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DVD Review: Sam The Bellhop by Bill Malone

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating


DVD Review: Sam The Bellhop by Bill Malone
Sam The Bellhop is a smashing signature piece of Bill Malone's that he unveiled to the world in 1994 on the "World's Greatest Magic" television special. The routine is an offbeat card effect where cards are turned-over, in order, to tell a story. In this case, it's about Sam the bellhop and the mythical "654" club.

Malone took the original story and routine that dates back to the 1930s and added a system of shuffles and cuts to create a truly entertaining piece. He teaches everything that you need to know on this DVD, which was converted from a VHS tape that was released a decade ago.

Story Telling

I've been performing Bill Malone's "Sam The Bellhop" at my restaurants and the routine is one that gets a great response. Regulars commonly ask to see it again when they bring in friends. And the routine doesn't seem to suffer from repeated viewings by the same audiences.

There's not much to the secret. You stack the deck and then continually shuffle and cut the deck as you tell the story and deal the cards. The rest is personality and performance.

False Shuffles and Cuts

Malone teaches some powerful shuffles and cuts that you can add to your repertoire and will come in handy in other routines. Even if you don't plan to perform Sam The Bellhop, you'll learn some exquisite moves. He also takes time to discuss his stage persona and presentation and approach to story telling. There's lots of insight here.

In my performance of Malone's routine, I applied false shuffles and cuts that I had already mastered. While this allowed me to perform the routine sooner - I didn't have to master new sleights - it also allowed me to use moves that don't require a close-up pad, which I don't carry around in my sets. Most of my routines and moves are "in-hand" and don't require a table.

Great Trick, Adequate Video

Video quality is grainy. Because Malone taught each segment one after the other on the original tape, and well before the advent of DVDs and screen menus, each segment causes him to momentarily freeze, almost as if cut-off in mid-sentence. Seems to me that the DVD could be authored to look more professional with some fades to black, at the least.

The teaching segments could be less confusing. I know that this is VHS video that's been adapted to DVD, but more behind the shoulder, from Malone's perspective, would help in understanding and learning the moves. As it stands, Malone is constantly explaining his moves from the viewer's perspective, transplanting "right" and "left," which is confusing.

Malone also teaches a flashy four-ace production. I thoroughly like this one.

Despite the problems with the video and DVD, Sam The Bellhop is fantastic magic. This DVD will teach you the moves and the routine.

-Wayne N. Kawamoto

MSRP: (US) $25

Dealers can purchase from Murphy's Magic Supplies, Inc.

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