Monthly archives for April, 2010

Cellular Mitosis 2 by Docc Hilford

Howdy, everyone!

A quick few housekeeping thoughts…

I’m having a NEW contest! Starting the moment you read this to the end of May, I will be giving away a FREE prize to the person who can encourage the MOST sign-ups for my free monthly ezine, “Cause & Effects.” Simply email your fellow magicians and get them to signup by sending an email to: crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net. Ask them to put YOUR email address in the body of the email. Something like, “Hey Cris, I want your free ezine. I was referred by charllie@charliefakewebsite.com. That way I can track how many signups I get from each person.

The winner gets a nifty prize! More than likely the prize will be my new book, long overdue, but I’m nearly done. It’s called “Cause & Effects Volume 1″ and it’s full of GREAT routines from my own act(s).

On to this week’s review…

It’s CM2: Cellular Mitosis 2 by Docc Hilford. It’s available for $44.95 at Hocus Pocus. Here’s the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=11249

THE EFFECT: A man thinks of any word, date, or number. He concentrates and waits until needed. A woman thinks of a friend’s phone number. The mentalist tries to dial the number on his phone.

He creates a true drama by revealing each numeral, stumbling, recovering and finally succeeding to cheers! years of actual performing has created a script that guarantees and audience reaction. The friend is called and the mentalist asks for the friend BY NAME.

Although a clever billet maneuver may explain how the mentalist knows the friend’s name, the is NO EXPLANATION to his knowing ten different digits in the friend’s phone number. Something much too large to memorize in a glance. So far this good, solid mind reading, but here is something completely new to mentalist!

The mentalist lets the two friends chat on the phone, then gives the phone to the man. At that point, the friend IMMEDIATELY REVEALS THE MAN’S THOUGHT! That’s right. A chosen friend reads a random mind. All three people are COMPLETELY UNKNOWN TO THE MENTALIST!

The illusion is perfect. Absolutely chilling!

WHAT YOU GET: A 20 page booklet.

MARKET: I wouldn’t do this for day care centers.:) In all seriousness, this is great for corporate work or any adult gathering. I haven’t tried it on high school audiences yet as I personally feel it may play too slow, but I could be wrong.

DIFFICULTY: Last week I reviewed Cellular Mitosis (the first one) and mentioned that the technical work was rather easy, but the acting is what made it truly difficult to do well. CM2 is harder on the technical side and slightly easier on the acting side.

ANGLES: With billet work, there are some angle considerations, but these concerns are minimal, especially from the stage. Bob Cassidy and Richard Osterlind both have spoken on how the boldest of moves can be hidden by simply moving. Cassidy in particular had a great quote, saying he could probably nail write the Declaration of Independence with all of the walking around he does.

Even in a small “living room” show, the angles are extremely manageable.

INSTRUCTION: Docc does a good job of explaining the psychology and reasoning behind everything he does and a slighty less good job explaining the technical moves. In some cases he references some of his other published works for insight on physical actions for the routine. This was a little annoying, but considering this routine is intended for mentalists with a LOT of experience, it is warranted to simply refer to other work, both his own and general stuff by others.

In a very helpful move, he includes with this booklet a complete transcript of the routine from a gig he did in front of 300 people. It really gives you a feel for how it plays, Docc’s personality, performing style, humor, and flow of the routine. It’s a fantastically useful tool.

MY THOUGHTS: There is some billet work involved with this, so if you’re comfortable with billet work, you’ll have no problem with this in a technical sense. Now, I’m going to go off on a bit of a tangent as I address some of the features of this.

First of all, I feel that it’s difficult to pull off billet work and to keep the show entertaining. Asking people to write out thoughts on little pieces of paper can really drag down a show if you’re not up to truly being entertaining. The journey is part of the process, not just the climax. I’ve seen professional mentalists absolutely die on stage as the person writes down their thoughts, especially during a Q & A act where there’s a lot of writing going on in the audience.

Some mentalists excell at keeping the energy of a show high during this writing business. Lee Earle is a master at this, as I’ve seen him lecture and hold everyone’s attention. Docc Hilford is another. Unlike most stuffy, pretentious mentalists, Docc is a true master at rapport and he’s unbelievably charismatic and charming. I recently re-watched his “Monster Mentalism” DVDs (review will come) and he was just awesome to watch interact with people.

