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Postby Guest » 09/14/05 05:39 AM

Hey guy's, I'm trying to find out as much as I can about guillotine illusions. I would be very grateful for any help you can give me. Thanks in advance


Postby Guest » 09/14/05 01:46 PM

It would help to know just what you are trying to find out. There are many on the market.

There are two basic styles. The small, hand held guillotines which are essentially choppers. The blade is in an assembly with a handle and the whole assembly lifts out in order to secure the victim's neck in place.

Then there are the "Drop" models which are taller and have a blade suspended high above the spectator. They are held by some kind of clip, and pulling on a cord or chain releases them and the blade falls down, apparently severing the head. One such model is called the "French" Guillotine, another, usually heavier style is known as the Monster Guillotine.

A lot of working professionals use the Lester Lake Style of chopper. These are made by many good illusion companies.

A very deceptive style of chopper is made by Bill Schmelk of Wellington Enterprises. Much of it is clear plexiglas and you can "see" the blade pass through the neck.

Denny Loomis

Postby Guest » 09/14/05 08:38 PM

Jusst a suggestion. If you are planning to use such in a performance, devise a way of letting the audience know in advance. Perhaps perform it right after an intermission. That way those who have a particular reason for avoiding it can do so without getting up in the middle of your performance and disturbing those who will stay to watch it.

At the It's Magic show Milt Larsen would always tell me in advance if a guillotine was on the bill. This gave me a chance to get out in the lobby while it went on. I had seen a shipmate cut in two without the benefit of a magician. I found a pretend cutting was very disturbing. It conjured up unpleasant memories.

Postby Brad Henderson » 09/15/05 12:17 AM


Do you find the same unpleasantness at other "disection" or "separation" effects, or is it just with the guillotine?
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Postby Guest » 09/15/05 04:08 AM

It is just the guillotine. You can saw the ladies in half all day and not awaken my nightmares. (In fact, remembering many of the sawing effects I have seen, you would be hard put to awaken me at all during one of them. Apathy sets in hard)

Postby pduffie » 09/15/05 06:38 AM

For some reason, the full size stage guillotine gives me the creeps, too. It's one of the few illusions that always 'looks' like it could go wrong. Unlike pushing a blade through a cabinet, the Guillotine blade is in free-fall. Cheating the Gallows is another one for me. Must be because they emulate real forms of execution. I don't recall anyone being sentenced to death by Zig-zag :)

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Postby Guest » 09/15/05 08:11 AM

I'm always worried when watching a guillotine effect.

As you say, it's because it's sudden. I know that sawing someone in half isn't going to go wrong. And I know that guillotining someone isn't going to go wrong.

But if the sawing in half were to go wrong, there'd be a moment when total disaster could be avoided. But not with a guillotine.

I think that that's part of the attraction of the effect, for many people. It worries me. But I enjoy it.


Postby Pete Biro » 09/15/05 11:31 AM

Many many moons ago, whilst in the Army, I was passing through New York on the way to Germany... and I noted at the Palace Theater that Mardoni and Louise were on the bill.

I not only wanted to see the magic, but I wanted to see the theater as my father had played there during his vaudeville career.

I went early and got a front row seat.

When Mardoni asked for a volunteer from the audience I leaped onto the stage... Now I could say that I had been on the very stage my dad had graced before.

Then after a bit Mardoni rolled out a Guillotine and even though I knew exactly how it worked, when I got in I WAS SCARED SH**LESS... I mean terrified...

I wonder how most laymen feel?
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Postby Joe M. Turner » 09/15/05 06:01 PM

I purchased a small guillotine illusion about a year ago to add to certain of my programs, but I purposely avoided using it -- or any other body-part chopping type of effect -- while the terrorists were engaged in that spate of horrible beheadings. While those have now fortunately abated, I have still been holding back on using the guillotine illusion simply to allow distance before using any similar imagery in an entertainment setting.

Frankly, I had figured on perhaps another 6 months or so before I'd even consider bringing it out. Am I being hypersensitive about how audiences would feel about seeing this kind of effect now?
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Postby Guest » 09/15/05 08:10 PM

quoted from Joe M. Turner
Am I being hypersensitive about how audiences would feel about seeing this kind of effect now?

Why take a chance?

Postby Guest » 09/15/05 10:56 PM

I really don't think anyone will associate your act with Middle Eastern atrocities... I don't think you have anything to worry about. There can always be one person with a particular aversion to just about any thing you do. I had a friend who was deathly afraid of feathers - just the sight of one would send her into hysterics. Should one leave out dove productions for fear of someone having aversions to feathers? Don't be afraid to have rough edges - it's what makes us different from everyone else. What's the point of trying to bland down our acts until there's nothing anyone could be offended by or complain about?

