Series Created by Criss Angel
- All fifteen first season episodes
- Running audio commentaries on two episodes by Angel
- Interview with Angel
- Interactive illusions
- Photo gallery
- Criss Angel bio
Released by: A&E Home Video.
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format.
My Advice: See his stage show instead.
There is a movement among magicians to make the art more modern, more of an edge, more x-treme. Instead of a safe encompassing environment like a stage, they perform their tricks on the street in full view. Without a set audience or a backstage, some magicians feel that this “street magic” is more real for lack of a better word. David Blaine has been on the vanguard of this movement but there are others such as Criss Angel: Mindfreak. But Angel does more than perform feats of sleight of hand and mentalism. He pushes magic and himself to the edge with death defying stunts where he’s set on fire, blown up, hung over a desert with hooks in his flesh and even hit with lightning. And you get to see all this in this new series.
There are two parts to a magic act. First is executing the trick: for example, place a coin “magically” into an unopened soda can. This kind of impossible feat is what Angel excels at. I watched a couple of the tricks he performs several times over and I can’t find how he’s doing it. The people who see his tricks are suitably impressed and are quite vocal about it. You see someone levitate your friend in the middle of a Las Vegas street and I dare you not to exclaim a “Goddamn!” and “No way!” The big “demonstrations” (as Angel calls them) are remarkable feats of endurance and body control if not testaments to his sanity. You have to be a special kind of person to drive a car blindfolded in Los Angeles to win a car or get hit from an electrical arc from a massive Tesla coil. Whether “special” means extraordinary or needing to ride the short bus is something I’ll leave to the individual viewer.
Now we get to the second part of the magic act: the presentation, the flash, the razzle dazzle. You could have the greatest illusion ever, but if you perform it in a deadpan voice saying “um” a lot, it’s doubtful the audience is going to be interested. Angel’s “look” is a departure from the classic tuxedo and top hat. Angel has this goth/nÃ¼-metal image with the long hair and the clothes from Hot Topic. He talks about how he wants to make magic more modern but it looked to me that a lot of stuff he performed was the standard sleight of hand and cold reading. It’s very well done, but I’m not seeing the “modern” aspect.
Angel also directed the episodes and doesn’t understand that what works for a crowd on the street–live–doesn’t work for a television audience. It’s hard to appreciate the skill involved since the television audience is separated by the screen. You also get that little voice wondering if he arranged the camera angle a little or used a couple of ringers. As to his big demonstrations at the climax of the show, Angel uses too many shots of his family and crew saying how dangerous the stunt is and how much risk Angel is under. It’s obvious that burying yourself alive or escaping a barrel suspended hundred of feet in the air is dangerous. Constantly mentioning it seems like a cheap way to boost tension.
The DVD extras are pretty ordinary. You know, the short biography, the photo gallery, the behind the screen featurette. Yawn. There are a few so-called “interactive illusions” so you can tell how you’re being manipulated to give the result needed. Criss gives commentary for two episodes but honestly he doesn’t add much insight or information. With a less than magical DVD, I’d catch Criss Angel: Mindfreak on cable. If there’s nothing else on.