March 24th, 2010 4:02pm
|If you've ever thought, "when will Easy to Master Card Miracles Volume 25 be released," you might be an Ammar fan.
If you've ever thought, "people from coal-mining towns make the best magicians," you might be an Ammar fan.
If you've ever thought, "bald southern men who play with silks are sexy," you might be an Ammar fan.
If you've ever thought, "I wonder what Ammar would look like with hair," you might want to get these DVDs . . .
These old VHS performances of Michael Ammar date back to a time when Mr. A was young and wore powder blue suits while brushing back his lustrous head of thick blond hair between performances. Back when cigarettes will still cool, soda cans had pull tabs, restaurants had salt and pepper "blister packs," and it was still ok to make slanty-eyed jokes about Chinese people. No these aren't random references. These are all actual topics/events that take place in the "Magic of Michael Ammar" video series.
It's a four part series (each sold separately) that has recently been converted to DVD. Volume I: Command Performance, Volume II: World Class Close Up, Volume III: A Touch of Magic - Coins and Volume IV: A Touch of Magic - Cards are loaded with "Classic" Ammar. These are effects that you probably think of when you think of Michael Ammar (Card on Ceiling, Coins Thru Silk, Iceman Cometh, etc) and a bunch of effects that you likely don't associate with him such as Torn and Restored Cigarette or Billy Balloon (Needle Through Balloon complete with slanty-eyed jokes and much more) and others.
These videos feature effects, for the most part, that are still just as valid today as they were then (almost 30 years ago). There are a few things that are sort of impossible to do today because the props don't exist or are nearly impossible to find. For example, the soda pull-tabs necessary for Pull Tab are no longer around. As a side note, Ammar mentions in the video that the prop is such a common item that it will be a long, long time before we live in a world where you can't readily get your hands on one. The day has arrived.
You'll also find it tough to get your hands on salt and pepper "blister packs" that can be used in the context of the routine that Ammar teaches as an opener at restaurants. Additionally, you'll find a much less refined and a much more nervous and stiff Ammar along with an awkward Gary Ouellet (host).
Putting all those quirks aside, these DVDs are still loaded with Gems. As awkward as Ammar was back then, he was still as great of a teacher then as he is now. There is some excellent work on the side-steal, the Gallo Pitch, Coin in Bottle, The Topit, and a TON more. These DVDs are worth owning for many reasons. They're great archive footage, if nothing else. You get to see Ammar in action (always a good time). You get to learn from an excellent teacher some of the greatest basics of magic and some of the greatest secrets in magic. Highly recommended GEMS!
However, for the sake of completeness (and keeping my job as a reviewer for My Lovely Assistant), let's examine the specifics of this volume, Volume I: Command Performance -
Iceman Cometh (5/5)
This is a beautiful and direct effect where a card appears frozen in the middle of a block of ice that is found in the card case. In this effect, you get the work on an excellent corner switch that is just perfect. You also get the work on a beautiful vanish. This is the type of effect that you do when you want to knock the socks off an event planner or some other person who may hire you. This alone is totally worth the DVD.
Salt & Pepper Transposition (4/5)
This is a perfect opener for the restaurant magician. It's a copper/silver routine with salt and pepper blister packs. If you're wondering, what the heck is a blister pack, join the club. I barely remember them from when I was a kid in the 70's. They just don't exist anymore. Were the props still alive today, I'd give this s 5 out of 5 rather than a 4. However, I still give it four because there are some sweet sleights and sneaky psychology to be gained from studying this effect. Also, there are similar items found in restaurants that may work for this effect.
The Vanishing Glass - 2 Methods (3/5)
This is one of the most visual effects I've seen. It's classic Ammar. A wine glass on your bare hand vanishes as a silk is draped over it. It's beautiful. The catch is, you need a place to ditch the glass when you're done, so it requires a little bit of awkward staging.
Card Matrix (4.5/5)
Unless you've seen this before, you WILL be fooled by it when you watch it. The problem is that if I tell you too much about it here, it'll ruin the surprise. I'll just tell you this. It is absolutely beautiful and looks like real magic. You also learn a great utility move that can be applied to other effects. The only reason I docked a half point is because this effect, while powerful to the laymen, is much, much more powerful to the magician.
Pull Tab (2.5/5)
I mentioned this one above . . . these pull tabs don't exist anymore. Too bad because the effect looks like real magic (yes I said "looks like real magic" again). I only gave this a 2.5 because there aren't any breakthrough moves to be gained by watching this effect, and the prop doesn't exist. If the prop still existed, this would be a 5 out of 5.
Torn & Restored Cigarette(4/5)
Here's another one that looks like real magic. Sorry folks but that's the theme of Mr. Ammar's magic, at least in these videos. I docked a point for a few awkward moments in the handling, and because cigarette magic isn't as cool as it used to be.
Billy Balloon (3/5)
This is a fun idea with a lot of presentational potential. It's a little more "fun" than his personality seemed to be able to handle. Some of the jokes fell flat mainly because he couldn't "sell" them. Also, there is a line or two that might not go over as well in today's PC world. However, in general, this is a nice 7 to 8 minute routine that is a clever and fun take on the Needle Through Balloon. If you already own Needle Through Balloon then you could pretty much add this to your act right now.
Overall, I really like this DVD. As with the other 3 in this series, you get so much more than just the explanation of the effect. You get a ton of utility moves taught in depth; you get some excellent theory, psychology, and even some commentary about what type of effects you should perform and master.
Just the effects by themselves rank at 3.7 as an average. However, add in the extras you get in the explanation along with the joy of seeing Mr. Ammar's gloriously thick head of hair, I'd have to give this DVD 4 solid stars!
Product info for Magic of Michael Ammar #1
Author: Michael AmmarPublisher: L&L PublishingAverage Rating: (1)Retail Price: $34.95
Immediately upon its release, The Magic of Michael Ammar
became one of the fastest-selling magic books in history. Now, for the first time on DVD, you can actually see the magic that made Michael Ammar a world-champion magician performed by its creator at the very peak of his powers. Then, Michael takes you behind the scenes and demonstrates why he is widely considered to be one of the world's very best magic teachers. You'll learn not just the secrets to these powerful effects but also all of the minute details that will enable you to add these world-class tricks and techniques to your own repertoire.
Recorded by broadcast-quality cameras and performed in front of a lay audience, you'll find all of your favorite Ammar classics. Whether you use this DVD as the perfect companion for the best-selling book or as a stand-alone learning tool, you'll find material suitable for all skill levels and a variety of venues.
This is the magic that created a legend... and now it can be yours. Volume 1 - Command Performance
"One of the best close-up workers in the past 50 years. He's a genius."
- Iceman Cometh
- One-Handed Bottom Deal Force
- Corner Switch
- Salt & Pepper Transposition
- The Vanishing Glass - Two Methods
- Card Matrix
- Pull Tab
- Torn & Restored Cigarette
- Billy Balloon
- Dai Vernon Running Time
Approximately: 1hr 41mins