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A Little R&B by Dan Harlan

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A Little R&B by Dan Harlan

A Little R&B by Dan Harlan

I'm a big fan of the brilliant and creative Dan Harlan. Harlan is not only clever, he applies and presents an oblique comical edge that is interesting and fun. His "Minotaur The Final Issue" was one of the best DVDs of 2011 (please click here to read my review).

The Gaff

With “A Little R&B,” Harlan offers a good collection of card tricks that rely on a gaffed/gimmicked card. It’s a gaff that you are likely already familiar with. It’s not a specially-printed gaff for the effects here but one that’s commonly available at magic dealers. And if you work with cards, it’s likely that you already own one.

The kit comes with three gaffed cards. All you need to do is provide your own decks of red-backed and blue-backed Bicycle cards.

Turning Blue

The strongest effect is R & B Special a three-phased sandwich routine. Over the course of three phases, you find the spectator’s selected and signed card in-between two different-backed, face-up cards that are inserted into random places in the deck. It’s quite convincing and the process of inserting the face-up cards into the deck looks particularly clean.

Forming the basis of several tricks taught on this disc is Turning Blue. You bring out a red-backed deck of cards. A card is freely selected and signed and lost back in the deck. The spectator holds his breath and the selected card, in response and after apparently developing an affinity with the spectator, turns into a blue backed card. When the spectator releases his breath, the card returns to being a red-backed card.

Special Glasses is simply a comical variation on the “Turning Blue” effect that employs “special” glasses. Getting Warmer is yet another variation where a spectator apparently warms a card and causes it to turn from blue to red. And Harlan isn’t done. In Fingerprints, another variation, you identify a selected card based on the fingerprints that a spectator has left behind on a card.


Harlan employs the gimmick to strong effect with two predictions that he calls Prediction 1 and Prediction 2. In Trading Places blue and red backed decks are brought out. A card is freely selected from the spread face-up red backed deck. The matching card is then found face-up in the blue backed deck. However, it’s the only different, red-backed card in the second (blue) deck.

Make a Bet is a gambling routine. You offer a spectator a chance to win your car and toss your keys onto the table. A spectator selects a card from a red-backed deck which is mixed back in. You then deal the cards face up. A blue-backed card suddenly turns up among the red backed cards and the remaining cards are dealt and shown. The magician states that the blue backed card is the spectator’s card and asks a spectator to bet on it. However, the spectator knows that the blue-backed card is not his card. After “betting,” suddenly, this “wrong” card is sporting a red back. The spectator’s blue-backed card is found among the face-up cards on the table and the magician wins. This sucker effect is a variation on the classic “Circus Trick.”

For those who are familiar with the old Star Trek series (classic Trek), the guys in the red shirt were always expendable and died when the team visited a hostile planet. With this as a foundation, in Star Trek, four blue-backed cards are freely selected and one red backed card is selected from a red deck to be the “red-shirt.” The red card is sandwiched between the blue cards. In the end, the red-backed card vanishes from among the blue cards, apparently transported back to the mother ship (the deck). I love the theme with this one.

I liked the bonus effect, The Cut Deeper Reading, an impromptu fortune telling trick that’s based on a well known card technique that’s in the title. This is a great routine that is essentially a find a card effect, but integrates some fortune telling mysticism as the spectator randomly cuts the deck and ultimately finds her card. This one does not employ the gaffed card and may be performed using any deck.

Final Thoughts

To learn the effects, you’ll need some fundamental card handling/sleight of hand skills, although none of the required techniques are knuckle busters. And overall, none of the effects are difficult to learn and perform. Explanations are thorough and clear. A plus, Harlan offers shows you lots of performances of most of the effects, many with different (real) audiences.

I appreciate the thinking behind Harlan’s application of the gaffed card, however, many of the effects are achievable with techniques that almost every card worker already possesses and that don’t require the gaff. More specifically, many of the effects resemble aspects of a “Chicago Surprise” or “Red Hot Mama” card routine. The gimmick makes some aspects cleaner, but, on the other hand, you do have to deal with the gaffed card in the deck.

Despite the fact that many of the effects are achievable without the gaff and Harlan’s handling, I think this DVD is worth it for the thematic ideas and concepts. And the well done effects that employ the gaff are icing on the cake.

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