So, the true challenge with this type of work is keeping the energy of the show moving during all of this writing business. I’ve presented Bob Cassidy’s “4th Dimensional Telepathy” 3-envelope test for over 10 years and while it’s strong mentalism, you have to REALLY work to keep the show energy high. I can do it well and others can, but readers of this blog will have to answer that question for themselves.

Incidentally, for at least one phase of this, you can also use a peek wallet or special envelope to get secret access to some of the information.

OK, now I’ve covered the billet work, or at least my thoughts. The actual phone number revelation psychology Docc provides is sound, as he gives specific advice on the actual step by step revelation and how to make it strong theater. Good stuff.

Next, the whole claim of the actual friend of the spectator’s friend being the one who’s spoken to on the phone is true…mostly. That friend is indeed spoken to…for part of the routine. The friend will be told that he/she “will not remember” part of the conversation, specifically the part where he/she tells the other spectator (the one thinking of the random thought) what he is thinking.

Read between the lines on what I just wrote, as I do not want to overtly state what’s going on, and while I feel this whole approach does indeed make CM2 superior to the original CM, it does make it a bit easier to reverse engineer the whole thing.

Essentially, without being specific, there’s some dual reality going on for part of the routine. This approach in mentalism has really gained in popularlity in recent years and it’s easy to see the appeal, as apparent miracles are possible.

However, one thing to consider is the fact that after the show, people will indeed talk, and the there’s a chance the whole house of cards could fall apart. I personally do not like it when one or two people experience a different effect than the rest of the audience for the afore mentioned reason.

That’s why I do not do pre-show work of any kind…people talk. Richard Osterlind shares my view…with pre-show work, most of the time mentalists employ clever doublespeak so the audience is led to believe there was NO pre-show, but a simple question or two after the show will kill this fast. especially at a corporate event where most people know each other.

Please understand these are my views, and may not apply to you.

With all of that in mind, I feel CM2 is a good routine and well worth your consideration.

I’m going to give it an 8 out of 10. It addresses some of the shortcomings of the first CM booklet, but the true challenge of this routine is keeping the energy of the show up high during the ‘set-up’ portions of the routine. In other words, to paraphrase Eugene Burger, the challenge is making the journey interesting, not just the destination.

If you can make the journey interesting, this is a 10.

That’s it for this week. Next week, another review, so stay tuned! In the coming weeks, look for reviews on Gremlins in a Box (I’ve been rehearsing all week, wayyy cool), “Crush” and many more.

Send any review requests to crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net.

Best,

Cris Johnson

Docc Hilford’s Cellular Mitosis

Hello all,

I have to say, I’m truly touched by the number of new signups for my new magic ezine, “Cause & Effects,” this week. The next issue is a good one, with an article by yours truly on how Alfred Hitchcock’s views on suspense can help your magic! I’ve also got the next 11 issues planned. The Hitchcock article comes out on or about May 1st, so sign up now – shoot me an email at crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net.

Other notes…

I continue to be thankful for the sound Controller by Jim Kleefeld. I’ve used it about 40 times or so since my review and I still love it. One of the problems with the Virtual Soundman was fading music. With Kleefeld’s device, this is not a problem. I love it!

This past week, I had the pleasure of working five gigs in Canada. For each gig, I opened the show with the Mindreading Goose. Since I play my show for laughs, it’s perfect for me because it establishes my character right away. It’s been a great investment for me.

On to this week’s review. I figured this week I would take a (temporary) break from reviewing the higher priced items and take a look at a little booklet that’s been on my shelf for a few years.

Docc Hilford’s Cellular Mitosis. It’s available at Hocus Pocus for $39.95. Check out the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=5985

THE EFFECT: A spectator is asked to think of any thought. It can be a name, a place, a date, a number, a color, any thought at all. A phone number is randomly selected from any phonebook. THERE IS NO FORCE OF THE NAME OR NUMBER FROM THE BOOK! The person is called and asked to guess at what the spectator is thinking. The person NAMES THE THOUGHT!! The spectator speaks to the randomly slected person and he tells the spectator exactly what he’s thinking!

WHAT YOU GET: A thin booklet that outlines the effect in detail, along with a couple of nifty bonus effects. The ad copy describes the bonus effects, so I won’t get into it here.