I'm not advocating rampant audience baiting, but use good judgement and be who you are! Don't over think it! That's just my .0299 cent's worth!

Postby Guest » 09/16/05 07:09 AM

While I love the portability, surround-ability, buildup and kinetic energy of guillotine illusions, I also have not performed mine in recent years. I am doubly cursed in that my guilltine blade is in the shape of a sabre sword. Simply, there has been and continues to be too much violence in the world. The beheaddings in the Middle East have been broadcast on TV and online. I am not ashamed that this bothers me. If I am uncomfortable with it, then it's going to show through in performance.

My wife would always leave the audience when I performed the guillotine. It just freaked her out too much. I agree that it's the one grand illusion based on a real form of capitol punishment. No wonder if gives people the willies.

One time I was doing the Mickey Hades finger chopper, and I got a woman up on stage with her finger in the device. Suddenly her young daughter in the front row started to freak out. It turns out the little girl had chopped off the tip of her finger the month before. I had the dubious honor of opening up old psychological wounds. It made me realize that what we do can be very powerful at a deep, deep level. This goes back to what our art is all about. We might gloss over it a bit too much with showbiz from time to time. This is not to say that there isn't a time and a place for chopper illusions. Now just isn't the time for me.

Postby Guest » 09/16/05 08:29 AM

Herb Brown -- who ran a magic shop in Long Beach -- used to do a chopper bit. Not too long before that a young boy in Long Beach had had both legs cut off by a street car.

Once Herbie was preparing do to the chopper and asked for a volunteer from the audience. A young voice piped up:

"I'll do it. I'm used to it." And there was the double amputee.

Herbie always teared up when he told this. And I do as I write it.

That incident added to the witnessing of the shipmate cut in half by a wire rope which I mentioned above have made me somewhat alergic to pretend cuttings.

Postby Pete Biro » 09/16/05 09:34 AM

This all reminded me of a funny bit... some years ago with an Owen Arm chopper I had the then world driving champion Jackie Stewart as my "volunteer sucker"... I brought out the chopper and as he stood alongside me, when I put the carrot in and cut it in two... he GRABBED HIS CROTCH AND DOUBLED OVER MOANING....

I have to tell you, the laugh must have lasted three minutes.

However, after that I decided to drop the effect as I figured it would never get that kind of reaction again.

BTW... the line, after all the gags and bits, (just as I was about to slam the blade down) was... "AND NOW... THE ANTI-CLIMAX!"
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Postby Pete Biro » 09/16/05 09:36 AM

I also conisered the following...

With a Grant Chopper (where the hand is seen to DROP into a bag) I thought it would be funne to be walking forward with it, stumble, and cut your own hand off.

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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 09/16/05 09:40 AM

Originally posted by Pete Biro:
I also conisered the following...

With a Grant Chopper (where the hand is seen to DROP into a bag) ...Thoughts?
Is that a bagel slicer?
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time
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Postby Robert Allen » 09/16/05 10:17 AM

I'm not sure how one would hold a Grant Chopper while walking forward and operating it. Unless you have it on a sliding table. In that case I'd just chop the fingers off as you held it, not the wrist.
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Postby David Alexander » 09/16/05 11:40 AM

Decades ago I watched Bill Chaudet as he performed a Blackstone, Sr card routine. At one point the spectator is directed to point his index finger and stick it into the deck. Bill got a huge laugh at as the man held up his hand showing that he only had a small portion of his index finger....and everyone in the group knew it.

Bill waited a moment and said, "You've done this before." Another huge laugh.

Fast forward 30 years...I'm doing the Lester Lake Guillotine and one of the people I have up, at the end of the routine, starts waving his sleeve, his cuff flapping, showing that he has a hand missing. He was the union president and everyone knew he'd been born without his right hand. A huge laugh.

I waited for the laughter to die down, put my arm around his shoulders and delivered Bill's line. Again, another huge laugh.

The only time in 20+ years of doing the guillotine have I ever had a "bad" reaction was at a private party with a little girl who thought I was really going to chop off her uncle's head. I saw her beginning to tear up in the front row so I stopped my show, walked over to her, got down on one knee and explained that this was "just pretend," that we were having fun and her uncle wasn't in any danger and that he would be OK at the end of the trick. She smiled and as I was using a wireless mic, everyone heard what I was saying. I finished the trick and got a great hand.

It's all in the presentation and the performer's attitude.
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Postby Guest » 09/16/05 01:16 PM

David Alexander has it right - as in all of magic...

It's all in the presentation and the performer's attitude.


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