One of the most popular London theatre attractions during the late Victorian and early Edwardian era was the magic act of Nevil Maskelyne at the Egyptian Hall Theatre. Maskelyne changed his act frequently, but always featured flashy magic tricks with large broad effects that could be seen from the back of the hall, and he invariably ended the show with a patriotic display. Like Houdini (his contemporary), Maskelyne also had a sideline in exposing spiritualists who used conjurors' tricks to produce fraudulent "ghosts".
"Mr Maskelyne Spinning Plates and Basins", filmed by the early movie pioneer R.W. Paul, is the only known moving-picture footage of Maskelyne. The title describes the action. Because Maskelyne was most notably a magician - one of the most popular of all time - it's regrettable that this film shows him doing a juggling turn, rather than some of his spectacular magic tricks. Many of Maskelyne's best tricks involved heavy complicated equipment; perhaps film-maker Paul thought it would be more foolproof to film Maskelyne juggling simple props as he does in this film ... rather than making trees bloom in midair, or any of the other astonishing stunts which he usually did at the Egyptian Hall.
This film is of greater interest to students of juggling techniques than to students of magic, which is a pity since Maskelyne himself is of vital importance to the history of stage magic. Still, I found this film fascinating.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this