ANGLES: Like a lot of mentalism, angles are quite solid here. Docc mentions the need to secretly access information and gives several ways to do so. The angles depend on the method used to get the information. Personally, I use a peek wallet, but there are other choices.

INSTRUCTION: Docc leaves no stone unturned as he lays it all out, especially the psychology on exactly why this is so strong.

AD COPY: Docc is known for bending the truth or at least the reader’s perceptions, in his ad copy. The strength of the effect is very good, but it will not satisfy all of the criteria he highly touts in his ad copy. In other words, of all of the wonderful traits of this effect, all are satisfied in actual use, but not all at the same time and not all together. Which traits are satisfied depend on what direction the spectator goes with the effect.

Confused?

So was I. Docc defends himself by talking about people’s perceptions and how everything seems so fair due to the psychology involved and so on. I certainly understand it and as a Certified Stage Hypnotist and Certified Master Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, I certainly agree with most if not all of the terrific psychological nuances he uses to acheive his effect.

That being said, I feel the ad copy is considerably less than honest because purchasers of the effect would read his sensationalistic claims and judge them in one way. We’re performers, looking for, as Rick Maue so eloquently put it in one of his books, for “the perfect lie.”

In wording his ad copy as he did, Docc is purposefully taking advantage of the perceptions of his potential buyers. I feel it’s dishonest. “Know thy customer!” is a rule of basic marketing.

Nevertheless, this is STILL a worthy effect.

DIFFICULTY: Here’s where things get sticky. From a technical standpoint, this is a very easy effect to accomplish. In my opinion, however, there is NEVER anything easy in performing. There is always a price to be paid – if you’re not busting your fingers doing a Faro shuffle, you’ve got memory work. If you don’t have memory work, you’ve got to present the thing in a compelling manner and on and on.

In this case, the real work comes from acting. You have to sell this effect with every ounce of your ability. If you don’t, you’re dead.

In some of the cases when you perform this, you’ll be performing by using one of your friends on the phone. In those cases, the acting is a bit easier. In other cases, when you truly do call any person from any phone book, your acting must be several levels higher to truly pull this off.

Before you buy this, consider yourself and your actig skills. If you truly have nerves of steel, this may be for you. If not, you may want to think about it.

THE FINAL VERDICT: I’ve performed this several times and it really does play strong in most of the cases I’ve used this. I like it, but since much of the effect involves the use of a phone, there are times I can’t use it – maybe the reception is bad in the boardroom I’m performing in, or maybe the audience just doesn’t feel right…if you’ve performed professionally for any length of time, you know what I mean by reading an audience like this.

In summation, I’ll just say that this is a nice “B” effect for me – I’ll pull it out for repeat audiences, but it’s never in my ‘starting lineup,’ so to speak. With that in mind, you may feel differently. If you’re the kind of performer who loves to take chances, loves a challenge and truly loves acting, this may be for you.

It has a lot going for it, in that if you’ve prepared, you can do this virtually anywhere, anytime. The angle considerations are almost non-existent, depending on your stealth method of choice and it does play strong.

With that in mind, and with a full acknowledgement that this type of review is very subjective, I’ll give this a 7 out of 10. I cautiously recommend it while stressing the need for guts and acting chops. I took a couple of points off for the less-than-honest ad copy.

Next week, I’ll tackle Cellular Mitosis 2, also by Docc Hilford, which address many of the shortcomings of this effect. Stay tuned!

Comments? Questions? Email me at crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net.

Best,

Cris

Freakey by Greg Wilson

Howdy, loyal readers, Cris Johnson here.

I’ve been greatly encouraged by the number of new sign-ups for my ezine, “Cause & Effects.” Each month, it brings you magic philosophy, performing tips, marketing advice, traveling tips for pros, and much more. The May issue will feature my article on how Alfred Hitchcock’s view of suspense can enhance certain effects in your act.

It’s FREE – just send an email to crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net.

On to this week’s review – Freakey by Greg Wilson. Available for $94.95 from Hocus Pocus here: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=8467

This little package esentially is a new way of presenting a copper & silver routine, with no shells or need for a “bang ring” to retrieve your gimmick coin.

