Scams and Fantasies - DVD Set

Darwin Ortiz

Reviewed by Graham Nichols

Even if card magic is not your weapon of choice, you would have had to be stranded on a desert island for a very long time to be unaware of pasteboard maestro Darwin Ortiz. His books are always in high demand, and his latest treasure chest 'Scams & Fantasies with Cards' has now been complimented by the release of a four DVD set by Mike Maxwell's A-1 Magical Media.

When I first saw Darwin perform (on TV) in the early 1980s, his persona was that of a cold gambler who handled cards with the precision of a surgeon. Although his work was stunning, I felt a distance between myself and his character. Later, I found that this personality creation was a far cry from the warm and generous man, with a wicked sense of humor, who I have since had the pleasure to meet. These new DVDs illustrate the current incarnation of his stage presence, which is much closer to his real self. Both the viewer and audience have fun, and witness 26 astonishing creations which are the product of much deep and creative thought.

Mike Maxwell has done and excellent job in assembling an audience which reflects real world performance conditions. There is no super-hyped, caffine induced, over the top reactions which we see with other company's productions, which, for me, insult both the performer and the viewer. This allows the texture of the pieces to shine through, and give a better indication of audience satisfaction for those of you who work for paying customers.

All the effects are clearly explained, with extra attention given to specific sleights where required, and many over-the-shoulder views. Left-handers, like myself, who have endured some of Darwin's books being translated for the right-handed majority, will now get a chance to see these quality effects in their natural habitat. Right-handers get a dose of their own medicine!

I think it would be a big mistake to be a lazy student and purchase the DVD set alone, in order to have the material spoon fed to the comfort of your sofa. These DVDs are best utilised as a visual extention to the book. The book enables the student to visualise themselves performing the effect and understand the mechanics, with the additional benefit of viewing the DVD(s) for timing, misdirection and audience tension reference. Neuances for sleights, such as the Ortiz Shift, come into their own with the benfit of video.

Those of us who have previously purchased sets of DVDs, only to find that the material has been 'padded' in order to part us from more of our hard-earned cash, will not find this to be the case here. Everything is justified and evenly paced. The plots are very well constructed, but copying a working professional's routine isn't cricket, so the biggest challenge to the purchaser is finding your own routines to fit the effects. Not an easy task.

If you know a fellow magician who truly appreciates strong card effects, do them a favour by treating them to this set for the forthcoming holiday season (especially if YOU are that magician!). They'll be your friend for life.


Graham Nichols, October 2004