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DVD Review: The World-Renowned Magic of Paul Potassy

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DVD Review: The World-Renowned Magic of Paul Potassy
Paul Potassy is truly a master magician. He has performed for 66 years in 44 different countries for celebrities, heads of state and even the Pope; speaks six languages and has been called “the Maurice Chevalier of magic” and “Europe’s most successful cabaret magician of the last fifty years.”

And it’s not only his magic, but Potassy, who spent time in a Russian prison-of-war camp during WWII and entertained dignitaries behind the iron curtain during the Cold War era, has a fascinating background and story.

Minimal Props

Potassy is known for holding his audiences spellbound with a minimum of props. It’s indeed his engaging personality that fills a room, sells the magic and entertains. Most of the effects use everyday items, although a couple use custom props that resourceful types will be able to recreate by bending sheet metal or other means. One effect requires a marketed prop that Potassy says he purchased in the 70's. After searching the internet, I could not locate it.

Video quality rarely deserves mention in a magic review, unless it's very poor. However, the video on this DVD is not only excellent, it's the first instructional video that I've seen in glorious widescreen. Undoubtedly, a trend for the future.

The first disc offers Potassy’s amazing stage show. In “Sympathetic Silks,” one of his signature effects and opener, two sets of scarves mysteriously tie and untie under increasingly humorous conditions. For the finish, all the scarves instantly tie themselves together. This one is baffling, visual and entertaining.

Cutting Magic

A direct and stunning version of a classic, in “The Razor Blades,” Potassy apparently swallows a large number of sharp razor blades and a length of thread. When the thread is pulled from his mouth, the razor blades are tied to it.

The difference with this version is that Potassy is actually putting sharp razor blades into his mouth. While I’ve seen other versions of this effect, Potassy can perform this anytime in his act and at the end, he’s left completely clean. It’s a great version of the classic, but one that can potentially cut the performer.

In “Pickpocket,” Potassy performs a card trick and then repeatedly produces cards and then personal items from the jackets and pockets of spectators. The kicker is a stolen wristwatch. Potassy makes this one hilarious and entertaining.

In “Newspaper Tear,” Potassy explains how to perform a torn and restored newspaper effect, but then, in a twist, the explanation leaves the audience even more amazed and baffled.

No Lemons

Instead of using a messy lemon, Potassy uses a potato in his “Bill in Potato.” A borrowed bill is signed, its serial number noted and then is vanished. It is found in the middle of a potato that’s being held by a spectator.

A reference to the famous prison, in “Sing-Sing,” a freely chosen card is signed by two spectators, shuffled back into the deck and not only found in the performer’s wallet but between two metal plates that are sealed with rubber bands in both directions. This is "card to wallet" on steroids.

A baffling bit of mentalism, in “The Prediction,” a spectator chooses a book from a stack of normal paperback books and a word is freely chosen. Another spectator chooses the name of a major city. The performer opens an envelope that has been in plain view throughout the routine and it’s found to contain two correct predictions. This one is really good. Potassy has masterfully dressed the routine with elements that help to conceal the method.

Encore, Encore

In “The Cards in the Bucket,” a card is selected and shuffled into the deck and the cards are then sprung into a champagne bucket. The performer lowers a length of rope into the bucket and when he pulls it back up, the selected card is found to have been lassoed.

As an encore, which Potassy’s audiences always demand, there’s “The Encore Card Stab” A card is chosen, lost into the deck and spread face down on a table. The performer is blindfolded yet manages to find the card by impaling it on the tip of a knife.

Throughout his routines, Potassy executes precise, well-placed and humorous misdirection that relies on an unusual prop (an everyday item that's not commonly used in magic stage shows). Potassy's approach to stage management and misdirection are something that all magicians can learn from.

The Interview
Max Maven conducts an in-depth and interesting interview with Potassy. Here, Potassy discusses choosing tricks, performing magic for 66 years and working with assistants and tells stories about his years in magic.

Most fascinating are his meetings and performances with Soviet dignitaries during the Cold War era and his tale of how magic literally saved his life. Get a clever screenwriter to add a bit of fictional Cold War intrigue to the mix and there’s probably the basis for a movie here.

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