I posted this review over at Conjurenation, but figured I should put it up here as well, for anyone who's interested.The short review:
This might be the most well-produced magic DVD Ive ever seen. The material is excellent, the explanations clear, the camera-work is great, and the format is easily navigable. If you have any interest in learning (or improving) the side-steal, this DVD is as close to a must have as I can imagine. Highly Recommended The long review:
Paul Cummins does things right. Unlike the million and one flash-in-the-pan magicians youve never heard of (who nevertheless churn out products daily), Paul has spent years developing a reputation as a solid close-up performer. Paul is also distinct from the masses in two additional respects: his commercially available material is uniformly excellent and he performs Marlos Deliberate Side-Steal better than just about anyone on the planet. So its not surprising that Pauls side-steal DVD has been eagerly anticipated by the magic community.
Having watched the DVD, I can state confidently that the magic community will not be disappointed. Sleights
While its listed second on the DVD menu, Ill start with the sleight explanations. The guts of this is Pauls description of the Deliberate Side-Steal as a control to the top of the deck. Pauls explanation covers not only the mechanics of the sleight, but also addresses all the potential screw-ups than can happen along the way. Follow these instructions, put in a couple months of regular practice (your mileage may vary, but thats how long it took me) and youll have a reliable, invisible, practically angle-proof control. Even better, youll have it mastered in a fraction of the time it would take to master the classic pass.
In addition to the basic description, Paul offers four additional functionalities of the side-steal mechanics: a control to 2nd from the top, a shift, a secret slip-cut, and the side-steal into full palm. These explanations are a little shorter, mainly because Paul doesnt recapitulate the basic mechanics, but theyre full of great tips. Once youve mastered the steal as a control to the top, all 4 of these should be very easy to attain. These sleights dont have the same broad utility as the basic side-steal, but they do have practical uses as Paul demonstrates in the performance section of the DVD. Performance
The main performance section of the DVD consists of 5 routines: a la Annemann, Bar None, The Trick that Never Happened, AACAAN 1, and Just In Case. A la Annemann is a great opener, and will instantly cement your reputation as a real magician. Its also done entirely in-the-hands, which is always nice. Bar None is a very brief ambitious card phase followed by an extremely clean card transposition. It is the only trick that cant be done with a borrowed deck, but when you get the chance, its very strong. The Trick that Never Happened is a clever variation on (I believe) a Roy Walton plot. It requires a table and (preferably) a close-up mat, so you might not get to perform it all the time, depending on the venues you usually work in. When you do get the chance though, its great. AACAAN 1 is almost any card at almost any number. What it lacks in faithfulness to the any card at any number plot it makes up for with the advantage of being relatively quick, without a lot of laborious dealing, and a particularly clever use of the side-steal. Finally, Just in Case is a multiphase card-under-and-then-into-card-box routine (with an optional kicker). If youve never performed a card-under-object routine, Pauls is a great one to learn; its very magical and relatively pain-free.
All of the routines are typical of Pauls clean, direct approach to card magic. All of them are commercial and worth adding to your repertoire. Trick Explanations
The explanations of the tricks are clear and to-the-point, but it should be noted that Paul doesnt provide explanations of standard sleights (Zarrow shuffle, under-spread cull, etc.). This shouldnt be a problem for all but the most novice card handlers. Paul does include references in the credits to where the sleights can be found. Keeping with the format of his lecture notes, Paul references the appropriate volumes of Card College for the standard sleights (a practice I hope becomes more widespread). While Pauls explanations are direct, he doesnt leave out any of the important details. Any intermediate-level card handler should have no trouble learning from the explanations. Miscellaneous
The DVD really takes advantage of the benefits of the format. The menus are easily navigable. I really liked the separate menus for the performances, sleight explanations, and trick explanations. Within each of these it was possible to select an individual item or to play all in sequence. An additional menu allows the viewer to player the trick, the sleight explanation, and the trick explanation in sequence. Separating the sleight explanations from the trick explanations is definitely the way to go. For the viewer who just wants to focus on the sleight, it means he doesnt have to skip through the rest of the trick explanation. For the viewer who already has the sleight mastered, it means he can quickly learn the mechanics of the routines without having to slow down for the sleight explanation. I hope that this format becomes the standard in magic DVDs.
The bonus material is also great. Paul has performances of Tapalack and Punken Droker, both of which were recently written up in MAGIC. The former is a really great mind-reading trick and the latter is a very commercial drunken poker routine. Both (of course) can be performed FASDIU. The finale in Tapalack gets a great double-take reaction, one of the best on the DVD (more on that in a minute). Paul also performs and explains Stumped, a fast, amusing revelation of 3 (sort of) thought-of cards. Finally, the bonus section has a promo video for Pauls Up in Smoke DVD. Dan Watkins has a great review of this DVD on his website (www.coinvanish.com
), for those who are interested in coin-work.
A couple final observations seem worth mentioning. I dont really consider these criticisms, so much as prophylaxes against what I would consider to be unwarranted criticisms. First, Paul is a low-key performer who tends to let the strength of the magic speak for itself. Theres nothing wrong with this (at least I hope not, because my performing style is a lot like Pauls), but Paul isnt going to generate the guffaws that a Bill Malone or a Dave Williamson might get out of an audience. Second, the audience is comprised of two magicians (shout-out to Monty and Rafael) and their wives, who--while appreciative and polite--have a generally low-key response to the performance. The result is that the performance section doesnt convey the real strength of the routines. Ive seen Paul perform a number of these routines for real people and I can assure you that they generate a bigger response than the oh, isnt that nice feel of the DVD. It would be a mistake to dismiss anything in the performance section based on the somewhat muted audience reaction. Conclusion
Pauls side-steal DVD lives up to the standard of excellence hes set with FASDIU, FASDIU II, Fusillade, and Up in Smoke. It goes beyond what one would expect from a DVD devoted to a single move, both in format and content. Its a great value and I highly recommend it.