August 31st, 2003 5:11pm
|The Very Best of Gary Ouellet, Volume I
Rating: *** (three stars)
The Very Best of Gary Ouellet, Volume II
Rating: **1/2 (two-and-a-half stars)
The Very Best of Gary Ouellet, Volume III
Rating: ***1/2 (three-and-a-half stars)
I think Gary Ouellet is one of the most underrated magic teachers of our time. The body of work he left behind upon his death in 2002 features an array of ingenious concepts, expertly described in such engaging books as Close-Up Illusions, Fulminations, and the seven-part Masters of Magic series.
So where do these DVDs fit in? Well, in the early 1980's, when Canadian Hans Zahn created Videonics, Gary Ouellet was one of the first people he called, booking him to tape a series of lectures that formed the core of his catalogue for many years. These, along with the Vernon Revelations tapes, were consistently Videonics' best sellers.
Now, some twenty years later, L&L Publishing has repackaged and reissued these tapes, essentially putting two to a DVD. The result is a grab-bag of close-up magic that was almost the whole of Gary's work at the time. In fact, it may have been more accurate to title the DVDs, Early Ouellet, a courtesy L&L did extend to Michael Ammar when his Videonics collection was reissued.
In any case, here's a general overview that applies to all three DVDs before I go into specifics regarding each one.
Firstly, much (though not all) of Gary's material back then required lapping, so if you never perform while seated, you will have no use (other than academic) for nearly half the magic in this collection.
Secondly, Gary liked to create a miniature theatre feel in his close-up shows, so he performed on an elevated close-up mat (called The Close-Up Stage), with two small speakers on either side. As such, he could play music during the tricks if he chose. At times, this was very effective, specifically when he would work silently, letting the music create atmosphere. Other times, however, he would play music AND try to speak overtop of it, which, to me, came across as painfully amateurish. On Volume 1, for example, while performing The Miracle Signed Card in Purse, he is actually forced to yell his patter over We Are The Champions!
Having said that, there is still much of value on these DVDs, magic that real-world workers can use.
Volume I features, among other things, Gary's Three Second Wonder (great name for a trick, bad name for a male escort), a quick and flashy version of Fr. Cyprian's Swindle Cut Aces that fooled me badly the first time I saw it. The Wiffle Dust Routine, a precursor to Gary's much better Silverdust Routine from Close-Up Illusions, features some decent sit-down coin moves, but more importantly, it will introduce you to the Crossover Lap, a technique to vanish a coin using (in this case) a salt shaker that you will find yourself doing every time you're in a restaurant!
The Capricorn Card is a striking effect from Gary's Threshold manuscript (Masters of Magic #5), in which every card in the deck vanishes but a spectator's selection. When you watch the trick, you KNOW he must have lapped the pack, but you just don't see it happen. I actually prefer this to The Incredible Vanishing Deck (also taught here) - there's just something about one card remaining in the hands that's more magical than none.
The Sponge Balls and Banana is an excellent sponge ball routine that does require lapping, but it could easily be adapted to walkaround work (it's Gary's approach that distinguishes the routine, not the manner in which he executes it). Gary also introduces his wonderful Push-Pinch Sponge Ball Vanish (later published in Close-Up Illusions), one of the most convincing false transfers using a sponge ball you will ever see.
Finally, this DVD features my all-time favorite of Gary's routines - The Silver Passage - a coins-through-table effect that is pure magic. You will learn a handful of lovely techniques to accomplish the effect, including the remarkable Hirata Master Move, in which a coin held at the fingertips is instantly pushed through the tabletop. This alone is worth the price of the DVD. Those of you who may have purchased Gary's Silver Passage manuscript (Masters of Magic #3) will also be treated to an alternate ending that was not included in the original routine (though it was later published in Close-Up Illusions), called The Gossamer Dissolve.
Not everything on this DVD fills my cup, however. The Washer Trick, for example, features a series of penetrations and changes with a washer that, while somewhat magical, make absolutely no sense whatsoever. The Ring and Rope, a progenitor of The Homing Ring (Masters of Magic #6), can't be done with a borrowed ring, which in my opinion is a HUGE weakness. Check out the ring-and-rope routines by Ray Grismer (Close-Up Cavalcade) and Marc DeSouza (DeSouza's DeCeptions) if you want some real work here.
