Penn and Teller Magic and Mystery Tour

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Penn and Teller’s Magic and Mystery Tour (2003)
I’ve seen bits and pieces of this DVD on youtube, and it really is better to watch the DVD itself. This was a 3-part TV mini-series directed and produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, along with Channel Four Film. The producers had wanted to do a piece on street magic around the world, and they asked Penn and Teller to act as hosts, as well as to actually visit other countries and interview the magicians they met. The countries selected were: China, Egypt and India. Each episode runs about 50 minutes, and consists of local color footage, footage of various street magicians performing, a couple of interviews, and Penn and Tell performing a couple tricks for the street magicians. The DVD extras section has video that didn’t make it into the shows. For China, that was Penn leading the village kids in a cheer (“Penn and Teller Rule”); an Egyptian that eats razor blades and glass; and an Indian that does a bullet catching routine.

China was kind of a special case, because the People’s government outlawed street performances, so most of the performers were working either in tea houses, failing government-run amusement parks, or small theaters. I’ve seen the one guy that does the mask switching dance here in Kagoshima, and I loved watching him again on the video. But, the rest of the Chinese performers were great, too. The Egyptian acts alternated between the cups and balls, and snake swallowing. I liked the primary cups and balls guy, but Penn’s commentary for everything happening in Egypt struck me as unnecessarily shallow. The Indian magicians, on the other hand, have absolutely mastered the geek act, cutting off bits of their children, killing them and then bringing them back to life. Disturbing, in a way. But, still a great DVD to get if you like Penn and Teller.

On a side note, I got this DVD as part of a birthday gift, shipped to me in Japan. When I received it, the package was neatly wrapped in gift paper, but it rattled when I picked it up. Removing the wrapping showed that it was indeed a DVD, but generally when you shake DVDs they don’t rattle like they’re in multiple pieces. At least, not if the idea is to put the pieces in a DVD player and actually play them. So, I was a bit hesitant to open the clamshell, but it was ok. The clamshell itself was so old that it had gotten brittle and was self-destructing. I took this to be a form of commentary on the DVD itself.

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