Buzz Saw illusion - Maurice Rooklyn

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Postby Guest » 07/24/07 11:00 PM

Hmmm, I seem to have three places to add this thread - Feature Articles, Magic History, and Marketplace.
Let's make it a followup to Jim Steinmeyer's article on "The Living Miracle" from the July Genii.

Australian illusionist and billiard ball manipulator, Maurice Rooklyn (1905-1992) performed the buzz-saw in his touring show from the mid-1940s, and again as late as 1978 when I was fortunate to see him in the public show for the Australian Convention Of Magicians. You can see some sample photographs at -
Rooklyn Sawing link

I have a newspaper article which published the
standard "expose" version of sawing. The following week, Rooklyn announced that he would saw through a lady using a circular saw in full view. What a perfect publicity hook.

Maurie's book, " Spherical Sorcery and Recollections of a 'Pro ", tells of an assistant who panicked as the saw came close, and tried to fend off the saw with her hands! After that, he used wrist straps.

I'm told that he used a mallet to bang the buzz saw, with an impressive Clang - until someone advised him that this risked cracking the metal, with possible drastic consequences.

In later years I have seen another performance of the saw by a magician who will remain unnamed. The screw helping to hold the saw retention nut in place started working loose during the performance. You don't even want to think about it!

Why the "Marketplace" option? Well, in 2005, all the "big stuff" from Maurie's collection was put on display at the Sydney Jewish Museum. But the remainder of Rooklyn's ephemera - hundreds of photographs, show programmes, news clippings and advertising material will be placed up for sale before the end of this year, starting with offers to local Australian collectors. (Sorry folks, almost no posters...)
I've spent the last four months wading through a fascinating collection that used to be displayed on the walls of Maurie's "Rooklyn Den", and am almost finished sorting. These are the joys that make collecting worthwhile!

Postby Guest » 07/25/07 07:16 AM

Kent, fascinating post! Is the Rooklyn book still in print? We find them hard to come by over here, but perhaps there is a warehouse full of new copies over there? We currently have a nice used copy that I was intending to offer on eBay, but that thinking is based on the assumption that it is out of print, not just hard to find over here...

Postby Guest » 07/25/07 03:36 PM

You're right, the book is out of print (there was only one print run in the 1970s and that caused Maurie all sorts of grief with the printers and late delivery), and there are no concealed stocks left! Second hand copies pop up in Australia fairly easily but probably not so much overseas.

Postby Guest » 07/30/07 06:27 AM

These are the joys that make collecting worthwhile!
it makes your eyes really big when you
find little treasures.

Postby Guest » 07/30/07 07:36 PM

Thank you for sharing the photos. For those of interested in such things, it is curious to see the variations between the performance unit and the publicity shoot version.

Feel free to share any additional images on Mr. Rooklyn. :D

Postby Guest » 07/31/07 09:41 AM


Thanks very much for the pictures. As I read them we're looking at two different props: one with a smaller blade and one that is taller, with a larger blade. As I understand the contruction of a prop like this, the largest expense is the cost of the blade.

Interesting to note the various presentations done with this version of the classic plot. Blackstone Sr and Jr did the illusion with the girl laying on her stomach. Richardi (and I believe Sorcar) would do it with the woman laying on her back and would spread the severed sections apart for the audience to see the mess. The latter two performers would not, as I understand their presentations, restore the severed girl.

Fu Manchu did the Pit and the Pendelum and Henning did a form of "surgery" on one of his TV specials that was quite clever.

Different audiences, different approaches.

Thanks again, Kent.

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