DVDs


I’ve been around in magic a while, and seen many changes. Let’s look at the instructions provided with a trick, for example. My first magic trick purchases were some time in the early 1950s. I was probably eight or nine at the time. Instructions then consisted mostly of a paragraph (or two, if you were lucky) badly duplicated on a tiny scrap of paper. They outlined the mechanics of the trick; told you how it worked, but not how to perform it. The skills of performance and presentation came largely from (sometimes painful) experience.

I’d long been an avid reader so pestered my local library for as many books on magic as they had or could obtain for me. They were a little more forthcoming on questions of magical performance rather than the demonstration of tricks. The emphasis still tended to be on fooling an audience rather than entertaining and involving them. But perhaps that’s a discussion for another time. (Early on I’d discovered in the playground that people didn’t necessarily want to be ‘fooled’ first and foremost…)

In my teens I began to buy copies of The Gen from my local theatrical shop (The Sign of Four in Nottingham) and discovered the writings of Lewis Ganson and the products of Harry Stanley’s Unique Magic. I was delighted to discover too that the occasional trick I was able to buy actually came with detailed instructions.

Times moved on and soon ‘proper’ instructions became the norm, probably reaching their height with the comprehensive written tutorials provided by the inimitable Ken Brooke.

For me, however, things have taken several backward steps since then, starting with the introduction of the DVD. Don’t get me wrong, videos and DVDs were, and still are, great for teaching magic; we’ve put out a few ourselves, often as book/DVD sets which I feel offers the best of both media.

Many dealers quickly discovered that DVD instructions were a lot easier (and often cheaper) to produce than good printed instructions. All you had to do was to sit someone in front of a camera (or two) and have them perform and explain the trick. No need to spend hours wrestling with the right words to produce something easy to read and understand. And then get a proper proofreader to check the ms before going to print. (Actually, ignore the last sentence; most dealers never bothered with that.)

Of course, for beginners in magic — and perhaps many magic hobbyists in general — the DVD was ideal. You didn’t need to think too much, or even worry about presentation. You just had to copy the guy on the screen. I mean, it’s fine to perform The Amazing So-and-So’s Cups and Balls or Four Ace routine. What is definitely not fine is to turn into a clone of Mr So-and-So while you perform. We probably all start like that, but purely DVD instructions don’t seem to encourage us to move beyond… to become magicians, mystery entertainers, whatever, rather than demonstrators of tricks. (You can see more than enough of that both sides of the stands at conventions.)

Then recently things have taken perhaps the final step backwards. More and more tricks you buy come, as in my youth, in a box or packet with a small scrap of paper, nicely printed, of course, rather than duplicated, and maybe even in full colour on card. But this time the nicely printed card doesn’t even have the most basic of instructions, just a link to an online video. Damn! Instead of being able to sit quietly and read through the instructions with the props in hand, I’ve got to get onto my computer and watch a video, often seemingly put together by a guy more in love with Adobe After Effects than magic.

I know you can watch videos on your phone but I feel you miss much on so small a screen.

This is easy, cheap and convenient for the dealer. But much less convenient for the poor magician. And what about (as has happened to me a couple of times) when you go back to rewatch the video to find it’s no longer there: the link has been deleted or moved? These days I download the video so it’s there for reference should I need it.

Again, DVDs, even online videos, may be great as an additional resource but I strongly believe that for the performing magician nothing can replace comprehensive, well-written, printed instructions.

What do you think? Perhaps next time we buy a trick we should ask, in what form are the instructions? Or maybe we should set up a new international organisation for magicians: the MFPI (Magicians For Proper Instructions.)

Rant over. Normal service will now be resumed.

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New additions to our range of recycled magic DVDs. All are in good condition and come complete with props and/or gimmicks where appropriate.  New price in brackets, our price afterwards (normally 25% off, unless I got an especially good deal from the seller). All prices plus postage at cost.

