This month, seven brand new videos!
So far, I've reviewed videos from Stevens, A-1 and a few independent producers. To date, the only major source of videos that I haven't touched upon is L & L Publishing. Let me hasten to add that this was not on purpose.
I have simply reviewed what was sent to me. And L & L did not send anything. Until now that is. And boy did they make up for their absence! Seven videos have crossed my doorstep, and they certainly aren't the run-of-the-mill ignorable variety. In fact, they mark the first time that two of magic's most prolific creators have appeared on film explaining their superb ingenuities. The Cheshire Cat must be jealous of the grin on Louis Falanga's face.
•Magic Of Alex Elmsley
Volumes 1, 2, 3 & 4L & L Publishing
(800) 626-6572$29.95 Per Volume Post Paid in the U.S.
$110.00 For The Set Post Paid in the U.S.
This quadruplet of videos is best viewed as a settherefore I will review them as such.
Volume One contains: Four Card Trick; New Four Card Trick; Early Days (interview); Twisters Flush; One Poor Lion; Separating the Men From the Boys; The Professor (interview); Power Poker; Spectator Aces; Economy Class Departure; Vernon & the Ghost Count (interview); and Dazzle.
Volume Two contains: 1002nd Aces; Repulsive Aces; The Elmsley Rising Card; The Faro Shuffle (interview); Brainweave; Underworld; More on the Faro (interview); Collinspell; The Floating Ladies; and Cross 25.
Volume Three contains: Fan Production; The Red & the Blue; Presentation (interview); A Strange Story; Color Filter; Stage Manipulation (interview); Multiplying Aces; En Voyage; Color-Changing Faro Shuffle; What is "Good" Magic? (interview); Moveless Follow The Leader; and Card to Wallet.
Volume Four contains: Fate's Datebook; Diamond Cut Diamond; Creativity (interview); Pack of Lies; Half-Pack Vanish; Torn and Restored Newspaper; Between Your Palms; Multiple Mind Reading; The Four Blanks; An Encounter (interview); and The Cups & Balls.
All of the editing is crystal clear. The titles are very easy to locate. The organization consists of trick, then explanation, etc.
A standard two camera shot was used.
Everything is in frame. The angles range from fine to good. I never felt that Imissed seeing anything important though all four videos.
Each cassette comes in a full color cardboard "shell" box that seems to have become the standard for L & L's line.
The tape quality is very clear. My copies of Volume One and Volume Three have "audio dropouts" (short absences of sound) throughout the tape. I'm sure that this is just a simple quality control problem, but it is one that should be corrected.
On The Set: 6
Shot on a small set, my only complaint is the obvious "painted bookcase" that is used as a backdrop. (It looks kind of silly.)
The atmosphere is lively. The audience reactions are good, and come from such notables as: Mike Ammar; Stephen Minch; Gary Plants; Howie Schwarzman; Paul Green; and Gene Matsuura.
Of the items explained, all are original with Alex, or he has improved them dramatically. He is very thorough in his crediting.
Quantity vs. Quality: 9
Each video runs about seventy minutes, more or less. There is good value for your money. Even if you already own the books, you will want these videos. Alex has improved a number of routines since the books were published.
Alex fooled me numerous times. That card to wallet always looks really good. And the ending to his cups & balls is absolutely priceless!
Entertainment Value: 6
Alex is not a performer. He does, however, have a wonderfully dry British wit.
At one moment, Gene Matsuura misunderstood an instruction. Alex caught him, and gave one hell of a funny ad lib. His wry comments add a lot to the overall atmosphere.
Alex is very clear and concise. There was never a moment when I felt confused.
Overall Satisfaction: 9
I'll finish by saying that these videos are a real treat. I really like them. I think you will as well.
If all you know of Alex Elmsley is his famous count, then you must get this set. Of course, most astute cardmen already own and study his works in his two volume set of books (also published by L & L). But these videos let you see the legend himself in action. And that alone justifies a place for them in your video library.
