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Mental Influence With Cards Review

Official Review

March 14th, 2008 6:05pm
Reviewed by James Sanden
Whether you are a fan of his or not, there can be no question that Kenton Knepper takes a very different approach to mentalism. In the case of the DVD release, “Mental Influence,” the viewer has the opportunity to see 2 different approaches that Mr. Knepper takes to the Svengali Deck.

“Kentonism Deck” is a standard prediction effect where the spectator cuts the cards and the performer predicts the card cut to. What sets this version apart is that at the beginning of the routine Mr. Knepper actually spreads the deck with the faces of the cards towards the spectator, which should be an obvious giveaway as to the method. However, Mr. Knepper handles it in such a way that the gimmicked nature of the deck is not revealed, though perhaps a better phrase would be that the gimmicked nature is not “comprehended” by the assisting spectator. At least that’s what he claims. More on this in a moment.

“Dual Reality Deck” uses the Svengali Deck in an even more offbeat and clever way to force a card. What makes this version different is that it appears to the audience as though the spectator could have mentally selected any card in the deck as the cards are dribbled from hand to hand. During the dribble is in fact where the selection takes place; there is no peek, pause, or need to rely on timing. It’s a sure fire force as the spectator can’t select a card other than the force card. Further, the illusion of a free selection is absolutely convincing to the audience, though what the onstage spectator sees is entirely different from what the audience sees. However, the performance is again designed to have the assisting spectator doubt what they see, rather than conclude it was a “trick deck.”

I think there are 2 major questions to ask when evaluating these effects, and I think with much of Mr. Knepper’s material. First, what phenomenon do you want the audience to perceive is occurring during your performance? In the case of Mr. Knepper, the phenomenon he wants the audience to perceive is that of the performer affecting the audience through suggestion and hypnosis. In this DVD, his presentation is geared toward the idea that the spectator was “lead” to select the cards they did by the performer. Unfortunately, I don’t see where the concept of “suggestion” is communicated either in script or presentation of effect in either of the 2 tricks taught. It could be that in actual performance Mr. Knepper sets up the concept of “suggestion” at the top of his show, but in these isolated effects the “suggestion” seemed contrived and artificial.

The second major evaluating question is how do you want your overall performance to appear? In the case of Mr. Knepper, particularly in his performance of “Kentonism Deck,” the performance appears confusing and unrehearsed. In fact, part of the effect is to cause the onstage spectator to be confused. I realize this is part of the overall theme of “suggestion,” but I think seeing an onstage spectator be confused will not only cause the audience to be uncomfortable, but will also cause them to be confused as well. And as Vernon is oft quoted, “Confusion is not magic.” In “Dual Reality Deck,” while the assisting spectator isn’t confused, the effect is a bit illogical. The assisting spectator is asked to mentally select a card as the cards are dribbled from hand to hand, then the selected card is shown to have been reversed in the deck. If it was reversed, how did the assisting spectator see it? This may occur to some as an insignificant detail, but the devil, as they say, is in the details.

My biggest concern is also the most interesting part of this DVD. The idea of suggestion is a fascinating one and is very popular in much of the “cutting edge” mentalism being created today. In this case, the idea of actually causing the spectator to doubt the validity of what they think they saw and to entertain the idea that they were truly manipulated is fascinating and relatively unexplored territory. However, I’m not sure that these two effects actually accomplish that result. This is the same complaint many level against Mr. Knepper (in addition to others, including Luke Jermay.) People seem to wonder whether or not he actually accomplishes what he says he is doing in the minds of the spectators. Unfortunately, without performing these effects a number of times, it’s difficult for me to say whether or not this is true. They doesn’t appear convincing on the DVD, but perhaps in performance, combined with personality and presentation, they plays as he describes. I don’t know. More importantly, even if they do play as described, the performances themselves are not compelling, interesting or entertaining. For me, the performance itself is paramount, and the end result of what occurs in the spectator’s mind is secondary. Which is, of course, my opinion.

Ultimately the value of this DVD lies in the ideas it introduces and explores, rather than offering commercial, developed material. The use of the Svengali Deck, particularly in “Dual Reality Deck” is very clever and effective. I could see this very easily used to convincingly force a card on stage, even if you don’t use the idea of suggestion that Mr. Knepper puts forth. He also offers a clever, unconventional and disarming shuffle for the Svengali Deck that disguises its nature, which I very much liked.

Most performers who know of his work either love or hate Mr. Knepper’s ideas. I don’t think this DVD will convert anyone to either side, but it does have some interesting ideas to explore.
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Product info for Mental Influence With Cards

Author: Kenton Knepper
Average Rating:  (1)
Retail Price: $25.00
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Manufacturer's Description:

Kentonism Deck
A bold and awe-inspiring effect. A spectator shuffles and cuts a deck after being shown the faces of the cards. The spectator cuts to one card - and this is the card predicted in advance. The performer does not handle the cards once the spectator has them. The trick that blew away the may famed mentalists of the Psychic Entertainer's Association.

Dual Reality Deck
Kenton created the term "multiple reality" and "dual reality" for his unique approach to mentalism and magic. Since that time it has inspired countless performers and authors. Here for the first time ever Kenton tips his special dual reality work with cards.

Cards are sprung from hand to hand and a spectator thinks of any card they see. The audience sees the faces too. The card the spectator thinks of is the one predicted in advance. The cards are shown faces and backs as normal.

The more the spectator talks to the audience, the more amazing the trick becomes. Is it a real trance state? A surefire way to do the think of a card force without sleight of hand or fear of missing.

Running Time Approximately 21min

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