ALEXANDER, SCOTT. The Final Answer. Kohler, 2 DVDs & gimmick. (£40.00) £30.00.
BANNON, JOHN, & MONTIER, LIAM. Fractalicious. BBM, with props. (£20.00) £15.00.
BANNON, JOHN. Smoke & Mirrors. MyMagic. 90 minutes. (£25.00) £18.75.
EGGINK, PETER. eLit. With gimmick. (£30.00) £22.50.
FENIK. Genesis Vol. 1. DV Magic (£20.00) £15.00.
FORREST, DAVID. DeLorian. Full52, with props. (£13.50) £10.13.
FORREST, DAVID. Radio Rental. Full52. (£25.00) £18.75.
JAY, DAVID. The Ringmaster. WizardFX (£40.00) £26.25.
JONES, GARY, & CONGREAVE, CHRIS. Automata. Full52. (£22.00) £16.50.
MACIA, OLIVIER. Control Freak. Camirand.,81 mins. (£12.99) £9.74.
MO & RYU-KA. Emperor. (£28.00) £21.00.
NORMANSELL, ANDREW. Xpresso. MagicWorld, with props. (£15.00) £11.25.
PIACENTE, SAL. Expert Card Magic. MagicMakers (£25.00) £18.75.
PIPER, JAMES. Piper Active. RSVP (£15.00) £11.25.
ROBSON, HARRY, & WRIGHT, MATTHEW. The Reputation Maker. (£25.00) £18.75.
ROSS, ERIC. Election. Paper Crane. (£15.00) £11.25.
SANDERS, RICHARD, & ABBOTT, BILL. Power Ball 60. With props. (£20.00) £15.00.
SANDERS, RICHARD. Extreme Burn. With gimmick. (£25.00) £18.75.
SMITH, LEE, & JONES, GARY. iCandy. RSVP (£20.00) £15.00.
SOLOMON, DAVID. Secret Subtleties. BBM (£30.00) £22.50.
SOMA. The Social Deck. With deck. (£34.00) £25.50.
SOUTHWORTH, MARK. Cash Vault. Illusioncraft, with props. (£12.50) £9.38.
SOUTHWORTH, MARK. The Changer. Illusioncraft, with props. (£25.00) £18.75.
WALLACE, CASSHAN. Camera Tricks. Murphy, with gimmicks. (£25.00) £18.75.

Stocks are limited, of course, so ring or email before ordering. Thanks.

I’ve been working recently on a new DVD Making Magic, with Craig Frith, Travis Carter and Adam Bell. This is designed to offer the student magician a sound introduction to the basics of close-up magic… the sort of instructional DVD we would have liked to have had when we started in magic.

We discussed the old adage that if you know ten ways to find a chosen card and one way to reveal it, you essentially have one trick. But if you know just one way to find a chosen card and ten ways to reveal it, you have ten tricks.

Of course that’s something of an over-simplification; and you wouldn’t do all ten at one performance, would you?

So I thought it would be fun to drop in a few example revelations at an appropriate point in the DVD. So on Saturday I roped in a few of the layab…, sorry, Loungers, to perform some quick card revelations. Things escalated somewhat so I decided to put them all together in a short, and possibly amusing, film.

 

The ‘silent movie’ theme seemed to fit. There are no explanations in this particular section; we’re just looking at ‘the what’, for ‘the how’ you’ll have to wait for the DVD. And for ‘the why’ you’ll probably need to consult with someone better versed in the convoluted psychology of the average card magician.

Nevertheless, we optimistically hope that it will be a small step in encouraging new magicians to think a little creatively about their card magic!

Around four years ago I edited an amazing collection of films of Ken Brooke for Martin Breese, mostly from material originally released on 8 mm film by Harry Stanley of Unique Magic.

I was pleased and honoured that Martin asked me to do this; I’m a big fan of Ken Brooke and was a regular visitor to the Unique Studio at 14 Frith Street in the heart of Soho while at University in London. I rarely had much money to spend but Ken would always make me welcome and seemed happy for me to sit and watch the demonstrations, and the comings and goings. It was here I first met many of magic’s ‘greats’ who were regular visitors. And in later years I would spend time at Ken’s ‘Magic Place’ not far from Frith Street.

Martin rightly described Ken as “one of the most loved British magicians of all time”, and said that this was one of the most exciting projects he had ever been involved in his 50+ years in magic. And those sentiments go for me too.

The edited collection was sent to Patrick Page who kindly provided a highly informative voice-over commentary on all of the effects.  Pat knew Ken very well, and he knew the tricks that Ken performed. So here you will not only see Ken Brooke in action but will also hear a great deal about the history of the tricks and routines he performed.

There are many delightful Ken Brooke interludes that will take old-timers down memory road and which will inspire relative newcomers to magic as well.  It’s all here from Ken’s version of the Vernon Linking RingsCoins through Table, the KB Coin Box plus many of the tricks featured over the years in the Unique catalogues. Truly a feast and inspiration for all.

As a very special bonus Patrick Page also allowed us to include some sound material. This was filmed just before Ken died so sadly.  The sound material filmed by Vic Pinto and Patrick Page includes Chase the Ace and The Chop Cup routine and even the wonderful Tamariz Rabbits.

As Martin went on to say, “Oh what a treat awaits every viewer!”

The Visions of Ken Brooke DVD — NTSC region free — is available off the shelf at £25 or $40, post free anywhere. Check the About Magick page for PayPal details.

Sorry to have missed the John Carey lecture here at the Magick Lounge on  7 July. I was on holiday. I hear it was a really good night. The effects with cards and coins were direct and not too finger busting, and his style was warm and friendly.