EFFECT: A copper key and a silver key switch places under the fairest conditions, even in the spectator’s hand.

WHAT YOU GET: You get a very nice keyfob to hold the three keys – an ungimmicked silver key, ungimmicked copper key and the gimmicked silver/copper key. In addition, you receive a small drawstring bag to hold the keys. You also receive a DVD with a zillion routines, not only by Greg Wilson but also other contributers including Max Maven and John Kennedy, among others.

INSTRUCTION: First rate productions featuring Greg and his girlfriend through most of the video. Everything was shot in front of a black backdrop which really seems to suck the life out of the picture, but the quality was still good and Greg is an enthusiastic and charismatic host.

ANGLES: Many of the handlings feature moves which can be done surrounded, while a few use the “paddle move” and a couple of other sleights which require a bit of care, but still, this prop and the routines were primarily designed for real-world working conditions in less-than-ideal conditions. In short, you’ll have little angle concerns, especially considering there are so many fully thought-out routines.

DURABILITY: The gimmicked key is extremely well-made and with care, will last a lifetime. Greg cautions users to be careful using the keys in moves where they scrape against each other, or some of the coating may be scraped off. With that in mind, this is not a prop I would throw into a prop case or drawer to be tossed about.

MY THOUGHTS: I really wanted to like this more than I did. I guess my biggest problem with this was the fact that in most of the routines, it’s still two keys switching places. It’s an easy-to-follow plot, essential for many close-up workers working in the real world. However, it’s still a ‘gotcha’ type of routines, meaning it’s very easy for the magician to come off as a snot – “look, I fooled you again!”

Am I saying this is a bad investment? No way. It’s a classic plot, made better by using keys as opposed to odd coins. It boils down to certain effects and props ‘sticking’ with me more than others. In other words, to really give such a well-produced product its due, you’ll need to put some serious work into the scripting and/or your character to avoid coming off as a know-it-all.

Max Maven’s routine, in particular, seems to address this problem as he uses an ‘influence’ type of presentation.

I probably tried four or five different presentations (some of Greg’s, some of my own), but like some effects, it just did not ‘sing’ for me.

THE STRENGTHS: Because I was less than thrilled with my own results with Freakey, I do still want to focus on the positive qualities, as there is a LOT of negativity by other reviewers of magic in the world. So here’s some strengths of Freakey…

On different forums, many magicians seem to have a primary concern about whether people can examine props, how tight are the angles and other questions of a technical nature. With Freakey, you can absolutely pass things out to be examined by use of some simple switches (especially because you have two ungimmicked keys) and with some routines, the gimmicked key is openly shown and handed out. Like I said, it’s all in the routining, more with this effect than perhaps anything else I’ve reviewed thus far.

Also, as I’ve addressed previously, there is no re-set. I dropped the original “Scotch & Soda” coin effect from my close-up act years ago because I wanted an act with zero re-set as I went from table to table and this routine definitely addresses those concerns for the pros out there.

The props are also well-made. No cheap plastic here, folks. The DVD has an ‘extra’ in which Greg leads you through the production facility to illustrate how much went into the props.

Finally, it’s logical. As Greg addresses in the ad copy, who really carries around oddball coins/ Only magicians. The keys really lend itself to an “impromptu” type of performance, especially when you’re out and about and someone, upon learning you’re a magician, says, “Show me something.”

THE WEAKNESSES: As I see it, any routine of this nature suffers from a few potential (stressing the word POTENTIAL) weaknesses.

First, if we accept that there are only 13 or so basic effects in magic, some effects can be perceived as stronger than others. For instance, in my own work, in close-up, I have instances of PK activity, close-up levitations and more during my work. After all of that material, causing two keys to switch places seemed like a letdown to my audiences. Just to stress, it may play great for YOU – we are all different, and I just lost motivation after a while with this effect. It happens.

A second possible weakness – with many routines of this type, you’re constantly showing the audience that they are wrong. This can be very adversarial. Again, with great scripting, this can be overcome. I just decided I wanted to devote my energies elsewhere and gave up on this effect.

FINAL THOUGHTS: I can certainly recommend Freakey if you enjoy this type of routine. The props are REALLY well made and Greg provides you with at least a dozen variations, if not more. The instruction is superb. As I said, it comes down to scripting.

