DESCRIPTION: ‘Kayfabe’ means secret, and the latest DVD album from the Essential Magic Collection contains many. Some of these secrets have been kept by Max Maven for forty years. They are incredibly powerful professional routines with entertaining narratives, slick staging and a devious approach to method.
JUNKIE THOUGHTS: Kayfabe is the latest release from Luis De Matos and the Essential Magic Collection. It is a fascinating four DVD set featuring the work, history and stories of Max Maven. What exactly is Kayfabe you ask? Kayfabe is a term that comes from the world of Professional Wrestling, a subject matter that Max Maven is a big fan of. As mentioned above, the term means “a secret that should not be shared with outsiders”. In this DVD set, Max is “breaking Kayfabe” and sharing some routines he’s kept to himself for nearly 40 years. Read on for the Junkie Thoughts on this set…
I have to be honest, I’m not a big fan of Max Maven’s material. There’s no denying his contribution to magic and mentalism, but I’m generally not a fan. Don’t get me wrong, his material is okay, but to me its just over the top… with the spooky character and dramatic eyebrow raise, all to reveal a playing card. I’ve have in fact seen max perform multiple times over the years, admittedly at conventions for magicians. Unfortunately I’ve never seen him perform for normal people, but after viewing this DVD set, I’d really like to. More on that later.
As mentioned above, Kayfabe is a 4 DVD set, each disc containing live performances, explanations, and interview segments. Each DVD features material that has never been revealed (with only a couple of exceptions). I’ll be honest, initially I was pretty bored with Disc 1. (Max’s pacing tends to be way too slow for me.) The material is decent, but took a second viewing to truly appreciate it. In fact, the first time through, I started thinking “this would be good for someone with insomnia.” There’s an effect with billets, a confabulation style routine with a cool premise, a card routine and a final routine reminiscent of Larry Becker’s Sneak Thief (although apparently Max Maven is the creator of this effect and Sneak Thief is a variation of his routine. Not the other way around. Cool.) The interview segment was simply fascinating. Max Maven has always been a bit of an enigma, but he opens up completely and shares stories of his childhood and background. When the interview ended it left me wanting more. Thankfully there were three more interviews to come.
DVD 2 features all card routines. Again, the pacing is so slow I found myself wanting to fast forward. With a bit more energy (ala Giovanni) I can see these routines being quite entertaining. Of these routines, Roundabout was my favorite. Its a bit procedural, but involves a few people and is a fooler. Once again, the interview segment was great. It picked up where Disc 1 left off, recounting stories from his past and how he got his start in the magic community. Did you know Phil Goldstein was a nightclub DJ? Crazy right?
Disc 3 features my favorite routines of the set. Pocket Nightmare and its variation Night Flight. Both routines are based on the “one handed thought of card in pocket” routine. You promise to perform the routine using only one hand. Suiting actions to words, you place one hand in your pocket. The spectator peeks at a card. You then cause the card to vanish from the deck and appear in the pocket where your other hand has been firmly placed since the beginning. The following routine is a variation without the “hand in pocket theme” but just as good. What’s fascinating is Max’s history with this effect. I almost enjoyed this part more than the effect itself. Almost. Well worth the study. The next routine, Caesarean section is Max’s handling of the card stab plot. His version is COMPLETELY hands off and really good. I’ll be working on this right away. The last routine, Scrutability is Max’s approach to The Trick That Cannot Be Explained. The effect is great and Max’s handling is a lesson in spectator management. Simply wonderful and worthy of study. The DVD closes with part three of the interview. Again we are allowed into the inner room to learn more about what makes Max tick. Lastly we are gifted with a replay of Max’s talk at the EMC 2011 conference. Here Max talks about the Straight Line Theory. This is a fascinating monologue based on forcing a card using the Hindu Shuffle. Odd choice but fascinating. Max is truly a scholar and I personally love listening to his presentations. Thankfully there’s more on Disc 4.
The Last DVD is a bit of a bonus. It features an audio replay of Max’s study on the Fragility of Mystery. This is just fantastic. Again, Max is a scholar. His presentations are always intelligent and engaging. This monologue is no exception. As a bonus, we are treated to the 2006 documentary A Fabulous Monster. This was my favorite part of the 4 DVD set and worth the price of the set. Here we are treated to the real Max Maven. We are able to see segments of Max’s one man show which is brilliant even in the short clips. Here we are witness to the true genius of Max Maven. He’s funny, charming, ridiculously intelligent, and fascinating. Watching these segments made me look at my own presentations and want to be better. The documentary and the interviews made me appreciate Max Maven. Not just for his contributions but for who he is. A historian, a scholar, a genius and most importantly a person. Not just eye makeup and a widows peak. He’s truly a remarkable person. I felt I got to know him a bit better, and it made me wish I was his friend.
The quality of the set is second to none. Each routine is performed for a live lay audience, then explained in full detail. There are camera close ups when necessary and no detail left out. Each routine is explained with full crediting and history. These segments were almost more interesting than the tricks. I love learning where effects come from and how a creator adapts them. The fact that Max is a historian make this all the more insightful. To a certain extent, I would watch this DVD set just for the explanations and history.
FINAL THOUGHTS: As stated above, this set started out a bit rough for me. Max’s presentation style is slow and methodical and not my cup-o-tea. However, the interviews and added bonuses are fantastic. I loved seeing behind the curtain and learning about this Enigma. I loved the clips of Max’s one man show and I certainly learned a lot from him. Max is a master for a reason. Most of all Max is a remarkable person and a true legend. I feel I know him a bit better and have a much deeper appreciation for his contributions to our art. I think you will too. HIGHLY recommended.