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Best of Benzais, The Review

Official Review

January 28th, 2003 3:31pm
Reviewed by David Acer
In the 1960’s, Johnny Benzais established a towering reputation as a magical innovator, a feat made all the more impressive by the fact that he published only a relatively small body of work. The bulk of his contributions to the field are contained in this book, The Best of Benzais, which he wrote and illustrated himself.

The book contains 29 items (most are tricks, some are sleights), and is divided into five sections: “The Coins Through the Table,” “Just a Few More Coin Tricks,” “Different Types of Card Tricks,” “Stabbed in the Pack,” and “Mess-Celaneous Tricks,” featuring 3 non-card-or-coin items. Much (indeed, most) of the material requires you to be seated, which, while certainly not rendering the contents useless, does limit its value for many. In some cases, of course, being seated is organic to the effect (for example, it makes sense during a Coins-Through-Table). In others, it strikes me as entirely unnecessary (with all the stand-up versions available, why in God’s name would anyone do a Cut-and-Restored rope trick that requires lapping?).

Performing constraints notwithstanding, however, this booklet does shine in several places. Firstly, the opening chapter on the Coins-Through-Table offers some bold and beautiful techniques. I suspect if one were to perform this routine in its entirety at a magic contest even now, it would score very highly.

The chapter on Johnny's legendary (though not quite mythical) “Stabbed in the Pack” is also a fun read, and while spending hours trying to skip a card off a table into a deck may not appeal to you, one must agree that the plot is extremely engaging. Moreover, there are other interesting (and less practice-intensive) variations included that you can’t help but try once they enter your brain.

A number of seminal techniques also surfaced in this booklet at the time of its release, and are now in our standard lexicon of sleights, including the “Benzais Friction Retention Pass” and “Han Ping Benzais.” You will also find two Benzais signature pieces, “The Secret of Gorius,” a sit-down rope routine in which a knot appears and vanishes repeatedly that Richard Kaufman once referred to as “one of the best kept secrets in magic,” and the “4-D Ball Trick,” a three-ball routine that might have looked good in Johnny’s hands, but in my opinion suffers from “busy” construction.

One other effect I particularly enjoyed from the coin chapter (and have since tried sucessfully) is “5 Cents for your Thoughts,” a one-coin fooler that would earn you no small amount of money if you chose to use it as a bar bet.

The rest of the material in the book is somewhat less intriguing; a bland four-ace production, a weak and confusing sandwich effect, a technique to vanish a coin that requires scotch tape, etc., but for all the reasons stated above, The Best of Benzais still has more than enough staying power to be of interest.

David Acer

Product info for Best of Benzais, The

Author: Benzais, Johnny
Publisher: Haines House of Cards
Average Rating:  (1)
Retail Price: $3.50
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