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Nervous Breakdown Review

Official Review

October 4th, 2005 5:28pm
Reviewed by Gordon Meyer
Nervous Breakdown is Dominique Duvivier's solution to one of the most interesting plots in all of card magic, the "brainwave" effect, performed with a small packet of cards. Unfortunately, Nervous Breakdown, as a post-B'wave solution, it offers a confusing additional kicker and requires more props and twice as many cards. If the small-packet brainwave trick is something you want to add to your repitoire, go buy B'wave instead. If you're already performing B'wave, then there is a reason you'd want to buy Nervous Breakdown, but not to perform it. We'll get to that, later.

The genesis of Nervous Breakdown is covered in the first part of the instructions (provided as one A4 page, printed both sides) with no small measure of self-congratulatory asides. Despite this, I found this discussion a worthwhile inclusion and wish that more creators would provide this type of insight with their products. That said, I almost hesitate to use it against the trick, but one revelation in the history of the effect should have heeded. According to the text, when Duvivier showed Nervous Breakdown to one noted professional, he was told it was a good development but did not warrant producing it for the market. It's interesting that Duvivier both disclosed, and ignored, this advice.

On the other hand, the introduction concludes with an enthusiastic and generous endorsement from Kevin James who ethuses that "You should be the first on your block to add this A-Bomb to bomb to your close-up arsenal." This is a curious bit of hype to include inside the package, and I'm left to wonder if maybe this hints at who this trick is best performed for; other magicans.

You see, I think the ways in which Nervous Breakdown "improves" upon B'wave are only of interest to magicians, and that they otherwise weaken and sully the minimalist beauty of Max Maven's approach. The refinements are that you can repeat the effect for someone on another occassion, there is an extra prediction card that is introduced before the trick has begun, the spectator simply names a suit wihout having to first decide on a color, the trick uses Kings instead of Queens, and you get to carry twice as many cards as B'wave requires, secured in a cheesy vinyl wallet. Yes, I'm stretching the normal definition of "improvement," but if you'll pardon the expression, c'est la Duvivier.

Let's talk about that extra prediction card, which you do indeed show before the spectator has stated which King they are thinking of. But a full fifty-percent of the time it will "match" the selection only in color, not by suit. Which, of course, requires you to somehow explain that while you went to the trouble of assembling this special packet of cards, you didn't have time to find the card that you knew they'd actually select, so you just grabbed one that was the same color instead. Not much of an extra kicker, is it?

Duvivier does admit that the routine has a weakness, but he doesn't think it's the final prediction. Instead, he insists, it's the inability to hand everything out for examination. But don't worry, there's a solution at hand. In Advanced Routine #1 you're advised to purchase five copies of Nervous Breakdown, ungaff the wallets, and ring the appropriate one in at the conclusion of the trick.

The wallet, by the way, is necessary for the the routine, so don't plan on substituting something more aesthetically pleasing. The gold-stamped pips that decorate the wallet are also integral, and referred to in the instructions as "the concept of the golden pips". Here's hoping it sounds less silly in the original French version of the instructions.

The instructions are easier to follow than other Duvivier products, having no doubt benefited from being translated by Kevin James. They get a little hard to follow on page three, due to a bizarre columnar layout, but the 8 photos are appropriately used and help the description along. In all, there are 3 "advanced" routines included, but two of them are simply variations of using a $20 bill to justify the wallet, and the last suggests that you make your own wallet that combines features of the Himber wallet with the Nervous Breakdown wallet, along with a matching ungimmicked version that you can hand out for examination. Good luck with that.

As you can tell, I'm not a fan of Nervous Breakdown, but I did find one thing to reccommend it. Amongst the materials provided you'll get the necessary pieces to perform B'wave, using red and black Kings. That's how I'll be using my copy, I assure you.

Product info for Nervous Breakdown

Author: Dominique Duvivier
Average Rating:  (1)
Retail Price: $16.00
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Manufacturer's Description:

The magician shows a small plastic wallet. He explains that one side of the wallet are four kings, the other side is a prediction card. The spectator is asked to choose any king. The kings and prediction card are removed and placed on the table. With absolutely no sleight of hand, the kings are spread to show the reversed king is the one chosen. Not only was it reversed, it was the only one with a red back! The prediction card is turned over to reveal an ace of the same suit and color. Furthermore, the other cards weren't kings at all, but aces! That's how sure the magician was to guess the prediction!

Effect includes special Bicycle Brand Cards, plastic wallet, and instructions for three routines!

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