Deconstructing Magic

14 Dec

CAUTION! CONTAINS SPOILERS ABOUT A MAGIC TRICK! STOP READING NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW HOW IT’S DONE!

Today I’m writing about something that interests me very much, the world of magic and illusion. Today I’m going to be explaining how a trick is performed.

Today’s trick is “The Mad Scientist” as performed by “Professor” Al Carthy. I first saw this trick performed when I was about 8, whilst watching The Paul Daniels Magic Show.

I had a MASSIVE fear of Frankenstein (at the time made even worse after seeing “Carry On Screaming“) so seeing this illusion scared 7 shades of shit out of a very young me.

Apparently, Al is STILL performing this trick today, almost 40 yrs later!

I’ll include links to 2 different performances of the trick as there are some slight variations between the two. I’ve been a massive fan of how tricks work for a long time and it’s the main reason why I like Penn & Teller, they like to explain how some tricks are done.

I find I appreciate the staging of an illusion more if I know how it was done.

Version #1:-

This is the trick in what I believe to be it’s original incarnation.
“The Scientist” walks out, carrying the top half of his creation. Walks over to the animation machine (stage left) and places the top half of the creation onto the table top.

He examines the creation (vanishing behind the animation machine) then quickly reappears, repositioning the creation to go and get the creation’s legs from around the front.

He demonstrates how the legs work then goes behind the creation to attach them. He then moves the creation around to the front of the animation machine and plugs the creation in, then fires the machine up, bringing the creation to life!

The creation then walks around, up some steps, almost falling over but amazingly managing to hang at a seemingly impossible angle. The creation rights itself, walks back down the stairs where The Scientist deactivates it & begins reading his notes.

The creation unplugs itself, walks over to The Scientist who turns around, then the creation pulls off The Scientist’s head, who falls to the ground, apparently dead.

In this version of the trick, the creation breaks character at the end and Al takes his bow.

#

Version 2:-

This is what I call the “scary version”, it’s my belief that this is the version I saw on the Paul Daniels show near Halloween.

“The Scientist” walks out, carrying the top half of his creation. Walks over to the animation machine (stage left) and places the top half of the creation onto the table top, he then gets the creation’s legs from around the front.

He demonstrates how the legs work then goes behind the creation to attach them. He then moves the creation around to the front of the animation machine and plugs the creation in, then fires the machine up, bringing the creation to life!

The creation then walks around, up some steps, almost falling over but amazingly managing to hang at a seemingly impossible angle. The creation rights itself, walks back down the stairs where The Scientist deactivates it & begins reading his notes.

The creation unplugs itself, walks over to The Scientist who turns around, then the creation pulls off The Scientist’s head, who falls to the ground, apparently dead.

#

How it’s done.

In version 1 that’s Al walking out with a dummy scientist attached to the back of him. His legs are disguised under the lab coat. Al positions himself into the table, bending his legs.

At this point, the assistant who is playing the scientist is already under the “animation machine” and helps Al remove the dummy, which is why the scientist vanished from view for a moment.

It’s to allow the assistant to stow the dummy & swap places wearing an identical costume.

In version 2, Al is being carried by the assistant with his legs hidden by the lab coat. When the assistant places Al onto the “animation machine”, I believe Al is putting on his shoes.

The assistant then goes around to the front of the animation machine and gets the fake legs, showing how they work as a distraction to allow Al time to secure his shoes.

As the assistant is pretending to connect Al to his “legs”, the fake legs are being stowed in the same compartment where the dummy of the fake scientist was placed.

Al is then moved into position and connected up to the “animation machine”. Al does some simple robotic actions and walking. His deliberate slow small steps are established to show how “the creation” walks.

When he reaches the middle of the top step, he stops there for a reason. It’s the area rigged for the next part of the trick. As Al reaches that step, he slides his shoes into some preset rods that allow him to do the forward lead without falling.

After the “lean” you’ll see Al taking 2 slight steps backwards, that’s to release himself from the rods. It’s just then a matter of walking down, positioning himself for the assistant and waiting for his musical cue to pull off the scientists head.

Obviously it’s a fake head, the assistant is much smaller & wearing the fake head & neck rig on their shoulders. As the “scientist” falls, you’ll note the assistant places their hand on Al’s arm to guide their fall safely.

I assume this also done to ensure the fake shoulders rig doesn’t come off in the fall.

In the Paul Daniels version (version 2) the trick ends with the creation (Al) holding the scientists head in the air. However, in version 1 the creation places the fake head onto the animation machine & Al breaks character, takes his bow & smiles.

In no version of this trick do we ever see the scientist move after the end.

#

So that’s how this excellent and extremely entertaining trick is performed.

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