Not a Review of Grand Illusions: The Story of Magic Part Two

Uncle Billy’s A Dope

I was stumbling through the garden we call the Internet this morning at around 3:30 am. The last infomercial that I cared about was done.

 

I knew that TIVO would catch the rest ? it has confirmed that my favorite show genre is Infomercial ? and so there was nothing to do but watch SportsCenter again or go to sleep. I decided to continue my dedicated research to make sure no stone was left un-passed. I searched the Internet one more time for anything Magic and found a really neat review of Grand Illusions: The Story of Magic Part Two.

 

I have not seen Grand Illusions: The Story of Magic Part Two before and never even saw Grand Illusions: The Story of Magic Part One. I saw The Godfather Part Three and Beethoven Part Two but never Grand Illusions: The Story of Magic Part One or Grand Illusions: The Story of Magic Part Two.

 

The reviewer may be a magician or just someone like us who loves Magic so much that he would be up at 3:37 am (Eastern Time) to post his review of a DVD about Magic. Two paragraphs of his review interested me:

This is a very good history of magic. It does not have time to go in depth, of course, but it does give the viewer a good…

Uncle Billy’s A Dope

I was stumbling through the garden we call the Internet this morning at around 3:30 am. The last infomercial that I cared about was done.

 

I knew that TIVO would catch the rest ? it has confirmed that my favorite show genre is Infomercial ? and so there was nothing to do but watch SportsCenter again or go to sleep. I decided to continue my dedicated research to make sure no stone was left un-passed. I searched the Internet one more time for anything Magic and found a really neat review of Grand Illusions: The Story of Magic Part Two.

 

I have not seen Grand Illusions: The Story of Magic Part Two before and never even saw Grand Illusions: The Story of Magic Part One. I saw The Godfather Part Three and Beethoven Part Two but never Grand Illusions: The Story of Magic Part One or Grand Illusions: The Story of Magic Part Two.

 

The reviewer may be a magician or just someone like us who loves Magic so much that he would be up at 3:37 am (Eastern Time) to post his review of a DVD about Magic. Two paragraphs of his review interested me:

This is a very good history of magic. It does not have time to go in depth, of course, but it does give the viewer a good basic knowledge of the subject. There are a lot of rare video clips and pictures shown, along with interviews from people who are experts on the subject.

 

This does not give away any secrets, so if you are yearning to learn how to perform Blackstone?s Dancing Handkerchief this is not the DVD for you. If, on the other hand, you want to learn more about who the greatest magicians of the past were, what they did to earn their fame, as well as see the effect they have on today?s magicians, this is a great DVD to own.

How can you beat that. I don’t want secrets exposed but I do want, in gigantic doses (sort of one dose past “Maximum Strength” ? which I guess would be “Lethal Strength”) of interviews, film clips, photos and stories about the great magicians of the past.

 

The review starts with a statement that warmed my heart ? or it could have been the cigar that fell out of my mouth as I started to slumber.

It takes a lot of effort to make something look effortless. That old saying goes double for performing magic. When Penn and Teller revel the secret of a trick, most people think ?Gee, that?s easy. I can do that.? But it never works out quite as well as it appeared on TV. That?s why professional magicians guard their secrets so carefully. You have to work very hard at an illusion before it becomes magical. A poorly done trick is dull, unentertaining, and even a bit irritating. (How many times have cringed inwardly when someone asks you to “Pick a card, any card.”) But there is nothing so amazing, so astounding, so well, magical, as watching a talented magician in person.

Yes, thank you.

 

That is exactly right in all ways. Magic done correctly is more than a puzzle; it is Magic. We do work very hard at making a magic trick appear to be magical. When I first learned the secret to Grant’s Flying Carpet, I could have cried. I was so disappointed.

 

That couldn’t have been the secret. After all, I had seen the effect performed on stage, with lights and a pretty girl. The magician not only passed the hoop around her to demonstrate there could be no strings or other supports but I would have also sworn (never a good thing to do, especially with the heavy Amish influence in my life) that the girl floated up and around the stage.

 

Great Review

The Magic that came from the Flying Carpet was far more than could be delivered by the crudely painted prop I saw. But once I assembled my newly acquired trick, I could never see it the same way. I was happy that audiences saw the magic that I once witnessed; but sad that I knew the secret and that my performance was limited by the reality the method.

