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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Polly wants a cracker... » » Question re: The Prestige and the birdcage... semi-spoiler ahead. (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

travisb
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Semi-spoiler:

So, if you've seen the movie you've seen the macabre little joke about the vanishing birdcage--but it's just a joke, right? I feel foolish for exposing my ignorance so baldly, but I have to know: at no time in the history of magic has there ever been a popular, mainstream trick that involved the actual slaughter of live animals to achieve its effect, has there? If there has, I find that utterly appalling, and if not I find it a bit annoying that the film would portray magicians that way for the sake of a bit of gallows humour and to hit a sort of character point.

At any rate, it also made me wonder a bit about the use of animals in magic. Does any single source exist outlining the variety of ways animals have been mistreated by magicians throughout the years? Or can anybody compile a reasonable list off the top of their head? Or even just suggest one or two? I'm curious... (Agreed that mistreatment might be subjective--I would favour an inclusive list for the sake of completeness.)

-Travis

Oh, and really didn't like the movie, and was amused by the morbid little sci-fi kicker at the end, possible because of my pre-existing fascination with the concept (Greg Egan has a nice story on more or less that idea in his collection Axiomatic--it's called The Jewel, I think...).
Payne
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Quote:
On 2006-10-21 01:55, travisb wrote:

I feel foolish for exposing my ignorance so baldly, but I have to know: at no time in the history of magic has there ever been a popular, mainstream trick that involved the actual slaughter of live animals to achieve its effect, has there?

Henry the Eights conjurer Brandon caused a pigeon to fall from the rafters dead after piercing its shadow with a dagger. He did this with the use of poison.

Robert Houdin was so appalled at a rivals (I think it was Bosco) misuse of his animals he dubbed him "The Bird Murderer" as he routinely killed several birds in each performance.

Many magicians of the "Golden Age of Magic" used live canaries in their vanishing birdcage tricks. Well at least they were living at the start of the effect.

The Blackstone's no doubt were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of rabbits which they gave away to lucky child volunteers who more than likely had no idea of how to properly care for their newly acquired pet.

Mac King once swallowed a goldfish by accident during one of his performances.

So yes magicians in the past and present have been responsible for the deaths of many animals during their performances.
"America's Foremost Satirical Magician" -- Jeff McBride.
NJJ
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I once saw a magician set fire to his duck on stage.

It survived.
tommy
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If humans count as animals, then I would say, maybe, there have been cases of mistreatment of animals by magicians. Smile Really I don’t know of any case of a magician mistreating an animal. Unless I count the fly, which isn‘t harmed.
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Daegs
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I've definitely heard of a magician who performed the "Torn and Restored" bird by ripping off the head of one dove and producing another....
travisb
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Ack...

So--the vanishing birdcage really did kill the birds? Which versions did this? When did it stop? Did it stop?

-Travis
Jonathan Townsend
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Think abou the trick with a bird in the cage, and then without. Which is more magical and context appropriate.

I heard a rumor there are rubber and cloth/feather dummy birds on can find.

As to the slaughter of animals... some of us just enjoyed bacon and eggs for breakfast and may have a burger or steak sometime this week too. The critical distinction here seems to be the entertainment versus the nutrition of the customer.
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Christopher Moro
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I think you bring up some very important issues, Travis. Based on the information in the posts above, I'd say it's clear SOME magicians, mostly in the PAST have been responsible for animal cruetly. Methods have changed and I think most magicians have wised up. But the interesting point is how the film depicts magician's disregard for animals and how the public will respond to the next "vanishing bird cage" effect they see live. Of course this depends on how much business the film does. I work in film and from that point of view, the choice to show the birds being killed works incredibly well for the theme and in foreshadowing events to come. Dramatically it is the right choice. We will have to see what the effect is in real life with real audiences and real performances. Do know this: Lance Burton does the vanishing bird cage effect in his show and I've heard lay audiences talk about it with great admiration...and no birds die when Lance does it.
Dave Scribner
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Just to set the record straight here, Lance and many other magicians do the vanishing bird cage and this NOT the effect where the bird is killed in the movie. It's an entirely different vanishing cage effect. I don't want to give away anything from the movie to those that have not seen it but there are two different vanishes in the movie.
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Brian Lehr
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Galli Galli used to do the multiplying baby chicks (video can still be found on the internet). I once read that when the chicks got too big, or they made too much noise in his hotel room, he used to flush them down the toilet and get some new ones for his show.

