Frank Simon's Versatile Card Magic—The DVD by Earl Nelson
Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii May, 2003)
Earl Nelson was a dear friend of the late Frank Simon, so much so that he posed for all the photo-graphs in the original edition of Versatile Card Magic. (He could also really do all the moves!) And it was Mr. Nelson who brought Simon to the attention of Mike Caveney, which led to the eventual publishing of Simon's book. And so it is perfectly appropriate that Mr. Nelson should have posed once again for all the new photographs in the reissue of Versatile Card Magic.
I suspect that were Mr. Nelson and I taken into separate rooms and interrogated by police about our feelings concerning the impact of instructional video on conjuring, our answers would be so similar as to warrant our captors to suspect as of collusion. And so it might be odd to see that Mr. Nelson has agreed to provide an instructional DVD as a supporting product for the new edition of Frank Simon's wonderful textbook on Spread Cull Controls. What's the idea? The idea will become quite clear within minutes of loading this DVD into your player or DVD drive-equipped computer.
The idea is in fact that the DVD is by no means intended as a replacement for or alternative to the book, and it will not serve as such under any circumstances. Rather, this DVD is a true teaching tool: on it, Earl Nelson carefully demonstrates and briefly teaches every single sleight that is found in the pages of Versatile Card Magic. There are no tricks demonstrated, although there are a couple of handling variants briefly discussed. But mostly it is the sleights that are demonstrated and explained, succinctly and with perfectly chosen video angles. This is one time where the camera is actually where you want it to be in order to properly see the action (although it may be a bit hard to imagine how it got there for the actual shooting). This is one DVD that actually addresses a legitimate goal of video, and then thoroughly delivers on that goal namely to serve as an enhanced teaching tool that works in service to a book, not in place of one. This DVD is almost useless without the book. But as an addition, it will give you great assistance, where it counts, in learning the timing and mechanics of certain specific actions. This is what video often claims to be but typically fails to achieve. It is the purpose for which video should be used as opposed to a substitute for those who can't write or don't care to read. This is a model for how video should be utilized, and quite simply, I highly recommend it.