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Review: Past Midnight (3 DVD Set) by Benjamin Earl

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating


Review: Past Midnight (3 DVD Set) by Benjamin Earl
This three-disc DVD set was a pleasant surprise. I had never before heard of Benjamin Earl, but he's an accomplished card worker with impressive techniques and routines. There's lots to like about this DVD set which will appeal to those who love advanced card techniques and sleights.

Underground Worker

The title's description sounds tedious. A three-disc set that’s filled with card magic and techniques such as "collectors," "triumph," "ace assembly" and more. The description just about made my eyes glaze over and mind blank out. But on this disc, I discovered fresh handlings, cool moves and excellent effects.

According to the liner notes, Benjamin Earl is one of Europe's top professional performers and creators. In this comprehensive DVD set, there is some great material that will keep you practicing for a good, long time. The only downside is that Earl tends to move too quickly through his explanations.

Hooked on Classics

Disc One features Earl's approaches to card classics. While the effects are fairly well known, Earl teaches some cool moves. To support his version of "collectors," for example, Earl shows how to cull cards to the bottom and palm them off using a single hand, a difficult move that he teaches on disc two.

His "ace assembly" features a slick move to switch-out the aces. While I've seen a similar move taught by Ed Ellis in Ellis Aces (please click here to read our review), Earl adds a nice finesse that helps to hide the dirty work.

The jewel on this disc is his "Stroke Change," a color change that as the ads state, "almost looks like trick photography." The change causes a card to change from one to the other and is visual and almost instantaneous. His "Pop Over Move" is a variation of Piet Forton's well known pop out move. While it's not as flashy, it does the job and is slightly easier to perform. I like it.

I thoroughly liked Earl's "Side Faro False Shuffle," an in-the-hands false mix. You faro shuffle the cards in an unusual vertical orientation and push the cards together, and the move retains the order of the entire deck. It's a very impressive illusion and in Earl's hands, as deceptive as a good Zarrow shuffle.

Flashy False Cuts

Earl presents a series of false cuts with "Chrisbuckgreenhoff and Sybil Show," "Kolyvargin" and "Aston." As the name implies, the first multi-phased cut is an enhancement on Chris Kenner's popular Sybil cut that maintains the entire deck. I also liked the "Kolyvargin" cut, a flashy series of pivot cuts that also retain a deck's order.

The considerable downside is that the explanations cry out for over-the-shoulder shots so you can see the action from Earl's perspective. As it stands, you have to transpose from the front and Earl tends to fly through his explanations at a pace that is too fast to follow. Be prepared to constantly pause and review to figure out the necessary steps.

Gambling and On the Table

Disc Two focuses on gambling and card table routines. The bulk of this disc teaches various cuts and shuffles that maintain the order of the deck and allow you to produce cards in a flashy manner. Unlike the fancy cuts and flourishes on disc 1, the moves here are gambling oriented so the cuts and shuffles occur on the table.

The disc starts with an intricate and impressive segment where Earl cuts and shuffles the deck and eventually produces all of the spades, in order. And then shows that the entire deck is still in order. Half of the second disc is dedicated to teaching you moves that he uses in this sequence such as "Card Control/Production Sequence," "Psychological Shuffle," "Broken Thompson Cut," "Middle Card Spin Out" and "Blind Cut Technique." Here you'll find some great utility moves.

Disc 2 offers various routines, but they tend to be somewhat esoteric with lots of contrived shuffling and cutting to produce certain hands or sets of cards. Some may enjoy this type of material, but I find them to be too drawn out for the type of strolling magic that I perform. Admittedly, I’m biased because I don't normally have tables to work on and perform most of my card work in my hands.

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