I’ve bent over backwards to stress I just lost motivation with this package and continue to stress that in your hands it can be a winner. I’ll give it a 7 out of 10 – fantastic value as far as quality, but the buyer should be aware that tight scripting or at least good adaptation of Greg’s routines to your own character is definitely needed to make this work for you.

Until next time,

Send any comments, review requests to crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net.

Best,

Cris Johnson

No Smoking by Puck

Hello all!

This blog is a bit late this week – without going into details, it’s been a personally trying week, but I won’t get into that here.

Housekeeping…I have officially launched my new ezine called “Cause & Effects.” Each month it will feature one long form article, on performing magic, performing philosophy, reviews of other effects not carried by Hocus Pocus, my own personal routines, marketing and much more.

Each issue will also have, when readers respond, a special “Q & A” section where they can ask me literally anything under the sun. I’m a full-time performer traveling North America from coast to coast and I make a comfortable six-figure income so I feel it’s time for me to ‘give back’ to magic.

Suscription is absolutely FREE – just send an email to crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net. I’ve got the next four issues planned. The articles will be:

1. “What Can Alfred Hitchcock Teach Us About Magic?”
2. What does your audience REALLY want?”
3. When to Tell, When NOT to Tell…”
4. “Magic For All Occasions VS Being a Specialist – Reality VS Perception”

It’s REALLY good stuff plus it’s free!!

On to this week’s review…

This week, I’m tackling “No Smoking” by Puck, released by Bob Kohler. You can buy it directly from Hocus Pocus and the linkis here: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=12229

At a retail price of $599.95, this is intended for professionals and it shows.

THE EFFECT: You walk out onstage and smoke your thumb! Without any visible means, you ‘puff” your thumb and smoke comes out of your mouth! On top of that, a pack of cigarettes is introduced. Upon opeing them, you pull out a beautiful ‘No Smoking’ silk and drape it over an empty wine glass. When the silk is removed, the glass is full of safe, non-toxic smoke!

WHAT YOU GET: The very special glass, the smoking gimmick, a 9 volt battery, the No Smoking Silk, special fluid, and a full instructional DVD.

DURABILITY: I travel a lot so having props that are well made is my primary concern. this stuff is built to LAST. Don’t abuse it and it should last a lifetime. In other words, keep the props in the durable cardboard box when going from show to show in your prop case or roll-on table and you’ll be fine. If you just toss the glass in with your other props, well, it deserves to be broken. This is high quality stuff that will last if you care for it.

ANGLES: Angles are extremely forgiving. As the ad copy states, about the only way you can get busted is if someone’s right behind you. Very good, indeed.

DIFFICULTY: There is, as mentioned in the ad copy, really only one ‘move’ or grip. The rest is choreography, like learning dance steps. The video makes it look much harder than it really is, which is a credit to Puck. The sleight of hand is fairly minimal, and if put the work in, you’ll be fine. The smoking wineglass is unbelievably easy to activate, as you’re completely motivated in all that you do in the routine and your angles are completely covered as far as the glass is concerned. Like even the easiest, most self-working effects though, you’ll need to rehearse…not because it’s diffcult (it isn’t) but because any magic effect deserves practice to do well and comfortably.

MARKETS: I believe this routine will play great for adult or college audiences and with some VERY careful scripting, family and/or school audiences. I’ve tested it, spoke to clients after the show, and yes, it will play in schools WITH proper scripting and most importantly, proper context. That’s all I’m going to say on that, as it took me months to develop a routine I felt comfortable doing in schools, and even then only for upper grades.

INSTRUCTION: You may be tired of hearing this, but Bob Kohler produces, in my opinion, the BEST instructional DVDs in the entire market. Which reminds me…

I hate Puck.

Yup, I said it, now let me explain why.

You see, most of the public perseives magicians to be socially inept creepy dudes. Look at TV shows or movies where a magician is featured in a prominent role. (TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in particular, had one cringe-worthy dork magician on the show once.)

So why do I hate Puck?

The man is smooth, sophisticated-looking and extremely talented. Plus, he exudes ‘cool’ without trying and he even smiles during his performance! So many cool magicians glare at the audience or camera, but Puck is welcoming with his smile & eyes.

