preferable. I did not care for this at all. Docc has a much better card effect on this very DVD that I loved.

My rating: 2/10.

FOR ONE TO END: This effect is based on that old psychological force where you tell someone to name a number between 1 and 4 and most of the time a person says "3." Then you turn over your little card and it says, "Why does everyone pick 3?" (In more crass versions, the card says something like "Why do all jerks pick 3?" Ugh.)

In Docc's version, he's added some nice psychological subtleties to guarantee 'success' even when another number is named. The degree of perceived 'success' depends on which number is named, but there are outs for every number. The entire presentation is wrapped around the idea of subliminal advertising. It's a fascinating topic, one I explored for a couple of projects when I was in college.

It's easy to see Docc put a lot of work into this and the premise is fasconating, but ultimately, it's a one out of four choice. I wasn't blown away, but I didn't hate it. Ultimately I was not motivated to work on this myself, so to me it's a miss.

If you're hanging around a group of people and your are the psychological type of mentalist as opposed to a 'psychic' in terms of presentation, you may want to work with this.

My rating: 5/10.

40,000 WORDS: In essence, this is a book test done with a dictionary that is gimmicked. You must gimmick it yourself and once you get into it, you'll see that this gimmick is not something you can whip out in a couple of minutes. It's a pain in the butt not because of any technical demands but only because it will take time and Docc almost admits as much, but once done, you'll have a helluva book test. The presentation is masterful, too.

To add even more intrigue, the chosen words can be different every performance - in other words, no force.

Docc gives a lot of great tips on when to do the dirty work, the psychology, even where your eyes look. Great, great stuff here. Reviewing it again, I really MUST put one of these together as I enjoy book tests.

I'd give it a perfect 10, but it does have some angle issues so instead I'll bump it down to...

My rating: 9/10.

To expand on those angle thoughts, you can mask the 'issue' fairly easily but I would not try it surrounded. If you're in a parlor or stage situation and you're not surrounded, you'll be fine. From my standpoint as a working pro, I'm just fine with it, but I know a lot of people are looking for things you can do informally for your friends and this most assuredly will NOT fit the bill as no way can this book test be examined.

Honestly, this is so good it's worth the price of the DVD.

RHINELESS ESP: This is a simple effect with ESP cards and a very simple two-person code. It's so simple that this is one of those things you could teach the CEO of a company to do with you on stage. I personally am against trying to teach a member of an adult party anything (too much distraction, booze, etc) but the idea of the CEO reading minds during your act has great marketing potential.

The flip side is adults in corporate situations love to blab, so if you're going to do this, you'll really have to do your best to convince him not to blab the secret.

Of course, if you have a partner with you, all of this is moot as you have a pretty cool two person mindreading routine you can do just about anywhere. Zero angle problems and it's really easy to learn.

You can apply this to other effects, but due to the nature of the system, your list of possible choices is other words, you can't do this with all 52 cards out of a deck of cards but the principal could be applied to another small list of 5 or so objects, potentially, though it's really designed for an ESP deck.

1 IN 10: This was one of the highlights of the entire series for me. Essentially what happens is a spectator simply thinks of a card (really, no force) and you think of a card. You spread a deck of cards face up and give the spectator 10 chances to pluck your card out of the spread. Of course the spectator fails and then you spread the deck facedown on the table and reach down and pick up the spectator's card.

Sounds incredible, doesn't it? It is.

Granted, as with all things Docc Hilford, there is a lot more going on than what I just described, but if done correctly, all the spectators should perceive is what I typed. This is really a master class in spectator management in terms of what they recall, how you can influence them to forget things and so much more.

I LOVED this routine. Docc took around 10-15 minutes explaining the nuances of this routine in the explanation section and there he claims when he does this in a lecture setting, it's an hour just on this routine. I'd LOVE to sit in on that hour!

The only potential drawback is that the routine is long and the whole process of the spectator trying ten times to pick your card could draw out too long in the wrong hands, so this routine requires your "A" game in terms of pacing and management. The physical work is very easy. I feel this is a classic.

My rating: 10/10.

Once again, there were highly rated items on this DVD and low rated items. Be that as it may, I'm going to give the overall rating of this DVD a 9 out of 10. Despite what I felt were a few "misses," the 40,000 Word routine and 1 in 10 are sooooo worth the asking price. Rhineless ESP is pretty good too.

Next Week: Volume 3 of Monster Mentalism!


Cris Johnson

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