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Shiels Effect and An Evening With Doc Shiels DVD Review

Official Review

March 19th, 2010 9:51am
Reviewed by David Parr
This is something of a "good news, bad news" situation, and tradition dictates that I share the bad news first. In this instance, the bad news is in the form of a video:

An Evening with Doc Shiels DVD

In a public house somewhere in Ireland, Doc Shiels stands in front of a portrait of James Joyce and gives a rambling seventy-minute talk to a group of magicians, and someone captures the event on video.

This could have been fascinating. As one of the founders of the genre known as bizarre magic(k), and as a performer who garnered some sensational publicity in his day, Shiels seems like a man with a wild and wooly past and many a tale to tell. Trouble is, he doesn’t really tell them.

Some tantalizing tidbits are here, for sure, but just when the viewer might think that the mage is getting around to sharing a juicy story about working tent shows, for example, Shiels drifts off and searches in his notebook for something to say. At times, he can't find anything to say, so he throws the floor open to questions. In front of the right group, that tactic might have worked. But in this case, the questions are not very interesting. In general, the group seems less than enthusiastic, to the point that Shiels resorts to shouting at them to try to pump them up and provoke a response. If someone had simply taken on the task of interviewing Shiels, asking solid questions and encouraging the man to open up and stay on track, the situation could probably have been turned around.

It's all so frustrating. Here's a guy with experiences that I will never have, experiences that were the product of a particular era and geographic location and an individual with a unique point of view. I'll bet he has stories that are epic. He raised the Loch Ness Monster and cavorted with naked witches ” at the same time! Alas, those epic stories are not really explored on this video.

Some of the hardcore fans will no doubt relish the opportunity to see and hear an icon of bizarre magic. Other fans of the genre, myself included, will find it difficult to see this video as much more than a huge missed opportunity.

An Evening with Doc Shiels gets two stars.

Now for the good news, which involves the return of a long-unavailable book:

The Shiels Effect by Tony Doc Shiels

Published in the mid-1970s, The Shiels Effect was a decidedly unusual little book on the subject of magic. It courted some controversy by praising and not condemning Uri Geller and also by including some (tame by today's standards) nekkid photos of an attractive young woman. Moreover, it described how to take what magicians consider to be basic, standard magic effects and turn them into a publicity-generating means to establishing a high-profile career as a performer of strange and mysterious phenomena.

The book was out of print for many years. Copies were difficult to find. But now it has been republished in a new edition, and the good news is that much of the author's advice is as applicable now as it was back when the book first appeared.

Let me be clear. This is not a collection of sunny affirmations and armchair theories. This is practical advice, garnered from observation and experience. There's no question about whether the approach outlined in this book will work. Geller used it to capture the public imagination, and Shiels himself used it to kickstart his own career. For the reader who chooses to pursue and study these ideas, there is a bibliography that lists published sources for the many magic effects mentioned in the text, as well as recommendations for further reading.

Near the end of the book, the editor of this new edition points out that David Blaine became famous by essentially following the Shiels playbook. I agree. Reread the following section of this review and see if it reminds you of anyone: "take what magicians consider to be basic, standard magic effects and turn them into a publicity-generating means to establishing a high-profile career as a performer of strange and mysterious phenomena."

Who will be the next wonder worker to run those plays? Could be you.

The Shiels Effect gets four stars.

Because this item is a book-and-DVD combo, I thought about averaging the star rating and giving it three stars. But the book deserves better, so I will disregard the DVD and give this item four stars for the book alone.

Available at your favorite Murphy’s Magic dealer

Product info for Shiels Effect and An Evening With Doc Shiels DVD

Author: Doc Shiels
Average Rating:  (1)
Retail Price: $45.00
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Manufacturer's Description:

The Book

This 72 page book (21 cm x 14.5 cm, perfect bound) was originally published in a limited edition. It created a sensation and went out of print very quickly. You could search on eBay and be lucky to find one copy coming up per year and find it sold in the hundreds of dollars.

The book itself has achieved legendry status. So what great secrets does it contain?

Well it does cover a section on spoon bending in Chapter One. But this is not a book of mentalism secrets. Any magic store has shelves weighed down with such tomes. Every magician and mentalist's library is full of books and DVDs crammed with the secrets of some of the greatest minds of our craft.
The Shiels Effect is the book that shows you how to leverage that information. How you can become the stuff of romantic legend … the next psychic superstar! A top soccer player like David Beckham is on a high salary. But he is able to leverage his position to bring in lucrative multi-million sponsorship deals. So why wouldn't you leverage your skills and talents - the skills you may already have to bring you more publicity, more celebrity status and more income.

Even if you don't want to achieve all the trappings of international stardom, surely as a performer shouldn't you be seeking to become the local celebrity, so that when they are looking for a service you provide, you are the one who pops into their mind straight away?

Right here in this book the plan, the mindset are laid bare. The secret ingredients that go to make a psychic superstar. No other book has delved so deeply into the subject of psychic superstardom and how to achieve it. No other book has laid out a step-by-step plan (two separate plans in fact, one for a man and one for a woman).

Pages 70

Doc retired from active performing twenty years ago to devote himself to his avocation - art. (You may recall that the late Chan Canasta, while at the top of his profession also retired to devote his life to painting).

Irish magician Pat Sullivan traced to a remote part of Co. Kerry in South West Ireland and coaxed him to come and talk to the Cork and Kerry magicians. Fortunately this very special evening was recorded and is preserved now for your enjoyment.

Sit down with a pot of strong coffee or a generous portion of your favorite beverage, pop in this DVD, relax and enjoy an evening's company with Doc Shiels.

Doc will regale you with stories from his early days as the boy magician performing at the local mission for deprived children, when he was barely older than they were.

Hear what happened when he switched a magician's spring snake for a real one.

How he developed his interest in Bizarre Magick (Doc was one of the founders of this genre).

What were the FIVE WORDS that caused long queues to see one Blackpool sideshow illusion? If you do the spider woman sideshow illusion, this could make you a lot of money, and if you don't you just might go and get one!

Doc will tell you a lot more about raising the Loch Ness Monster and makes a suggestion that could achieve similar levels of publicity for you.

Discover how he came to be known as 'Doc'.

Learn how the disembodied head of Princess Raman Ra handled a heckler - not something you would use yourself but very funny!

If you're looking for tricks - they're not here. This is an entertaining seventy minutes spent with one of magic's most intriguing characters, a man who lived the life he chose, answered to no one, developed a new genre in magic, contributed widely with numerous books and magazine articles and achieved international publicity.

It will also fill you in on the background to some of the material in The Shiels Effect.

For the technically minded this is not a studio quality production. It was taped with one camera. There's no special lighting. The sound is OK. Don't come back bitching that it's not studio quality. It's perfectly watchable and perfectly audible. And hugely entertaining!

Running Time Approximately 1hr 10min

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