Mandrake the Magician

Houdini Miniseries Gets Good Reviews in the Trades

houdini water torture cellThe Hollywood Reporter‘s review of the History Channel’s Houdini miniseries is a mixed change bag.

They have high praise for Adrien Brody and his “dynamic performance” that “brings Harry Houdini’s illusions to life.” “History’s Houdini miniseries is a curious carousel of the magician’s life, guided by a frizzy-haired, exuberant and bulked-up Adrien Brody.”

The series is adapted from the controversial 1976 book, Houdini: A Mind in Chains: A Psychoanalytic Portrait and apparently uses some deft editing and camera work to take viewers inside the great magician’s psyche and secrets. The result is a surrealistic weaving of “psychological elements, zooming camerawork, frenetic editing, a modern soundtrack and some well-placed animation to illustrate how Houdini’s tricks worked.”

Boo. Hiss.

Viewers will have a chance to see Houdini’s Vanishing Elephant and the Chinese Water Torture Cell but we are hoping the secrets to these two great effects are not revealed.

“The miniseries nails the most important thing: spectacle. Edel’s refreshingly dynamic direction and Brody’s buoyant performance allow Houdini’s tricks to retain their wonder, even for the jaded modern viewer. That’s a magical feat indeed.”

We are looking forward to its premiere on Monday, September 1st and 2nd at 9 p.m. We will close our eyes when they get to the scary parts or expose tricks though.

Dynamo: Stage Magic Needs Reinventing

Inside Magic Image of DynamoUK Magician Dynamo says traditional magic shows like those of David Copperfield and Siegfried & Roy helped magic but it is time to bring stage magic “up to date” and change “what people see as the stage magic show.”

He is moving from the television series Magician Impossible arena and stage venues and looks to ‘reinvent’ live magic.

Dynamo told reporters at a recent Edinburgh International Television Festival that he is going to hit the road.

“This is the final series of Magician Impossible. I think everyone wants to see me do it live and I think the possibilities in the live arena for magic is open for someone like myself to step into,” he said.

He added: “The magic shows we think of on the stage and in theatres are David Copperfield and Siegfried and Roy. What they did for magic was phenomenal but now it’s time to reinvent [stage shows], and to bring up to date what people see as the stage magic show. I will have a go at that.”

By “have a go,” Dynamo means he will attempt or try to do something.  “Have a go” is metric for “try, attempt or endeavor.”

Adrien Brody on Exposure of Houdini’s Escapes for Mini-Series

Inside Magic Image of Adrien Brody as HoudiniNewspaper writers have their lingo just like magicians.

In the same way magicians use shorthand to describe actions like “loading,” “culling,” “palming” and “cold reading a hot number,” newspaper people describe their practice of leaving the most important part of an article for later paragraphs as “burying the lead.”

When we first read of this practice, we thought it was an environmental faux pas because in our brain, we interpreted “lead” as “lead” and not “leed.” Apparently, “lead” was on our mind and in our crib’s shiny, gnawable paint as a child.

The New York Times puff piece on Adrien Brody and his performance as Harry Houdini in the upcoming History Channel mini-series, Houdini buried the lead big time.

The article discusses Mr. Brody’s love of magic – he was a performer as a child and young man before winning an Oscar® for his role in The Pianist at the age of 26 – his idolization of Houdini and his (Mr. Brody’s) matted “hat hair,” his enjoyment of green drinks and his pride in being bruised by Jackie Chan. Great stuff and fun to read.

But it is not until the next to last paragraph (or “graph” in newspaper talk) that we learn his beef with the series.

Regardless of whether “Houdini” is a hit, Mr. Brody said he is proud of the work he did in the mini-series. He does have one quibble, though. The History Channel decided to disclose the secret methods Houdini used to escape. “I acquiesced because it’s all available online,” he said. “But a magician never reveals his tricks.”

We were excited about the series – and still are – but don’t buy the rationale for exposing secrets used by Houdini and folks performing today.

“I acquiesced because it’s all available online” does not cut the low-cal condiment with us. There are a lot of things that are available online but fortunately – because we hate scenes of brutality, murder, torture, emotional abuse and shaming – the fact that those things are on-line does not mean they are appropriate to be seen or to be shown.

“But a magician never reveals his tricks,” Mr Brody says.

But he did.

Houdini wouldn’t have.

History’s Houdini premieres Sept. 1 at 9 p.m. ET.

Penn & Teller’s Fool Us Soars in Ratings

Inside Magic Image of Penn & Teller's Fool UsPenn & Teller’s Fool Us hit a series high with last night’s episode – according to the industry trade publication Variety.

The show seems to be catching on with American audiences and we have our fingers crossed that the CW network will develop a second season, set in the United States. Penn has been discussing the possibility on his weekly podcast, Penn’s Sunday School, but has been very sketchy about whether the CW will pick up the series for a new round.

We hope the ratings boost proves to the folks at the CW to develop the show here with American magicians. We will keep you up-to-date on any developments.

What If There Was No Magic Castle?

The Magic CastleSome famous person spoke about the dark night of the soul. We think it was a religious text about doubt – the kind of doubt that comes in the darkest hours when one realizes their whole understanding of everything could be wrong. It seems like a neat literary device but one that would make a horrible Broadway musical; unless it involved puppets or something.

But we had our dark night of the soul last night thinking about what Los Angeles would be without The Magic Castle. Our reading of some of the latest science journals (found at our pet’s orthodontist office here in West Hollywood) confirms that there can be infinite parallel universes and that the one in which we are now confined is just one. In the other universes, we were never born, we were born into royalty, and we never signed up for the Columbia Record Club at the age of 18 and were thus free from the years of forced purchases of second-rate vinyl albums to make up for our impulse buy of 20 records for one penny in 1988. The last one alone would have saved us about $55,000.00.

So, it is entirely possible that The Magic Castle could not exist. What would that mean? What else would Los Angeles or even California have to offer? What? Water – there is some on the East Coast of the U.S. and plenty in the Great Lakes Region from whence we come. Sunshine – okay, there is more of it here than in Michigan but is that enough? Jack-in-the-Box and In-and-Out Burger restaurants – big draw before our second angioplasty / stenting (if that is a verb) but we do not care about them so much any longer.

Basically, without The Magic Castle, Los Angeles is just a big city with nearby water, sunshine and incredibly tasty but unhealthy hamburgers. Others may know of things that we have missed – we heard there are mountains and non-magic cultural events and apparently some film studios have offices nearby but we haven’t really explored beyond The Magic Castle.

Without The Magic Castle, we would never get to see incredible shows like John Carney, Dana Daniels, Lindsay Benner and Jon Armstrong – and that was just in the last week.

We would never hear great interviews on topics of interest to us by Fitzgerald in his Who’s Hoo series. This week he interviewed world-famous ventriloquist team Willie Tyler & Lester and Castle Librarian Lisa Cousins.

We would never have discovered the great joy of performing in The Gallery and Hat & Hare for audiences that came to see magic.

Fortunately, in this universe and at this time, there is The Magic Castle. We cannot imagine what life or the western United States would be like without it. We tried to ease our mind and fall back to sleep but remembered we were actually driving at the time – but fortunately, we were in a traffic jam so our car wasn’t moving.