COIN MAN WALKING
Reviewed by Brad Henderson for MAGIC Magazine, Vol. 15. No.5, Jan. 2006. Re-printed with permission.
Dan Watkins is proof that mixing magic and the Internet
is not all bad. Watkins is the proprietor of coinvanish.com and a frequent
contributor to magic forums. Given that he is not a professional performer and
has a successful "real" job, had it not been for the Internet we may never have
had the privilege of watching Coin Man Walking.
Watkins has compiled ten original handlings for coin effects that meet stringent, real-world requirements for walk-around magic: all of the effects are performed standing, do not require a table, and only two of them require the use of both of the spectator's hands (always an issue during cocktail parties). One of these latter tricks may be my favorite and is definitely worthy of broaching the always awkward query, "Can you hold her drink for just a second?"
Unlike a lot of coin magic today, Watkins' effects are both visual and clear. There are no unmotivated transfers of coins, no odd grips, and each effect has a clear beginning, middle, and end.
The DVD is well laid out. One can choose to watch all performances, all explanations, pick and choose individual chapters, or navigate to a specific phase of a specific routine. The DVD is produced to the high standards we have come to expect from Bob Kohler's studio. There is, however, one editing choice that works both to the advantage and disadvantage of the project.
Kohler and Watkins have done to great lengths to ensure that the critical moments of a tricks handling are clearly visible even during the performance section of the DVD. Some DVDs cut away at essential moments or offer angles that do not accurately replicate the spectator view (in an effort to conceal a move). Instead, Kohler inserts shots of the hands that show the at-home viewers exactly what the spectator sees at the moment the "work" is done. Pedagogically, this is a wonderful choice. Unfortunately, to get these angles, a separate cut-away shot had to be used. When these shots are inserted, it gives the performances a stilted feel, as if the timing were out of phase.
In today's "show me a demo video because I have no imagination" mentality, I fear that many may not be able to look past this learning tool to the effect these routines will have on an audience. It would be a shame for the decision on Kohler's part, an admittedly smart one for an educational product, to negatively impact people's assessment of how good Watkins' routines will look in the real world.
Watkins begins the explanations section with an in-depth discussion of the back clip. This is a move that terrifies even the most adroit of Coin Fu masters, but in actual use, it proves far more deceptive and practical than many new coin grips. Anyone who has ever seen Bob Fitch perform knows that of which I speak. Second, he goes into detail on his Holster Holdout. Watkins has discovered how to take an item many of you wear every day and turn it into a practical coin dropper. This information will make you smile.
Of the ten tricks on the DVD, here are some personal highlights:
OutsDANding is a three-coin production, vanish, and reproduction sequence with a couple of surprise moments built in. I have written in other reviews how magician-fails-then-succeeds surprises in coin magic can often clutter an effect. Watkins understands the inherent weakness in this structure and builds the surprises into the routine in a way in which the effect remains clear and the resolutions are theatrically satisfying, even providing a nice call back at the end.
Fingertip Coins to Pocket is essentially a visual version of Two in the Hand, One in the Pocket, or more properly, The Gadabout Coins where the coin's return is visual in nature. For those who try to keep their magic at chest level, as opposed to waist level, this change will be appreciated. Moreover, Watkins has eliminated the need for using either a table or a spectator's hand for this classic effect.
CSB Assault is an ultra-visible, in-the-spectator's-hands version of Copper/Silver/Brass. I think this may be a diamond in the rough. Watkins' presentations are pedestrian throughout, but usually clear. In this routine, things get a tad confusing and I feel the effect is diminished. With greater verbal clarity, I think this could get screams.
Coinvention Crossing is an open-palm, visual Coins Across with an eye popping "trick photography" moment attributed to Geoff Latta.
The highlight of the video for me was Four Coins, Your Hands. This is a stunning Coins Across into the spectator's hands. The coins seem to melt into invisibility as they are tossed onto the spectator's upturned palm.
Watkins is not a terribly dynamic performer, but he has a good mind for structure. His presentations could all be kicked up a notch. His explanations are very thorough and he clearly knows the history of that which he performs. Crediting is accurate and thorough throughout. In most tricks, there is a little touch or an idea that one can apply to all of their coin work.
Two bonus sections are included on the DVD. One is an interview with master coin craftsman Jamie Schoolcraft. Schoolcraft produces some of the finest gaffed coins on the planet and discusses with Watkins some of his modifications to Bob Swadling's Flipper Coin.
While I found this section interesting, and believe Schoolcraft's modification to the coin to be a brilliant evolution of design, I would like to have seen a more practical discussion of Flipper Coin technique and handling, rather than just a talk on the history of the gaff.
Lastly, the DVD concludes with Watkins' fabulous rendition of Ramsay's Cylinder and Coins. This is a performance-only section and a complete knockout. Forget the whining on the Internet from those complaining about the lack of an explanation. This is strong stuff, with or without an explanation.
Coin Man Walking is a collection of fine, real-world material, well-filmed and thoroughly explained. In short, it is the only DVD I have seen this year that has spurned me to stop the disc, pick up the props to follow along.
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