Expert Imromptu Magic Made Easy

by Tom Mullica

The title above is exactly as it appears on the boxes of these three new videos. Someone at A-1 MultiMedia took a P. In fact, they took five of them. The word "Impromptu" is misspelled five times on each box. Now, I know that mistakes can happen, but shouldn't you take a little more care in checking over the covers of your product? If I were Mullica, I'd be issed.

There are over 70 effects demonstrated and explained on these three videos. Tom Mullica is the performer and teacher, and he does his usual fine job demonstrating and explaining the material. (As in other videos in which a large amount of material is presented, I feel that the word demonstration applies more than performance.) There are aspects of these videos which I think are very good, and there are other aspects which I find to be not good at all. Let me give you some background, and then we'll talk about the good stuff first.

The theory behind impromptu magic is that the performer is able to entertain his audience with whatever objects may be on hand; he does not need to have his pockets stuffed with props in order to prove that he's a magician. The best impromptu magicians I know have three traits: encyclopedic knowledge, a devious and creative mind, and the ability to see an object in terms of its form and function. This last trait allows the performer to utilize whatever objects are available. These videos will help you begin to acquire the knowledge (although you will need other resources, some of which I'll mention later), but the "mind" part you'll have to develop on your own.

If you have been in magic for any length of time, you'll probably be familiar with most of the material on these videos, for they focus on the classic impromptu effects. You find tricks with matches, handkerchiefs, napkins, bills, calendars, corks, paper clips, rubber bands, coins, silverware, and pop cans. Some of the effects include the ashes through the hand, pencil through handkerchief, the mouse, breaking off a button, the linking paper clips, the vanishing comb, the glass through the table, and the broken and restored rubber band. A couple of recent additions to the impromptu repertoire which you may not be familiar with are Allan Okawa's "Cellophane Surprise," in which the cellophane on the bottom of a cigarette pack is opened and magically resealed, and Harris and Mead's "Fizz Master," in which the carbonation from a can of soda is magically transported to another can. One item which I had never seen before is a bill to matches trick created by Jim Ryan. This looks unbelievable, and I was fooled by it. Unfortunately, it is not impromptu. You will have to make up the gaff ahead of time and carry it with you.

So, the material is good, although whether you find anything new will depend on your level of experience. Another good thing about these videos is Tom Mullica. He has an obvious love for this material. His demonstrations will give you a feel for how the various tricks look, and his explanations are clear. You will be able to learn the material from these tapes. The tapes are shot and edited well, and the production values are consistent with other A-1 tapes.

That's the good part. Now for the things that really bug me. First, and I think most important, I am dismayed that there is very little crediting done on these tapes. Tom mentions some of the creators of the material presented, but no attempt has been made to give you a complete accrediting of the originators or the sources for the material presented. For example, Tom performs "Sefalajia" and there is no mention of Stewart James. Martin Gardner's "Passe Passe Sponge Trick" is demonstrated (using matches) and there is no mention of Martin. I can understand if Tom didn't want to research all the material presented, but somebody at A-1 should have. A list of credits should have been given at the end of the tape. These tricks were created by living, breathing human beings. A-1 is making a buck off them, the least they could do is to let you know who they were, and where you could find more information about each trick.

The second thing that bothers me is the nature of the 24 "sets" into which the seventy trick have been organized. With a very few exceptions, there is absolutely no underlying organization of these sets. A three trick set might contain a trick with beans, one with buttons, and the last with paper balls. Or one with a donut, then one with a wand, then one with a cigarette paper. This is not a "set," this is just three tricks in a row. To be most useful, the material should have been grouped thematically into a logical, coherent, and theatrically meaningful routine. For example, Tom could have done a series of match tricks, in which the progression of tricks led to a logical and satisfying climax. This would have made much more sense, would have made the tricks easier to learn and easier to remember, and would have given the viewer a hunk of material which, even though impromptu, would have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

I also think that the producers of these tapes made a very poor choice when they chose to reveal the secret of a trick which is currently in the repertoire of a well known stage performer. This trick was (until now) a very good secret, and since I do not believe that many others will ever perform the trick, revealing the method was simply not necessary.

So, the bottom line is this. If you are a newcomer to magic and you absolutely lack the ability to read a book, you will find much of value on these tapes. If you have been in magic for a while, you will probably already know much of the material presented. However, if you really want to be good at impromptu magic, you should invest in The Encyclopedia of Impromptu Magic, Martin Gardner Presents, Michael Weber's Lifesavers, Scarne's Magic Tricks, and a complete file of The Minotaur.

And finally, a note to the guys at A-1: Use the rofits from this tae to buy a sell-checker or hire a better roof-reader.

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