Case Number 13761: Small Claims Court


A&E // 2005 // 198 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // June 4th, 2008

The Charge

I am the mindfreak (Mindfreak!)
There's no reality, just this world of illusion that keeps on taunting me.
I am the mindfreak (Mindfreak!)
I am the mindfreak (Mindfreak!)
I am the mindfreak (Mindfreak!)
I am the mindfreak (Mindfreak!)
Are you ready?

The Case

You've probably heard of Criss Angel. He is one of the leading modern magicians, and certainly one of the most effectively self-promotional. He has appeared on numerous daytime and late-night talk shows performing his tricks, but is probably best known for his A&E program, Criss Angel: Mindfreak. This single-disc DVD compiles nine 22-minute episodes from the first two seasons of the show, featuring some of the magician's more impressive feats. The episodes included are as follows:

* Burned Alive
* Levitation
* Body Suspension
* Building Walk
* Building Float
* Vanish
* Walk on Water
* In Two
* Bike Jump Vanish

While watching Criss Angel: Mindfreak: The Best of Seasons 1 and 2, my mind kept drifting back to something I had recently read in Jim Emerson's review of The Illusionist: "There's an irony inherent in making a movie about magic, since the photographic medium is discontinuous and subject to post-production manipulations beyond those that can be created before a live audience."

Yes, I know that the packaging claims there are no camera tricks. Yes, Criss Angel keeps informing us that we are seeing the exact same thing that we would be seeing if we were there live. However, my mind won't permit me to believe it. Years and years of being fed well-crafted (and not-so-well-crafted) lies at 24 frames a second has conditioned my brain to doubt anything I see on a cinema screen or a television set that seems improbable. Like many other viewers of the show, I find myself searching for ways to explain what Angel does.

For instance, Angel asks a woman to draw a picture of an animal on a napkin. "Any animal that comes to mind," he says. The woman draws a butterfly, and Angel responds by making a butterfly appear in the napkin and fly away. A nice trick, but I keep wondering how many people Angel and his crew had to film before they found someone who didn't draw a bear or crocodile. Angel is also fond of borrowing "random" props from the crowd, and it seems highly unlikely that such props would just be hanging around. A giant metal chain that appears to be brand new is just sitting on a garbage dumpster when Angel happens to be performing a trick that requires a chain? Improbable, but maybe. In another scene, Angel is with a crowd of people in Las Vegas, and makes a girl disappear. He does this with the aid of a gigantic sheet that he borrows from another girl who happens to be sitting there. However, it's a hot day in the middle of the seems extraordinarily unlikely that the girl would be wrapped up in a gigantic sheet.

Again, I'm not saying that Angel's illusions are unimpressive. But I would be a lot less suspicious if he were just using his own props rather than "borrowing" them from "random" people on the street. The camera often seems hesitant to inspect Angel's work too closely, occasionally becoming shy at moments when it ought to be aggressively inspecting the situation. Of course, the whole show is directed by Angel, which is yet another problem. The whole thing is very self-indulgent, bordering on ridiculous at times. Angel sings his own theme song (the expressive lyrics of which can be seen above), a wannabe hard rock anthem that is really crummy. Seeing the magician posing as a second-rate rocker over the opening and closing credits is rather damaging to his mystique. Scenes that do attempt to amp up his mysterious nature come across as corny. Brief segment bridges featuring Angel and a cast of bizarre supporting characters participating in mystical rituals in the desert are nothing short of groan-worthy.

I keep complaining and complaining, but honestly Criss Angel: Mindfreak isn't bad television. It's interesting stuff, and if you catch an episode, you're likely to keep watching out of sheer curiosity. For some, this DVD may very well be an astounding spectacle. But I also suspect that many viewers will respond to it the same way I did, with increasing levels of suspicion and cynicism. If you like the show, this is a good batch of some of Angel's more significant illusions. One exception: the show which features Angel flying from a helicopter with four big hooks in his back. This falls into Fear Factor style masochism, not illusion. As far as I'm concerned, the former is a lot less admirable (and less interesting) than the latter.

Video quality is fine, though sometimes the footage is intentionally grainy and blurry. The 2.0 soundtrack is pretty simple and effective, though sometimes the rock score drowns out dialogue. No extras are included on the disc.

Review content copyright © 2008 Clark Douglas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 70

Perp Profile
Studio: A&E
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

* None

Running Time: 198 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* None

* IMDb

* DVD Verdict Review - Season 1

* DVD Verdict Review - Season 2

* DVD Verdict Review - Season 3

* DVD Verdict Review - Halloween