Every so often I have so many discs to review that I come in well over my allotted space. Richard is forced to pick and choose which make the magazine and which do not. So Richard has agreed to let me post the extra reviews here for all to see. I hope you enjoy them.
(NOTE: This is not a discussion thread, so it will be locked: Pretend youre reading the magazine!)
Prestidigital: The Digital Magic Review...8.50 each issue
Last month our esteemed editor wrote, [s]lowly but surely the end of the printed word is coming. This product may be an example of that eventuality. Prestidigital is a quarterly DVD magazine (my word: The publishers use review). Each issue includes about an hour of video, including tricks, interviews, product reviews, and various other visuals of interest to the magician. Each issue also includes hundreds of pages of books, classic magazines and the like in PDF format. These are primarily, but not exclusively, public domain works and graphics. I was provided with the first four issues for review (all that is available as of this writing).
The first two issues were good, but publishers Tim Smithies and Russell Hall really hit their stride with Issue 3. It includes some great interviews with Gaetan Bloom, Kevin James, and Vik and Fabrini, as well as other video from the Crazy Horse in Paris. There is also a great, virtually self-working card trick from Paul Gordon that went right into my repertoire. Then they keep up the pace with Issue 4 with interviews of Charlie Frye, photographer Zakary Belamy, and an amusing segment on How to Survive a Magic Convention (done at FISM). Prestidigital can be purchased by subscription or individually. I have not yet decided if I will subscribe, but I will be monitoring what future issues might offer and a visit to their excellent website doesnt cost a thing.
● Prestidigital ● DVD-Video & DVD-Rom; NTSC; no region coding ● Available on the web at www.prestidigital.tv or by phone at +44 (0)114 276 0482 ● 8.50 each or 30 per four-issue subscription; includes worldwide postage.
Materialize: Volume 1
Ed Ellis seems like a nice fellow. His style is gregarious and he has the chops to back up this expansiveness. His press claims a career of over 25 years in magic with many television appearances as well as engagements at the Magic Castle and the defunct Caesars Magical Empire. He also boasts of a 2005 television show (The Ed Ellis Show) though its not clear if this was on a local station (he hails from Canton, Ohio) or cable access. (Ill hazard a guess.) He is genuinely excited to share his magic on this well produced DVD. So, with all this under his belt, Mr. Ellis is not short on ego (though not obnoxiously so). What he clearly is short on is a depth of knowledge of his craft I would expect someone of his age and experience to have. By that I mean the who and when of the creation of technique and effects. Sadly, when he does know, he apparently doesnt always care.
Materialize gets its name from the discs feature effect (its actually a move). From the cover we get this description: A visual stunner! A seemingly impossible appearance of a card. Then it's repeated! Mr. Ellis is very proud of this admittedly pretty move, which is merely a finessed Paintbrush Change (Ellis acknowledges this). The problem is that Mr. Ellis seems to believe hes the first (or only) guy to use a circular motion to affect the change versus the usual vertical or horizontal movement. And, apparently, changing two cards is another quantum leap. As his cable access brothers Wayne and Garth might say, Not! Unfortunately, this nonsense doesnt end there.
Aces Escape, is a trick where the four aces are ostensibly placed throughout the deck and magically rise to the top. Of the move he uses to accomplish the effect he says, Josh Jay told me this is called the For 4 For Switch. I dont know whose this is, but Ill show you. After this callous comment, he proceeds to teach the move, oblivious to whether or not Chris Kenner would mind him explaining his move from Totally Out of Control (Kaufman and Company 1992). Clearly it never occurred to him to ask young Mr. Jay whose move it is, and then acquire permission to include it in a trick that I have seen Chad Long, Gregory Wilson, and several others do while simply jazzing with a pack of cards. Hang in there; it gets worse.
In Kubota Jacks, Mr. Ellis attributes what is a Bro. John Hamman technique to Bob Kubota (and Bro. John thought it so ancient that he was reluctant to take credit for his refinement of it). I think hell be okay with that, Ellis says of naming the move for Kubota. That comment leads me to believe that Mr. Kubota merely showed Ellis a trick using the move. Instead of doing a little research, Ellis plunked down this trick; happy to give credit to whom he presumes invented the procedure.
The Great Escape is a sequence Ellis recommends as an Ambitious Card ending. He couples a technique that Frederick Braue published in Genii in 1938 (but has its roots in Roterbergs New Era Card Magic from 1897), with a revelation popularized by Dr. Jacob Daley. Throughout the disc, Mr. Ellis applies my to several bits of finesse and moves, going so far as to name them. For example, the Ellis Refined Pull-down is him using a part of his fourth finger other than its tip to affect a pull-down. He obviously believes hes the first to come up with this (hence the naming rights), along with things like turning the top card face up with the fingers of the hand holding the deck (my Reverse Rollout).
The bonus on the disc is a face up double lift from the center of a spread deck. I can say Ive never seen it accomplished the way he does it, so its possible it really is original with him. He considers the move offbeat because, no one expects a double from the middle of the deck. Well lets certainly hope not!
If all this doesnt have your head spinning, Ive saved the best for last. Jumping Jacks is the title of what he also calls his Pure Jazz Aces. He correctly cites the late Peter Kane as the originator of the effect. He then proceeds to describemove for moveKanes Jazz Aces (Another Card Session, 1971). What is Mr. Elliss contribution to the trick? He uses four jacks of the same suit and four jokers. So, his contribution is to take a great impromptu, any-deck miracle and turn it into a packet trick.
No matter how well meaning, friendly, and enthusiastic he is, its impossible for me to let Mr. Ellis off easy on these issues. Being a skilled performer doesnt let one off the hook for responsibility when putting material into the printed or visual record.
● Materialize: Volume 1 ● Ed Ellis ● 82 mins.; DVD only ● Available from your favorite magic dealer. ● Dealers should contact Murphys Magic Supplies, Inc. on the web at www.murphysmagicsupplies.com or by phone at (800) 853-7403 ● $34.95.