 

Plus, my assistant had recently become pregnant and each show we performed the effect, the limitation of the prop became more pronounced ? at least to me. It got even worse in the Zig-Zag. (It is not well-known that the phrase “Worse in the Zig-Zag” was the original title of Margaret Mitchell’s incredible book, Gone with the Wind. She changed it after she sobered up).

 

On the other hand, I have seen some methods and props that were magic in themselves. Haven’t we all had the experience where despite the incredible technique we’ve employed or because of awonderfully made prop, the audience is less than impressed in the effect as a whole.

 

You want to turn the prop over or explain the technique if only to get some favorable reaction; or to feel that they really do like you.

 

But, again as we all know, showing them how to do it or how a prop works, will not impress them that you are likeable, loveable or even a good magician. It will only expose a secret to an effect that you ought not to expose. Magic secrets, like certain diseases, are best kept to one’s self no matter how much one wants to share them with others. (I got this simile from a public health pamphlet I receivedduring my last doctor’s visit).

 

I am not a bright man, heck, I’m barely a man; much less bright. But it seems to me from my considerable experience of being less than impressive to audiences all over the world (well, in the U.S., Canada, Ireland, England and France ? I don’t consider my escape from a Turkish prison to be the same thing as performing a trick (actually it was exactly the opposite, it was why I was trying to escape)) that to expose a trick for any reason is to rob it of its Magic.

 

Mr. Marucci is correct in saying that we all learned our skills (or in my case, my limitations) by exposure of one kind or another. So we would all agree that there are exposures that promote the Art and should be permitted.

 

But as I mentioned when I finally got my hands on the U.F. Grant’s Flying Carpet, the Magic was stripped away and I was left with a very heavy prop with a very costly shipping bill. I had to know how it worked to perform it and to perform it as well as possible. But it was never Magic for me again.

 

When hooligans demonstrate a trick and then proceed to demonstrate how the trick fooled the audience, they instantly rob the audience and the trick itself of the Magic that made it special. It becomes nothing more than a very clever puzzle. The difference between the Floating Light Bulb and the puzzle where you hook a pencil by a cord to a spectator’s buttonhole and dare him to try to remove it vanishes.

 

When I watched Lance Burton for the first fifteen times, I was blown away. (I will see his show for a sixteenth time during the World Magic Seminar this January).

 

At several points in the show, I had no idea how he did what he did. On the contra-positive, when I saw Penn and Teller perform, there was not one effect that left me wondering how it could have been accomplished. Both shows were very entertaining. Only one show was Magical. Siegfried and Roy’s show (may God bless and keep Roy during his recovery) was interesting because I knew how each effect was done but still found the presentation and evening to be Magical.

 

So back to the review of the review.

 

We debate amongst ourselves whether exposure of magic to the uncritical eye of the masses is appropriate ? but we know it is not. We debate whether there is some type of proprietary interest in a magic invention that we as magicians should respect and not rip-off ? and we know that there is.

 

But for the masses of folks that may never see a live magic show of Lance Burton’s caliber, none of this matters. It matters only that we keep the magic show Magical. They do not want to know how we make the Magic happen. By the same token, I suggest, they do not want to be fooled or tricked. They want to be entertained.

 

There are real live people in the world that enjoy hearing and creating great puns. (That is an oxymoron if there ever was one). I don’t know those people and find puns to be the lowest form of entertainment; even below Infomercials.

 

Conceivably, then, there would be an audience where a performer did nothing more than show how clever he or she was in making things that fooled people. The problem, though, is that such a show would have a limited run. Just like the masked magician could only steal and rape so much before he ran out of material and audience.

 

The magic of Magic is that it continues year after year. David Copperfield comes through Southeast Michigan each year and we see him each year. Each year he has effects we’ve seen in the past along with some new ones. But the show is as exciting and as Magical as it was the first time we saw him.

 

After all, if Mr. Copperfield or Mr. Burton to tell us how he performed each illusion, we’d only need to see him once. Unless you are very different from me ? you probably don’t work on puzzles you’ve already solved. But you probably do re-read great stories or see movies again and again.

 

I know how “It’s a Wonderful Life” ends but I still cry like a child when George’s brother, Harry, comes back from the Navy in time to read the telegram from Sam Wainright authorizing all the money George needs. So I have never desired and doubt loyal “It’s a Wonderful Life” fans would want to see the outtakes and blocking for the shot with a discussion of the multiple camera angles necessary to give the audience the feeling that the actors really cared.

 

Anyway, I liked the review by a layperson of the Magic that I love. Check it out if you want to feel happy.

 

Go to the review by clicking here.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.