The next not-to-be-missed event at the Lounge is Roger Curzon‘s Sublimations lecture. Although widely renowned for his skill with cards, over the past few years Roger has been dabbling in the dark side and has developed a love of bizarre magick and mentalism. His VideoBooks Sublimations, Theomancy and Pentalism have been widely and favourably reviewed.

Roger is a very creative thinker (his Curzon Envelope has become a much-honoured classic!) so this will be an educational, entertaining, and memorable evening. Thursday 4 August at 7.30, but a ghostly midnight in our minds. Admission £10, but free for Sheffield Circle members in good standing.

Well, it’s been a while since I posted here. There are times when blogs, and business, have to take second place to more important matters.

In company with a group of like-minded Loungers I did take a little time off at the beginning of February to spend An Evening of Metaphysical Magic with Dr Todd. Described as an ‘evening of brain-boggling investigations into the universe, reality and the inner workings of the mind’, this was a delightful mix of mentalism, bizarre and story-telling magic presented in the Milton Theatre at Huddersfield University. If Dr Todd comes your way, don’t miss him!

Can’t tell you too much about this year’s Blackpool Convention as I missed most of it. I drove over on the Thursday afternoon and set up. On Thursday evening I went to see La Clique (‘a heady cocktail of cabaret, new burlesque, circus sideshow and contemporary variety’) in the evocative environs of Blackpool’s Tower Circus. Great show.

This, incidentally, was part of the Showzam festival. Showzam was a highlight for me last year and with the billed vintage sideshow illusions, Carnesky’s Ghost Train, ‘Heat the Streets’, etc., it looked set to repeat its success. Among the new events were the Magic Show exhibition at the Grundy Art Gallery, a Hayward touring show I caught in Derby a couple of months ago (see below); and Ukulelescope, a collaboration between the magnificent Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain and the British Film Institute. Tim Smithies, street-magician, axe-juggler and renowned uke-dude had swung us tickets for this. I hear ’twas a plucking good night.

Sadly I was called away on urgent family matters shortly after opening on Friday afternoon, leaving the stand in the dextrous hands of the inimitable Roger Curzon (his new DVD VideoBook Pentalism was a hit). Many thanks to Roger and several other Loungers at the Convention for giving up some of their time to help with manning the stand and packing and returning things to Sheffield. Indeed thanks to all our friends and customers for the many kind comments and offers of help at a difficult time.


The trailer for the great new Visions of Ken Brooke DVD is finally up. It’s not exactly a prime example of video-making craft, but I hope it will give a flavour of the DVD and its contents. There’s about an hour of video altogether, ranging from silent shorts put out by Harry Stanley’‘s Unique Magic Studio in the late ’50s to material recorded shortly before Ken’s death in 1983 (was it really that long ago?).

The DVD is available from us now.


Although this clip is not on the Visions of Ken Brooke DVD, here’s a little taster of Ken Brooke performing in cabaret. The quality isn’t great, but good to see anyway. The introduction is by Pat Page.

Just a note to say that the Ken Brooke DVDs Visions of Ken Brooke arrived yesterday. Those who pre-ordered; they’re on their way. Ready for your order now! Been putting together a quick trailer, which should be up here shortly.

Adam’s Weekly Wheeze?

Had my car stolen the other day. Didn’t see who did it, but I’ve got the license number.

Some time ago Martin Breese passed to me several silent films originally released by Harry Stanley over 40 years ago. Many of these featured the amazing magic of the inimitable Ken Brooke. I was virtually a weekly visitor to the Unique Studio (14 Frith Street) while at University in London, where I first met Ken, and was later a regular visitor to The Magic Place. I was pleased to be asked to help with the editing and production of Steve Cook‘s magnificent publication Legend: An anecdotal tribute to Ken Brooke. When Martin approached me with the Stanley material I was delighted to become involved with this too. It seemed almost like the other half of a total project.

I had some material I had collected myself, and Martin was able to secure permission from Patrick Page to use this together with some raw sound film of Ken in later years performing Chase the Ace, his Chop Cup routine and Bucks and Does.

Patrick also provided a fascinating and informative commentary on all of the effects that you will see on this DVD. Patrick Page knew Ken Brooke very well so you will not only see Ken Brooke at work but will also hear about the history of the tricks and routines he performed. There are too many tricks and routines to list here, but the highlights include Ken’s version of the Vernon Linking Rings, Coins through Table, the KB Coin Box plus many of the tricks featured over the years in the Unique catalogues. Truly a feast and inspiration for all.

A lot of work went into re-mastering and editing all this material. Now the NTSC master has been produced and has gone to the duplication house. The finished DVD — Visions of Ken Brooke — will be available very shortly at £25, post free anywhere for pre-publication orders. Check the About Magick page for PayPal details.