Could be hearsay. But, I read it on the internet, so it must be true. ;-)

Brian
Jonathan Townsend
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Quote:
On 2006-10-21 01:55, travisb wrote:
Semi-spoiler:

So, if you've seen the movie you've seen the macabre little joke about the vanishing birdcage--but it's just a joke, right? ...

Sorry, the cage is given meaning by the bird inside. And the performer's character is given gravity by how they treat the living thing inside.

But what about the backstage side of all this?

First, it's not a joke. And if you go back to listen, it's not insignificant either. And the kid gets it right intuitively. Even as Michael Kane does it again to amuse for another child who may never get it. I hope she never gets it. The OTHER magician got it and went with it.

Now as to the mechanics... we are on a slippery slope. If you don't have a live bird in your cage you are cheating your audience out of something. If you can't do what was done with the dove (or see the parakeet book about Kodell's magic) then you are probably on the slope and looking down toward dark things.

And if you don't want that stunned silence, you probably need to bring that bird back for the audience.

IMHO leave the story as is. And leave your birds safe.
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travisb
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Quote:
First, it's not a joke. And if you go back to listen, it's not insignificant either.


I won't argue its significance to the story, that seems clear, but I do think it works as a joke--albeit a grim one that made me a little uncomfortable--and I think it was played at least partly for humour. The same joke repeated at the end with larger, more intelligent animals didn't make me uncomfortable I think due to its "over-the-topness" (in fact it was one of the few things in the movie that made me smile).

Quote:
Now as to the mechanics... we are on a slippery slope. If you don't have a live bird in your cage you are cheating your audience out of something. If you can't do what was done with the dove (or see the parakeet book about Kodell's magic) then you are probably on the slope and looking down toward dark things.


No kidding (except who's "Kodell"?).

Incidentally, that Tommy Wonder clip that's on YouTube made a friend of mine upset as soon as she realized that it was a real bird. I couldn't give a good answer as to where the bird went (since I don't know) and I could only say that he struck me as a good person who probably wouldn't hurt animals, but this didn't satisfy her (or me, really).

-Travis

P.S. Again, pardon my ignorance, just so I'm clear: all modern versions of this trick don't hurt the bird in any way? Some versions in the past either did or may have?
Dave Scribner
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Travis, Jack Kodell was probably one if not the best parakeet performers.
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bry1513
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Lance doesn't use a real bird with his vanishing cage...............I don't know of anyone who does right off hand. I've owned one and just can't see how you could.


Take care,

Bryan
Crispy
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In the past, live canaries were used in the vanishing birdcage and it did require a new canary each time the effect was performed. Remember back then that canaries were commonly used in coal mines as a way to detect poisionous gases before the miners were effected. when a miner say that the canary in the cage had expired, they knew it was time to evacuate the mine. This, of course, is where the phrase "canary in the coal mine" comes from. At this time, canaries were extremely cheap and were considered just as disposable as goldfish are today (like the "feeder" goldfish that can be bought at Walmart for 25 cents a pop or cheaper).

As canaries now cost from $30 to $100 a pop, they aren't quite as disposble as they once were. There was also a magazine article published (in Reader's Digest perhaps?) that revealed that the method invovled killing the bird. However, I believe by this time, the use of the live canary had fallen out of fashion and rubber canaries were being used instead.

And yes, in the past there have been effects that actually did kill the animal as part of the method. In Klosterman's Salon de Magie, there is a cup that was used for a finale in the cups and balls performance. after a chick was produce, the cup was placed over the chick. When the cup was lifted up, the chick was gone. The method? If you look in the cup you would see that it was filled with sharp spikes! *note to moderators-this is an antique effect and I don't think this method would fool anyone today... not trying to reveal secrets here*

Of course, magic has evolved and performers today care for their animals as pets. I know of no contemporary effects that actually include the death of the animal as part of the method.

Cris
fredmoore
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Has anyone gotten any grief from their audiences about doing a vanishing birdcage effect? The movie Prestige has made some money, and I'm sure people will remember that scene and wonder.

Any thoughts?
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