Final Score: 78
Phases 1, 2 & 3L & L Publishing
$29.95 Per Volume Post Paid in the U.S.
This triplet is also best viewed as a setand therefore, I will review them as such.
This decrepit collection of ghastly tripe doesn't even deserve the momentary attention of a gnat. Trust methey are hideous. If I were you, I would save my money, and forget that these videos even exist.
Thats it. End of review. You can stop reading right now.
Hmmm. I guess that I wasn't as convincing as I thought I'd be. You're still reading. Oh well.
As much as I don't wish to "shake the curtain," I should inform you that the above is my feeble attempt at hoarding these videos for myself. Keeping them from the common viewer. Quite frankly, they are way too good. And they are going to set a standard that other videos are going to have a tough time coming close to.
Phase One (Parlor Mentalism) contains: The Mockingbird; Autome; Divine Write; Zenvelopes; Kurotsuke; and The Mind's Eye Deck.
Phase Two (Close-Up Mentalism) contains: Shape Up; Changeling; Isolation; Key to the Future; Symbalance; Positive Negative; and The Hawk.
Phase Three (Stage Mentalism) contains: Goal Mine; Tossed-Out Tech; Khan Artist; Contimental; and Psign.
All of the editing is excellent. The titles are extremely easy to locate in search mode. They have a ghostly "Alien" look to them, accompanied by appropriately weird sounds.
The organization consists of a series of performances of effects followed by a series of explanations.
A standard two camera shot was used. Max has appeared on a lot of television programs. His experience shows. Everything is in frame. Every tiny detail is highlighted during the performances. Nothing appears to be left to chance. I never felt that I missed anything.
Each cassette has a full color cardboard "shell" box that
seems to have become the standard for L & L's line. These covers are some of the best that I've seen. From the ponytail on the sides to the quotes from Orson Wells, Muhammad Ali and Vernon, they set the atmosphere perfectly. After reading them, I couldn't wait to view the videos.
The physical tape quality is very good. My copy of Phase One has frequent breakups and quite a bit of snow. This is another issue with quality control. Phase Two and Three are vibrantly clear. Perhaps L & L should be a little more attentive to its production runs .
On The Set: 8
Shot on the same location as the Elmsley videos, the "painted bookcase" backdrop is used again. (Perhaps they couldn't afford a new backdrop after paying Max his deservedly hefty fee.)
The lighting is well done, and the atmosphere is good. The audience reactions range from good to excellent.
The explanations are shot on the same set, with Eugene Burger sitting at a table with Max, acting as Max's confidant. Eugene's presence adds a lot to the videos, and I'm glad that he was there. I am really starting to like this style.
Of the items explained, all are original with Max. When it comes to crediting, he wins hands down. He succinctly states appropriate credits, original sources and tidbits of history in a manner that both educates and inspires respect. Not a simple task, yet Max succeeds elegantly.
Quantity vs. Quality: 8
Each video is close to sixty minutes long. A good value for your money.
There are a lot excellent routines for a working mind reader here, including seven exclusive items that have never been explained before.
Max fooled me many times. His thinking catches me more often than I'd like to admit. The Hawk fried me when I saw it. And the Mind's Eye Deck is devastating!
Entertainment Value: 9
Max has a flair for entertainment. His stage presence is outstanding. His elocution is without peer in mentalism. His timingflawless. And these videos capture him very well indeed. Period.
Max is a virtuoso of communication. He teaches details thoroughly. His examples are utterly precise. He is dam near perfect in this regard. If he wasn't so likeable, I would hate him.
Overall Satisfaction: 10
These videos are really, really, really good. The care that went into their creation really shows. Everything is so well donefrom the little comic scenes with Eugene convincing Max to part with his innermost treasures (at least I think the briefcase full of money was a joke), to Max's interaction with L & L's opening creditsit is all wonderful. And if you think that I'm being too generous with praise for a friend, I'll magnanimously allow you to retract those thoughts after you've viewed these videos.
I know you'll love them.
My highest recommendation.
Final Score: 90
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