Posted in Other Media, Uncategorized

Saturday Cinema – R.I.P. Magic, or Magic Dressed in Blood

Ticket3As might be obvious, I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading and other “research” into the subject of magic. Between Grand Guignol theater and spiritualist acts like the Davenport brothers, horror has lived close to magic for a long time and both have always been close to my heart. It certainly hasn’t hurt matters that the signature trick of Joseffy (one of the magicians I’m writing about) was  Balsamo the Living Skull. He also had a disembodied rapping hand and caused a stir in a department store when he and it went shopping for a new cuff…


Growing up in the 70s and 80s, popular magic was on the tamer end of the spectrum with the likes of Doug Henning and David Copperfield on television. Seeing Penn and Teller on Letterman was…surprising. (The good bit starts at about 2:30 with a long set up.)

It should be noted that the classic sawing an assistant into halves wasn’t done until the 1920s, but didn’t gain popularity until a pretty woman was added to the mix. Without even realizing it, I’ve included no women being dismembered in this collection of videos. Kevin James and his half-assistant has a little fun with Vin Diesel on The Johnathan Ross show.

Fellow The Illusionists, Dan Sperry nearly killed Sharon Osborn (with laughter) with his Life Savers and dental floss routine on America’s Got Talent, but I rather like his take on the classic dove production:

Speaking of classic, Neil Patrick Harris and Jonathan Levit performed Jim Steinmeyer’s Palingenesia, a recreation of Thomas William Tobin’s 1872 illusion. at the 9th Los Angeles Conference on Magic History in November 2005.

But back to spiritualists and a magician I grew up with: David Copperfield included a version of the spirit cabinet in his 1995 TV special.

If you wait long enough, everything that is old is new again.

Bloggers Dressed in Blood



Writer, publisher. Hobbies include reading, studying magic & illusions from a historical/theoretical perspective, and playing ultimate frisbee.

6 thoughts on “Saturday Cinema – R.I.P. Magic, or Magic Dressed in Blood

  1. Those where good clips.
    They guy that got chainsawd was cool. I coulnd’t figure it out. Vin Diesel seamed shocked lol.

    Pen and Teller was pretty simple but I liked all the gore that make it more squeamish… Plus it was funny when he walked threw the body.

    The dove one was good too. Not to much of a fan of using doves persay but it was a new look. Reminded me of a Marilynn Manson music vid.

    Neil was ok. I liked the end with his assistant sharpening the blade, next show 5 minutes.

    Copperfeild: “Thats not my arm.” Lol

  2. I really like the point you made about how close horror and magic are. Isn’t what makes us love magic that someone does horrifying things, but is then able to undo them? Waiting to make sure that the woman being sawed in half is actually still alive is just as entertaining as waiting for the door to open in a horror film when all you can hear is footsteps from the other side.

  3. Great post. I’ve always been fascinated by magic too. I love magicians. I told my friend and fiance this and they were like, why, they’re boring? I don’t know what planet THEY come from, do you? 😉

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