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Learn to Levitate DVD Review

Official Review

December 26th, 2003 5:43pm
Reviewed by Brad Henderson
I believe it was Samuel Johnson who wrote, "Your manuscript is both original and good. Unfortunately the parts that are good are not original and the parts that are original are not good."

Unfortunately, not even so much can be said for this DVD.

First, let me get something out of the way. In this DVD Mike Maxwell tips a number of marketed items without permission or credit. This I find untenable and as such will only give the product 1/2 a star, though in truth it probably wouldn't have earned much more. There is even a fairly awkward moment where he hedges his bets saying that a floating ball hook up he is about to teach is his own no matter if it is similar to others. This is fine, independent creations happen all the time. But given the fact there is outright theft on the tape, this disclaimer seems to me disingenuous. At the least he should have credited who he feels might have had a similar idea. If his is original to him, that's fine. No harm in acknowledging other's work.

Anyway, to the batcave.

You are given a show and tell presentation of how to float things. No real instruction takes place, for example no one could possibly learn the intricacies of the Dancing Cane from the presentation here. Most explanations are cursory at best and the presentations are mediocre. You can tell Maxwell is afraid of breaking the thread and there has been no real thought in how to avoid moving the objects around the thread except by awkward and obvious large motions that stand out.

First we are shown a floating bill with thread reel. He tips the Ammar S fold technique and is largely doing a kind of Kennedy/Ammar routine. He mentions Ammar has popularized the S fold but doesn't go into its advantages. He also shows a thread reel, another marketed item. I don't think it's right to 1) teach tricks on videos without explaining how to build the required props or providing them and 2) to teach tricks that are marketed and sold as separate items without the creators specific permission.

He now teaches a version of the Kennedy Floating Bill using the spectator as an anchor. Many of us played with this idea in the late 80's early 90's, myself included. While its do-able if the other spectator is in on it, it is replete with problems if they are not. The lighting issues for that one guy are very troublesome (any overhead lighting will reflect the thread right into his eyes) and if the trick has any impact at all (which it should) there is no way he is going to keep is feet planted and his body still during the performance.

Great for the magic club.

(At no time in the DVD does Maxwell discuss the issue of light reflecting from thread, which is the main problem with thread work.)

Next Maxwell teaches Bornsteins Floating bill, without credit. He does mention that other versions of this method have been marketed. I don't think that gives one permission to tip the method without the creator's permission. He may attempt to justify this by saying he teaches a way to make the gimmick at home. Big deal, the original gimmick can be obtained at any office supply store.

Next he teaches Ben Harris's Floating Match (without credit). This trick was knocked off many times after it first came out. Ben went so far, I believe, as to exchange the knock offs for his originals. This is the trick where a match floats up and off the surface of a playing card. It is given a cursory performance at best.

Next is Paul Harris's Swiss Movement, taught with permission. Sadly, as our quote above alludes, this trick is not that great. The premise is that a Swiss army knife is balanced on the edge of a credit card and moves along its top. All the blades are extended and in full view.

Well, I think this trick suffers for several reasons. Though I'm usually a proponent of the "If you want to hide it paint it red" theory, having all the blades showing tips to me that there is probably another that is being used at the attachment point for the knife. Now, I know almost nothing about knives other than Swiss Army ones are famous for lots of blades. When I was watching it I was thinking, so how did he open one that I didn't see. So there was no "wonder" during the course of the trick.

Now when he removes the knife cleanly and there is no attachment, I am now puzzled. But I don't think the moment of wonder should come AFTER the effect. Plus, this trick would never work for someone who owns a Swiss Army knife because they would be hip to the method after looking at the removed knife.

Perfect for magic clubs.

We now are treated to a version of the rising card. The magician places is first finger on top of the pack and the card rises therefrom. This is the method found in every beginner 101 card trick books with the touch of having the card rise from the pack while covered with a handkerchief. The card, apparently, floats completely away.

If you want to do the rising cards, buy a Devano deck. As long as your hand is in contact with the scarf or card, no one buys it's rising. Unlike the Zombie where there is some distance between object and hand, the props are too small and close to be thought of as anything other than being manipulated by sleight of hand.

The Dancing Cane is now exposed. Having seen the cane executed by a master, it was heart wrenching to seen the cane, in this case, merely executed. Someone should have been given a blindfold, even if the cane was brave enough to take its punishment like a man. No real teaching, just show and tell.

The Floating Ball comes up next and is the best item on the tape. Of course, this is the item Maxwell hedged his bets on with a crediting disclaimer. The hook up is a one man version of the Don Wayne hook up though I don't believe Don's manuscript details how it can be done by a solo performer, as this does. The moves look great and this could be a real worker if Maxwell taught how to get the performer hookedup during the course of a real show. Walking out onto a soundstage with everything in place and attached is one thing, being able to do a trick in the real world is another.

Last we have the now venerable Balducci Levitation. Well taught, though there are a lot of subtleties still missing. The original ad copy for this tape talked about how in depth the instruction on this was. There was nothing offered here not normally found in the magical consciousness.

Finally, though lots of thread work is explained almost no mention is given to kinds of thread or dealing with real world lighting conditions. Tommy Wonder tipped more killer advice in an old Internet EG thread than can be found on these entire tapes.

I can't give any sort of recommendation to this DVD, the crediting and permission issues alone are too troublesome. Sadly, I can see some guys at the local magic club thinking this is the holy grail of levitation magic. How disappointing. Mostly, because the instructions are so superficial that they won't be able to pull off most of these tricks even in the forgiving and critically blind environments of the local ring meeting.

(The DVD cover has the "As seen on TV" logo. I pray this item is not being sold to the real public via an infomercial.)

1/2 star.

Product info for Learn to Levitate DVD

Author: Maxwell, Mike
Average Rating:  (1)
Retail Price: $11.97
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Manufacturer's Description:

Learn to Levitate with Michael Maxwell - Now on DVD!

Learn the Secrets of Levitation

Learn the most amazing feats of magic possible-levitations! No effect compares to having an ordinary, everyday object seemingly defy gravity. Watch your audience gasp with delight as they witness the miracle of levitation. On "Learning to Levitate," you will learn the closely-guarded secrets of making objects float in mind-air, things like money, matches, cards, knives, canes, balls and the coup de gras, yourself! Yes, it's true. With no special gimmicks whatsoever, you can give the perfect illusion of levitating yourself right off the ground. And even more, it's easy to do! Contains:

* The Floating Dollar Bill (with Thread Reel)
* The Floating Dollar Bill (featuring the "Burr Secret")
* The Levitating Dollar Bill
* The Floating Match
* Swiss Movement (Paul Harris' Animated Pocket Knife)
* The Floating Card
* The Dancing Cane
* The Floating Ball (for stage)
* The Balducci Levitation (Floating yourself!)

Running Time: Approximately 40 Minutes

Available from your favorite magic dealer.

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