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Chop Cup (World's Greatest Magic) Review

Official Review

February 22nd, 2008 9:51pm
Reviewed by Bryce Kuhlman
If I were the producer of this DVD, I would have changed the title to something like "Performance is Everything." As a viewer, you quickly get the idea that most chop cup routines are the same... based initially on Don Alan and, later, on the work of Larry Jennings. Yet some performers can turn these standard routines into performance gold.

The most obvious example was watching James Swain perform a routine based largely on Larry Jennings. We get to watch Jennings first. He was a brilliant creator, but not much of a performer. Swain, on the other hand, is an absolute joy to watch. The magic is about him, not the props or the "swindle". He understands timing, which is so critical to a good performance. If you watch Jennings and Swain back-to-back, you'll get the real lesson this DVD has to teach.

Here are my thoughts on the individual segments:

David Regal is a strange man. His chop cup routine is equally strange. It uses a fake mouse. The routine, itself, is pretty standard except for the mouse premise (which is amusing). It's got a double-load finale that's appropriate to the theme.

John Mendoza goes with the traditional "con game" premise. It's well executed, but otherwise pretty standard. I do like the fact that he's using a goblet-style cup that doesn't look like something you would buy at a magic shop. His thoughts on the size of the cup and making a custom one are worth watching.

Gary Ouellet starts by laying out his thoughts on why the two-cup routine is superior (in his mind) to a traditional three-cup routine. He performs to music and it's quite lovely to watch. Unfortunately, he steps on some of the "nervous laughter" by tossing in a stupid joke. After watching the performance, I remembered that I have this routine in printed form in my library (Masters of Magic series). If you're looking for a more "poetic" routine, check this one out.

Danny Tong's routine has similar moves to the standard, but has a lot more audience interaction. It's really geared towards entertainment and sidesteps the traditional gambling theme. It's a very good, commercial routine.

One thing I really like Steve Dacri's routine is that he slows down. All moves are very deliberate. Plus the routine is really short. My only gripe about this segment was the bad camera angles during the final load sequence.

Even though I've read a lot of Larry Jennings' work, this was the first time I'd seen him perform. I had heard that he wasn't the greatest of performers. I'd have to agree. But the routine has a lot of refreshingly new ideas. In addition to the cup and ball, Larry utilizes a handkerchief, a shot glass and the bag to carry everything. In the right hands, this could be an amazing piece of magic.

Even though James Swain is using the standard "swindle" story, he benefits from taking his time. The routine is based on various people with Larry Jennings being the most obvious. Every student of close-up magic should watch Swain work. The magic is obviously about him, not about the props. Even when he's doing a lot of the standard shtick, he really turns this into magic.

Available at your favorite Murphy’s Magic dealer

Product info for Chop Cup (World's Greatest Magic)

Author: Various
Publisher: L&L Publishing
Average Rating:  (1)
Retail Price: $19.95
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Manufacturer's Description:

Imagine the best magic, the best magicians, and the best producers all in one place.

Imagine no more...

If you could have one set of magic DVDs, this would be it! This benchmark collection features just about all of magic's most enduring and classic effects and routines. It's a fabulous compendium with many of the top masters in the world of magic teaching their handlings and routines for some of magic's classics. Linking rings, sponge balls, metal bending, cups and balls, thumb tips, Zombie, color-changing knives, and many, many more topics are all gathered in this one terrific DVD reference set. Each volume covers a specific subject and features new, old, and sometimes rare footage by some of the top video producers in magic.

Ever since the Chop Cup was invented by magician Al Wheatley (whose stage name was Chop Chop, which is where the trick derives its unusual name) in the early 1950s, magicians have devised increasingly clever ways to use it. The basic one-cup one-ball approach to the classic Cups and Balls has held the fascination of magicians through the years most probably due to its devious use of a mechanical principle along with sleight of hand to create an intriguing and compelling illusion. On this DVD, you'll meet some masters of the Chop Cup, each with their own spin on the trick. There are classicists such as John Mendoza, Danny Tong and Steve Dacri who beguile their audiences with basic but still utterly baffling routines. Then we have rather unique approaches to the trick, such as David Regal, who substitutes the ball with - no kidding! - a toy mouse and later, Gary Ouellet, who performs a beautifully choreographed (to music no less!) routine using a Chop Cup and a matching, ungaffed cup. Finally, we have Larry Jennings who created one of the most original (and most performed) Chop Cup routines ever. Finally, Jim Swain presents his own version of the Jennnings routine with his own singular imprint.

The Chop Cup has been a signature effect for many of magic's most successful performers and on this DVD, you'll find marvelous ready-made routines in addition to scores of ideas and stratagems to add to an existing routine.

  • My Best Friend - David Regal
  • Chop Cup Routine - John Mendoza
  • The Two Goblets - Gary Ouellet
  • Chop Cup - Danny Tong (courtesy of Kozmo's Magic)
  • Chop Cup - Steve Dacri
  • Jennings Chop Cup - Larry Jennings
  • The Chop Cup - Jim Swain

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