Message from David Oliver on "Captured" vs. "Polageist"

Discuss products and their reviews in Genii.

Postby Richard Kaufman » 11/27/08 12:33 PM

From David Oliver:

In the July issue of Genii, I reviewed a product called Captured by James L. Clark. In that review I clearly stated (based on my research) that the item had indeed been marketed before (Polageist by Michael Kaznetsis), produced in the early 1980s by Sterling Magic, and that Captured was basically the same thing. Following the publication of the July issue, further information came to my attention and more research was done.

A professor of surgery at the University of Rome, Italy, Prof Dott. Giampaolo Zelli (1936-2004), was also an amateur magician with a popular stage and close up act in Europe. He performed under the name Zelpy. He was known for his silk magic, and even placed second in general magic at the 1967 F.I.S.M. with his stage act, Symphonie of Silks. He created two other stage acts, The Magic Statue (1970) and The Pigeon (1976), in which he was the first to dress as a giant dove that produced little magicians. He first presented the latter in the U.S. in 1977 at The Tannens Magic Jubilee. Zelli was a good friend of one of Italys top professional magicians, my friend Tony Binarelli. Once I knew this, I contacted Binarelli and he shed some light on the lineage of the Polaroid effect.

Early in 1965, Zelli had been working on a divination idea using a Polaroid camera. One night that same year, the two were discussing magic and a question came up about divination, and how to make thoughts appear real. Several days passed and Zelli came back to Binarelli with an effect he created for the new Polaroid Camera (one of the first expensive models in Italy), and gave the camera to Binarelli for the first Polaroid divination effect.

To quote Binarelli, Zelli and I worked together on this, but Zelli invented the effect. Zelli was an amateur, I am a professional, but we were the two-halves of the same mind!
Binarelli admits that it was very difficult to prepare the camera and the film in the first method. Today, with Polaroid cameras being fully automatic, the method is much easier. As a matter of fact, the method is actually hidden in plain sight in the instruction book of the camera. Binarelli says, but luckily no persons read the instruction booklet!

The Polaroid Divination was part of Binarellis 1966 F.I.S.M. act that won him second place award in Card Magic. Even though Zelli invented the Polaroid effect in 1965, it was kept in frigo for a year, awaiting Binarellis participation at the 1966 F.I.S.M. competition at Baden Baden, where it was shown to the magic community for the first time. Binarelli was also the first to present it on Italian television, in Canzonissima (the most popular Italian variety television show in 1974). Thereafter, it became part of the repertoires of many magicians like Silvan, Freddy Fah, Alexander, etc.

Captured is a direct copy of Polageist, which Mr. Binarelli states unequivocally was an exact copy of the Zelli/Binarelli Polaroid Divination effect, and marketed almost two decades later without either Zelli or Binarellis permission. I was unable to contact Mr. Kaznetsis, to find out whether his idea could possibly have been a case of independent invention. Binarelli says, It (Polageist) is a classic pirated version. No permission was given by me or Zelli.

So, while the technology has changed, and thereby some of the mechanics of the trick have improved, nevertheless, the idea and the basic secret of the effect was created over 40 years ago by Zelli, the original presentation is Binarellis, and everything else is a copy. Mr. Binarelli still uses the effect in his act today, 42 years after he presented it for the first time at F.I.S.M. In fact, you can go to www.YouTube.com, search Tony Binarelli and see his latest version presented on Italian television.
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Postby AnthonyBrahams » 11/27/08 01:18 PM

I confirm the history of this trick involving Giampaolo and Tony. If the recent apparent rip-off did not come from this then it was possibly from an excellent Milbourne Christopher routine, developed independently from the Roman one, in Hugard's MM. I performed it many times many years ago, very entertaining to lay people and baffling not only to them but also to magicians.

Are Polaroid cameras still made?
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 11/27/08 02:53 PM

They stopped making Polaroid cameras this past summer and will discontinue making film next summer. Think I read that.
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Postby David Oliver » 11/27/08 03:54 PM

Not only did you read it, Richard, you printed it in my original review;

"...directly from Polaroid.com: 'Due to marketplace conditions, Polaroid has discontinued almost all of its instant analog hardware products. Polaroid has also made the difficult decision to cease manufacturing of instant film products in 2008.' According to the site, the Polaroid 600 film and cameras recommended for this effect are slated to never be available again, starting in August of 2009."
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 11/27/08 04:40 PM

The first thing to go in middle age is ...
is ...
Oh, crap.
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