After watching him perform the smoke routine, I thought, ‘I’ve never heard of this guy. This non-famous guy is too damn good. Maybe he will be limited vocally.’

Nope – Puck’s instructions are spot-on, very thorough, and a few times had me laugh out loud.

Puck is the full package – a suave, talented guy who blew my doors off and put out a great routine.

I’m so jealous…but I don’t really hate Puck, either.:)

To recap, the instructional DVD is fantastic. puck (real name, William Puckering) goes through the construction/development of the gimmicks, the choreography, lighting concerns, lighting the smoke thumb gimmick in the middle of the show and so much more. Fantastic guy.

MY OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: The reason why this particular review (and many of my reviews deal with stuff that’s been out a while) is I try not to review something until I’ve performed it myself. (In some cases, as with a book full of 300 effects, that’s not feasible).

I recently began performing No Smoking after a ton of practice and development of a routine. Puck’s handling is great, but for reasons I will not address right here, I elected to use this routine primarily as a speaking performance, so it took my longer to get it down.

The gimmick that causes you to aparently smoke your thumb handles like a dream. The glass is a freakin’ miracle, as it’s essentially a mini-fog machine. This is great technology folks.

The only thing I was not thrilled about with the glass is the fact that when it’s activated during the routine, there is a slight ‘popping’ sound which is normal, as Puck explains on the DVD. This sound means that, in my opinion, even if you elect to speak during this routine as I did, you’ll need background music to mask the sound. Don’t worry – the sound is not terribly loud and since this is intended for a stage or larger parlor setting, it’s not a big deal. In someone’s living room, well, you may want to skip the glass.

As far as the smoking thumb, Puck does indeed give you a resource for non-tobacco products for use with this. Be forewarned, though, that even the non-tobacco, non-nicotine resources do still produce smoke, so you may want to forewarn your clients just to be safe.

When I was rehearsing this the other day, I practiced the routine like a dozen times with a smoke detector right above my head and it was not til number 13 (go figure) that I finally set it off. Still, I advise caution just to protect yourself from embarrassment if nothing else. We’re not talking huge amount of smoke, so you’ll be fine if you use common sense.

Getting back to the non-tobacco, non-nicotine options, it’s an overseas, non-US based company, but their customer service is great. I had my package in about a week.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Readers of my reviews know I primarily base my rating on how the audience responds and I’m pleased to say this went over VERY well. I put it in the middle of my show, but I agree with Puck that it could be a fantastic opener. After getting feedback from several audience members – mostly cries of “how’d you do that?” I can say that this is a 10 out of 10. Bob Kohler has done it again. Additionally I’d love to see what Puck next offers the magic community.

Questions? Comments? Review requests? Email me at crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net.

Liquid Metal DVD…and Banachek’s metal-bending DVD

Howdy, everyone!

Have you ever traveled so much that you didn’t know where you were?

This past week, I was walking from my hotel to a restaurant across the street and I noticed the gas station. I felt the gas prices were lower than what I was used to at home (I live in NY – High gas prices!!) and I wondered, “What state am I in?” This struck me as hilarious!

Housekeeping: My contest to name my new ezine is over. The winner, Terrance, should be receiving his prize in the mail any time now. The name of the ezine is “Cause & Effects,” which I thought was completely appropriate.

Jump on the mailing list – it’s free and each month it will have articles on performing philosophy, marketing tips, Q & A from subscribers and more. I’m always looking to expand, so just send an email to crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net and you’re IN – easy!

Today’s review: Liquid Metal DVD. It’s $29.95 and is available from Hocus Pocus at this link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=8147

WHAT YOU GET: A DDVD that teaches a variety of fork metal bending that’s woven into one routine that ends with the fork mangled and twisted in every which way and can be handed out as a very unique souvenir.

QUALITY: The production quality of the DVD is superb. It’s well lit from a production standpoint and the routine is taught is detail, with multiple camera angles, closeups and more.

MY THOUGHTS: There’s a lot about this that I like. First of all, the DVD’s creator, Morgan Strebler, explains that what he was really looking for was a way to hand out a piece is sculpture as a souvenir after the routine is over. I think this is a really neat idea and if one were so inclined, you could have stickers made up with your contact info on your forks so that when you handed the fork out…well, you get the idea. I imagine one could also have the forks engraved, etched or otherwise customized with your info for the same marketing benefit.

