When I was in college, I went through a phase where I was very interested in magic. Slight of hand and mental magic were the things that fascinated me the most, and I taught myself how to preform two or three tricks with a certain degree of expertise. I also read up on magicians and their lives, and one that I've never really been sure about is the Amazing Kreskin. Kreskin describes himself as a "mentalist." He clearly states that he's not a psychic, which is good, then claims that he's not a magician either. He claims that he can actually read minds, which is bullshit of course, but he is one of the greatest cold readers that have ever lived. He gets some people upset because he makes some people believe in mental powers that don't exist, but then again all magicians lie in their acts. He tries to tread a fine line between magician and charlatan, and I think he'd be more popular if he would just admit that he's a very, very talented magician.
The Amazing Kreskin has now put out a DVD in which he demonstrates some of his abilities, and then teaches viewers how to do several trick. It's a mixed bag over all. Some of the tricks he preforms are really elementary and childish, while others are fairly amazing.
The disc starts off with Kreskin giving demonstration of his 'mind reading' abilities; a cold reading session that puts John Edwards to shame. He's clearly a master at the art, since he's done it for over 40 years, and makes some astounding guesses. Of course he doesn't get everything right, but he recovers from his errors in a good way.
Next he calls up some audience members and presents an example of the 'power of suggestion.' He's careful to announce that he's not doing hypnotism, and then launches into a short act where he makes the volunteers unable to stand and other similar stunts. I've never been a fan of that type of act, it just doesn't come across as miraculous to me, but he did a good job for what it was.
Kreskin then segues into some standard magic tricks. He does a few illusions with cards, some of which were good, others not so good, and revels the tricks to a couple. One of the best was when he had an audience member tie his wrists together with a handkerchief. He then had a rope passed through the hole that his arms made, and effortlessly passed the rope through the binding handkerchief. He reveals the secret to this one too.
The next section is devoted to spiritualist type of magic. He makes a table levitate and makes a ghost touch a woman on the stage, and show various ways con artist have convinced people that the dead are visiting them. He also reveals how all this is done. I thought that Kreskin did all of these effects well, but I'm not sure how effective it was. Most people watching have never visited a spiritualist and the effects seemed a little silly, especially in a well lit room.
The disc wraps up with some demonstrations of stunts you can do with a pendulum. He shows haw it can be a lie detector and even tell the time. I thought this was a fairly lame demonstration to end the disc on. It definitely doesn't end with a bang. I was really underwhelmed since I know this is just an ideomotor response. The effect isn't that miraculous either. Is anyone really astounded that someone holding a pendulum can make it oscillate to and fro?
There were some very good illusions that Kreskin preforms on this disc. In addition to the ones I've already mentioned Houdini's Disappearing Dice was good, and the section on "Mastering Control Over People" (basically playing with a person's balance and center of mass) was a lot of fun. There were an equal number of tiresome illusions though, including the "All Red or All Black" deck of cards and the "Chart of Names" weren't really worth performing.
In addition to the lame tricks, Kreskin did reveal how he does many, but not all, of the illusions. I think this takes away from the effect. After people know how it's done, they don't appreciate the illusion any more. It isn't a miraculous feat, but just a trick.
Another fault to revealing how a trick is done, in this case at least, is that Kerskin uses plants in the audience to achieve many of the effects. This totally ruins the mind reading and power of suggestion sections at the beginning of the disc. If he's willing to use stooges for other tricks, how do we know that the people he calls on earlier aren't in on the act too?
The two channel audio was adequate for such a program, but not better than that. I was very surprised hear crackles and some distortion throughout the show. For something that was filmed in 2005, they should have been able to create a better audio track. You can still hear Kreskin's patter clearly though and that's the main thing. There are no subtitles.
The full frame video quality was about average for a no-frills production like this. The picture was clear but not incredibly crisp. There were some minor digital defects, aliasing and a little minor banding, but it didn't affect the presentation. Not a great looking picture, but good enough.
Unfortunately, there were no extras. Some of Kreskin's many TV appearances through the 60's and 70's would have been great to include, but I assume they couldn't get the rights.
The disc does come with a pendulum and an insert that has a 'lie detector' pattern on it. These are used for a trick that Kreskin demonstrates.
Kreskin is a very talented magician, and this is a nice chance to see
him in action. He does show how to preform several of the tricks
that he does which budding magicians may find useful. If you are
looking for a good magic show though, I don't really think this succeeds.
Some of the effects are truly top notch, especially the cold reading at
the beginning, but many of them fall pretty flat too. Overall this
would make a good Rental. It's nice to see once, but won't
really stand up to repeat viewings.