Finally, The Miracle Signed Card in Purse is a sit-down effect that, while strong, just isn't as practical as, say, Ben Harris's signed-card-in-matchbox (Off The Wall, 1988), or even (if you'll forgive me) The Castle Card in Coin Purse, from Roadkillers (2001).
Despite this, however, I believe you will find more than enough of value to make Volume I worth your while. And be sure to learn the Couture Swivel Cut Control Gary teaches in The Capricorn Card - it's a favorite of many magicians, including David Regal. Need I say more?
Volume II is, overall, a weaker effort, though certainly not without merit. Magic Photography is a pretty way of producing four-of-a-kind that matches a spectator's selection (i.e. if he chose a Queen, you produce the other three Queens by using the deck as a camera). The routine makes use of an old MagiCube flash cube, but you don't really need it. Indeed, it would actually be better with a F.I.S.M. Flash, since you could set the flash off prior to each revelation, rather than just once. Again, however, you don't really need it.
The Two Goblets is, move for move, the two-cup, one-ball routine Gary released in the Masters of Magic series (#4). It has as a selling point the fact that there is no sleight-of-hand involved, but, while there are some strong and magical phases, there are also some weaker ones that could benefit from the use of more advanced techniques.
Gary also imparts the work on his Three Ball Routine, which, while pretty, once again involves lapping. There are equally good stand-up versions out there for those of you who actually want to perform this.
In addition, there is a selection of coin and card moves (vanishes, changes, productions), all of which are fine, none of which are exceptional.
In many ways, the highlight of this video is Threshold, a torn-and-restored card routine that will likely fry you. It involves a devious switch and some lapping, making it impractical for everyday use, but if you find yourself in a sit-down situation, OR you need a guaranteed killer for TV, this would fit the bill nicely.
That brings us to Volume III. Here we find Gary some eight or ten years older, a little more confident, a little more experienced, and occasionally joined by his friend, Ken Krenzel. The tape contains a mish-mosh of sleights, some excellent, some not. The Touch Force, for example, is one of the best and most practical forces ever devised. The Sliding Top Change, on the other hand, is a clunky card switch that should have been left in the notebooks.
The Infidel Change, on that first hand again, is an eye-popping, mid-air transformation of one coin into another, while The False Cut (back to the "other hand") is as old as the hills, and barely worth the time it took to describe it.
In terms of routines, my advice is to fast forward straight through Showcase, an effect involving four free selections that are lost in the deck, then found, whereupon they become Aces, then finally revert back to the selections. This is plodding and pedantic, and unworthy of Gary's talents.
Super Shells, on the other hand, which was in fact the second installment in the Masters of Magic series, is a glorious approach to the Three Shell Game, and easily worth the price of the DVD. It is inspired in its simplicity, and also happens to offer Gary's best live performance of the trilogy.
Also, squirreled away in The Force segment is a lovely little signature transposition that makes excellent use of The Touch Force.
There are other sleights of varying use and quality on the DVD. I like The Cabaret Force and Flash Deck very much, for example, but The Paradox Control and The Crook Move, not so much. Regardless, you will likely want to play with some of these, if not incorporate them into your repertoire.
So where does that leave us? Well, if you can't decide whether or not to buy the complete set, my advice is to start with Volume 1 or 3. Beyond that, it all comes down to what type of magic you're looking for. Each volume offers something that will blow both magicians and laymen away, but whether or not you'll be able to use them is another matter.
Product info for The Very Best of Gary Ouellet, Vols 1, 2, and 3
Author: Ouellet, GaryPublisher: L&L PublishingAverage Rating: (1)Retail Price: $99.95
He was a trusted advisor to some of magic?s biggest stars. Now, see the man behind the legend and his own incredible close-up illusions.
Gary Ouellet has written several excellent books and he was also the producer of the World?s Greatest Magic television specials. He was most knowledgeable in all aspects of magic and was a great teacher.