CREDITS: Morgan does a good job crediting his sources for putting this routine together. He (rightfully) credits Banachek as having been the most successful influence on his metal bending.

ANGLES: With this routine (like many) you’re using ungimmicked, off-the-shelf forks, so there are no extra gimmicks to hide and take away during the routine. While there are “moves” to be sure, Morgan designed this for use on the street and in other demanding closeup or “commando” situations.

MY OVERALL THOUGHTS – THE GOOD: There’s quite a bit I like about this routine and a few glaring things I just thought were really bad. First, the good.

The majority of this routine will play REALLY well, and is really well thought out. Again, I feel the idea of giving away a twisted, mangles fork as a souvenir is really cool.

A big caveat – with this routine, each time you do it, you’re completely mangling a fork to the point where it can never be used again. Obviously, if you do this routine a lot, you’re going to need to carry several forks with you during the course of an evening, assuming you’re going from group to group or table to table, as many of us do. We may wind up doing an effect 20 or 30 times over the course of an evening, so having a steady supply of forks is a concern. To me, it’s a GREAT idea and well worth the expense, but you’ll have to make the decision for yourself.

As far as the actual instruction, Morgan goes to the trouble of having a “newbie,” someone who has never done the routine before, learn the routine under Morgan’s watchful eye and careful instruction.

To me, it was quite fascinating watching this guy struggle at first and eventully “get it” and begin to grasp the concepts. Cool, unique approach to instruction.

MY OVERALL THOUGHTS – THE BAD: Before I get into what I didn’t like, let me preface this by saying I’ve been doing the Banachek fork routine for ten years, so I’m a bit biased and feel it’s a routine that is nearly perfect in every way. That being said, Morgan has taken a couple of moves and gone backwards, in my opinion, in terms of thinking for this type of routine.

First, there is a particular move where the fork is held up directly in front of a spectator’s eyes and it starts to visibly melt in plain sight.

It’s a cool moment, but when I say “directly in front of a spectator’s eyes,” I mean it literally – you’re holding the fork an inch or two in front of the person’s eyes. This is a bit disorienting (to say the least) and to make matters worse, the workings of this segment necessitate the fact that you must move the fork QUICKLY into this position.

What this means is the fact that the spectator may flinch and/or feel as though his/her personal space is being invaded. I can’t see myself doing something like this, but if you can, so be it. For the corporate clients I perform for, I feel this would be viewed as intrusive at best and rude at worst.

The second move I am extremely critical of involves the bending of the times of the fork. The way Banachek presents it, the spectators SEE the tine of the fork SLOWLY bend down. Banachek even gives tips for performing this on television. It’s breathtaking in its beauty and simplicity.

Morgan has taken Banachek’s concept of the tine or tines bending (more than one) and changed the handling so that the banding of the tines is seen after the fact. In other words, with Morgan’s handling, you do not get that beautiful slo-mo bending of the tines, which I can say after ten years of experience, is one of the most effective, visual and amazing things I’ve ever done for closeup audiences.

Morgan’s changing of the tine bending is a change that did not need to be made, in my opinion.

FINAL THOUGHTS: I personally still feel that Banachek’s routine is the best, even after all these years, but Morgan’s is certainly more spectatcular and the spectator winds up with a really cool souvenir, which from a marketing standpoint is very good indeed.

In the end, I will take two full points off for the two major moves I did not care for in this routine. Of course, I will throw in the caveat that if you’ve never done metal bending before, there’s emough great stuff on here to make it well worth the purchase. I’ll give this an 8 out of 10, as it’s an overall great purchase with great instruction and solid production values.

For thirty bucks you’ll get a nice, solid 4-5 minute closeup routine that you can do anytime, anywhere, as long as someone doesn’t mind having their fork mangled.:)

I would also recommend picking up Banachek’s original Psychokinetic Silverware DVD. It’s available here: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=4491

It’s $30 as well. I devoted most of this blog to Liquid Metal, as it’s a more recent release, but one were to both BOTH, you could easily compare/contrast and merge the two routines together…as I am doing.:)

Just for the record, Psychokinetic Silverware is 10 out of 10.:)

Until next time…

Send any questions, comments or review requests to crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net.