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Off The Wall Review

Official Review

February 21st, 2003 4:05pm
Reviewed by David Acer
In the 1980’s, Ben Harris was at the forefront of one of the most exciting periods in close-up magic. Along with the likes of Paul Harris, Jay Sankey and David Roth, Ben’s prolific output over the course of the decade contributed to a communal body of work that was instrumental in dragging the art form kicking and screaming into the present.

Off The Wall (1988) and Mad Fax and Other Mysteries (1990) are my two favorite of Ben’s books. They each contain an extremely high concentration of material that is both creative and performable, a rare combination.

Off The Wall (a softcover, 103-page arsenal of deadly close-up weapons) contains 24 items (some sleights, some tricks) using cards, coins, matchbooks, matchboxes, and finally, a spoon. The latter (called “Twirl”) is an approach to spoon-bending that results in a twisted spoon, rather than a bent one. Now, 15 years later, we have at our disposal an entirely new way to present this, by using Ben’s “Twirl” in conjunction with Paul Harris’ “Reality Twister,” foregoing the pen in favor of a spoon.

Among the other tricks I particularly like in this collection are “4 Corners,” a lovely, bare-handed production of four coins on four separate corners of your close-up mat; “Invertz,” a wonderful, self-working revelation of two freely chosen cards using the Gilbreath Principle; “Foto,” a striking printing effect in which a blank card visibly becomes a spectator’s selection; “Strange Harmony,” a complete vanish of a playing card that is reminiscent of Paul Harris’ “Super Swindle,” but (to my mind, anyway) is also potentially more convincing; and “Under Your Finger!” a packet trick with a handful of cards culled from a regular deck that shows Ben in “Ed Marlo” mode.

You will also learn several new applications for one of Ben’s more versatile techniques, “Super Flip,” which he published some years earlier and reprints here. These new avenues for the move help to secure its place as a real-world “worker,” and include a flashy double lift, a lovely color change, a stunning Ambitious Card climax, a powerful transposition, and a devious switch-out, which will allow you to perform Ben’s excellent, “Staple Diet.”

Mad Fax and Other Mysteries (a softcover, 86-page battery of big sticks with which to speak softly) contains 11 tricks, plus an additional 12 items using fax machines. This book was published in 1990, when fax machines were just becoming accessible to the everyday user, thus Ben was trying to capitalize on the novelty of “fax machine magic” by making it the primary “hook” of the book. But the reality is, while these bits and pranks are fine (revelations of mentally chosen cards and numbers, practical jokes wherein the fax user is fooled into thinking his machine is going haywire, etc.), they are also the least interesting part of the book. The most interesting part is (are) the wonderful tricks and routines that make up “Other Mysteries!” “Mental Photography,” for example, is a terrific effect in which three spectators each select one of three photographs that are special to you in some way, whereupon you are able to determine who is holding which photo in a devious fashion. “Through the Universe Backwards” is an excellent (and highly visual) color-changing deck routine. And “The Strange Little House Upon the Hill” is by far the strongest card-in-matchbox I have ever seen (even stronger, in my opinion, than Ben’s own “Pyrobox,” from Off The Wall).

Mad Fax also contains complete and detailed descriptions of two of Ben’s marketed items, both of which you can easily make on your own “ “The Creeps,” a simple, self-contained animated matchbox that can be used to powerful effect in tandem with “The Strange Little House Upon the Hill;” and “Dimensional Relativity,” a plot straight from the Twilight Zone in which a signed selection turns inside out.

Both Mad Fax and Off The Wall are well written, well illustrated, and beautifully laid out (Ben’s design has always been as crisp as his magic). I can’t imagine anyone not finding something they like in these.


Product info for Off The Wall

Author: Harris, Ben
Publisher: Tannen
Average Rating:  (1)
Retail Price: $15.00
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Manufacturer's Description:

Large oversized book with foreword by Jay Sankey. Introduces some new sleights which go on to form the basis for some of Ben's best work. Over 20 solid, visual, practical close-up effects, handling and ideas. 156 Beautiful line drawings making the magic so easy to learn. Every attempt has been made to present practical, useful, and entertaining effects. Soft cover, 104 pages.

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