Thursday, September 27, 2012

MURDER is Back, The Joy of High School Performing and REVIEW: Dan Harlan's Bizarre Show DVD - Pack Flat Series

Hello all,

Well, the school season is in full swing. One market that many magicians always seem to overlook is the high school assembly market. With the right message and the right content in terms of effects, you can not only make a ton of money in this market but also have a really great time performing. High school audiences really enjoy mentalism and some of the more 'weird' kinds of effects out.

Two days ago, I did my first high school gig of the new school year. Not only did the PTO parents who booked the program have all kinds of great things to say about the program but several teens told me after the show how much they loved it.

Many magicians shy away from these shows because teens can be viewed as being a "difficult" audience, but with the right show, it can be the most rewarding experience you may ever have!

I've put my 15 years of high school performing experience into my latest product, "How to Make A Ton Of Money Performing in High Schools." You get my messages, my marketing, my complete lineups, emails, complete scripting and a total 'hot to' manual of high school performing! Check it out at Hocus Pocus!

Also, for a VERY LIMITED TIME ONLY, I have re-released Murder By Magic! It's up and available again at Hocus Pocus but it's ONLY going to be available until the end of this year, so take advantage of this RIGHT AWAY as this will be the very last time I ever offer...EVER. I debated with myself for months and finally gave in to the pressure from several magicians, but after this year ends, it will be gone FOREVER. Act now.:)

On to this week's review: It's Dan Harlan's Bizarre Show from the Pack Flat, Play Big DVD series. It's available from Hocus Pocus for $34.95.

MY THOUGHTS: Unlike many magicians, I got into Bizarre magic and mentalism before I got into closeup and kids' magic. As a result, when I see a good bizarre themed release, I really get excited. Over the years, Harlan has released a lot of good material. In fact, this DVD was apparently produced at the same time as the previous entries in the "Pack Flat" series. The setting is the same, with the most annoying L&L audience ever - the same group that was present for Dan's other DVDs. They even wear the same clothes, so I can only assume that was a LONG day for those people.:)

Interestingly, with Dan's newest Pack Flat releases (again, held back from nearly a decade ago when they were first filmed), the L&L group's reactions are more muted. For some of the gorier effects, many attendees turn away and actual applause is minimal...and all of this is to be expected at a Bizarre magic me, I know.:)

I'm going to go through each routine in turn and offer quick thoughts on each.

BOOK OF BLOOD: As the pages of this dusty old journal are flipped through, they gradually get bloodier and bloodier. As one might surmise from the video preview clip, this effect is based on a classic kids' effect. The way this principle is used here looks terrific. Interestingly, a Bizarre magician by the name of Joe Givan created a similar effect in Tony Andruzzi's New Invocation magazine from the late 80's/early 90's. Dan's construction is much easier than Joe's and the storyline is good, too. Big thumbs up from me. 10 out of 10.

NEEDLE THRU ARM: This is indeed the methodology for the Classic Needle Thru Arm made most famous by Harry Anderson. Dan's presentation is good and most importantly, he has a great script line that gives justification for the one key move in the routine. Dan even reveals how to make your own Needle, though I'm lazy and prefer to buy the prop.:) One caveat - Dan recommends a "certain something" that he feels makes the 'work' easier. I've got years of experience performing this effect and Dan's secret 'aide' actually makes the trick fail, and quickly, as it 'fails' in the explanation section. Over the years I too have used this secret something and it can foul up the trick. Therefore, I respectfully suggest you ignore this secondary secret 'aide' Dan recommends. For that reason, I can only give his teaching an 8 out of 10. It's great 'cept that faulty bit of advice. That being said, it's a classic effect.

PSYCHOTIC SURGERY: This is essentially a torn-n-restored card effect to give the audience a rest from the blood. While I agree with Dan's reasoning that you can't have gore in every routine, I felt that this torn and restored card effect was a yawner. 5 out of 10.

DEVILED EGG: This combines Dan's classic Starcle with an egg that emits blood when cracked well as a kicker ending involving a spectator and a knife. I felt the routine was OK until the end with the knife. I really think the routine sputtered to a close. I think the first two phases of the routine are quick good as Starcle is a classic and the visual of the 'blood egg' is great. 7 out of 10.

SHARP TASTE: This is Dan's solution to the razor blade mystery - eating blades, then eating thread, then causing the blades to be threaded when you pull them out. I've used a few different version of the razor blade effect over the years before finally settling on Steve Spill's needle routine, which is cleaner and safer than this effect. Dan's routine, while visually impressive (though not without flaws) is unbelievably dangerous. Dan warns viewers over and over how stupid one would be to do this routine and he's right. Dan's method is sooooooooooooooooooo dangerous that I cannot believe that he even put it on DVD. Much like the Russian Roulette routine put out by Larry Becker using guns, I cannot in any way shape or form recommend his method. ZERO out of 10 - only because it's soooooo dangerous and possibly deadly. Dumb method. There are so many safer ones out there, the best version that I've seen is Scott Alexander's The Blades - looks great and is safe. I prefer Steve Spill's needle routine. The point is, there are safer ways out there.

BABY BALLOON: The method for this "popped and restored" balloon effect is so easy that Dan devotes maybe one minute to it in the explanation. I thought the effect was just OK. The L&L audience didn't react much either. 3 out of 10.

PSYCHIC SURGERY: I'm amazed Dan put this in a show simply because it involves getting fake blood all over the stomach of a volunteer! Interestingly, I myself have performed this years ago a few times for teen audiences. Long story short, on the FOX TV network, they once ran a special and it was called "Psychic Secrets Revealed" or something to that effect - this was at least 12 years ago, maybe more. In the special, secrets of fraud mediums were revealed as well as Psychic Surgery complete with authentic footage of 'healers' doing this to take advantage of grief stricken people trying to heal a very sick loved one.

The history of this fraud is amazing and the script, if you choose to perform this, writes itself. In essence, it appears that you perform a real 'surgery' on a volunteer! This is very freaky when done properly. Dan's version simultaneously adds a classic magic prop and handling to make the routine easier to manage but the 'innards' that Dan pulls out is pretty innocuous. That being said, Dan adds a lot to the handling that I wish I had thought of back when I was performing this. 10 out of 10, with the huge caution of staining a person's clothes - if ever there was a good time for a shill, THIS is it. While no one has to be 'in on it' and it will work with a cold spectator who is unprepared, the likelihood of staining clothes means it's best to rehearse with someone before the show!

THE SPIDER AND THE FLY: A delightful poen frames this ring and rope routine. Similar to the ring and rope penetration routine on Jeff McBride's Commando Act, this looked good and was a more suitable 'break from the gore' than the torn card routine earlier. The rope representing the web of the spider in the poem actually works well.

OVERALL RATING: While there were a few items I did not care for and one that I REALLY recommend you do NOT do because of the danger, the 'thumbs up' routines nudges me to a good rating of 8 out of 10. I enjoyed this DVD and for the RIGHT AUDIENCE, many of the routines can be a lot of fun.

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