Say Abracadabra

Registered: 13th June 1954
Duration: 28 minutes
Feet: 2500 feet
Board of Trade Certificate number: ​​​AFF032245 
Production Company: ​​Baim Enterprises Limited

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Magic Acts 1954 (B&W)


- Geoffrey Robinson
- James Peasey
- Col Ling Soo
- Weaver-Smith
- Percy Press
- Horace King and Betty
- and to saw you in halves.. Robert Harbin

In charge of Photography: Eric Owen
Story told by:  Frank Phillips
Written and Produced by: Harold Baim
with the co-operation of the Magic Circle in London, England.


Names to conjure with. Names that spell magic. And magic means, to all who know, the magic circle, where magicians come together to learn and to find new means of baffling us.

Arthur Ivey, curator of the museum, shows how they used to bewitch, bother and bewilder them in the olden days. Himself an ardent member of the Magic Circle, he has an unlimited store of magical memories from olden times.

Today, money disappears of its own accord. 60 years ago, they had to invent a way. See how it goes.

In the 1870s, a magician dressed like this statuette of a wizard that was, and possibly this maestro of magic would have done this kind of trick. Or even one like this. Now it's black. Now it's yellow. You'd never guess how it's done, much.

The museum has many interesting examples of old posters. The famous team of Maskelyne and Cooke were amongst the foremost performers of the day, some 80 years ago.

Here's a good one. An inexhaustible box or a method to adopt when the unexpected guest arrives and you just haven't enough crockery. Maybe he could produce anything you asked for? Maybe.

Strange sets of playing cards are another of the museum's interests. Some date back 200 years. Some are circular, though not magically circular. Japanese and Indian circular cards make interesting relics.

You certainly need patience with these, some of the smallest in the world. So we will say so long to Arthur Ivey, with thanks for an instructive visit, and leave him at the side of the table built specially by Maskelyne for his plate spinning act.

A spin with Col Ling Soo, who has carried on the tradition of the Maskelynes. In his 53 years as a magician, his dexterity with ordinary China plates is phenomenal. He admits that he broke over 100 of them before reaching his present state of proficiency. When you get home, try it. It strengthens the wrists but weakens the plates if you haven't the necessary know how.

If you were to ask me why a man bothers to spin plates at all, I wouldn't know. But it certainly is clever control.

This takes even more practice. Arms crossed, Col Ling Soo, with his right hand, spins one plate slowly, and with his left makes the other rotate at speed.

Well, you could have bowled me over when I first saw this. Bet he's useful when it comes to mixing a pudding. When you think of the weight of a bowl this size, you can appreciate the practice needed to become perfect.

An easy way of squaring a circle.

Two Chinese railway signals of equal length. No, the bottom one is.. No, they're both the same size.

A bird in the hand is worth two in the handkerchief. Can you see through this one? Unbroken piece of rope is put into the tube, cut in half, and joined together again.

A past president, and one of the founders of the Magic Circle, a royal command performer resplendent in his 18th century yellow satin robes that once belonged to an emperor of China Col Ling Soo, takes his bow.

Where there's smoke, there's fire, and where there's fire, there is 21 year old Weaver Smith. He is a refrigeration engineer. And if ever a man had a right to blow hot and cold, he has.

A member of the London Society of Magicians, he is one of the foremost exponents of fire eating in the country. Watch him in close up. He literally breathes fire.

Weaver Smith doesn't need matches while he can use his finger to light the brands. Nor does he need water to put out the flame. There's courage. He tells me that when he first started, he used matches and work his way upwards to bigger and better flames.

This time he takes three burning brands together and extinguishes them in one gulp. A closer look, proving that it is possible to bite off more than you can chew.

For a snack, what could be nicer than a delicious piece of burning cotton wool? It's definitely an acquired taste.

Pardon me. Well, maybe they didn't agree with you.

Sliding the flame into the mouth is a trick requiring some very special care. Or it could result in some very nasty burns. In slow motion, you can really see how it is done.

How's this for playing with fire? That flame was 12ft long. Slow motion again shows a wonderful effect. Close at hand, though, is the means to prevent another case of the biter bit.

The street corner juggler and magician was a common sight years ago. Even now, on the downs on any derby day can be seen the exponent of find-the-lady.

Inside the magic circle, where this film was made, work was going on quite smoothly until Percy Press arrived.

The reaction of the members of the staff was entertainment itself. They didn't believe a word he was saying. Percy Press is a fast talker, one of the old school and a fantastic manipulator.

We shan't be as skeptical as the people standing around. Let us see for ourselves if his hand can deceive our eyes. Watch very, very carefully.

So the answer isn't a lemon at all, it's an onion. Did you see how it was done?

Percy chose the rod and rope trick. Nothing I could say could explain it. I haven't a clue.

Cheerio, Percy Press, you're a card, you are. Now something genteel. A memory of the past. Horace King and Betty were their crinoline cameos. In those days, fineness was the keynote of all that they did. And maybe to woo a lady successfully, you had to know your abracadabra.

There now, wasn't that just the nicest fun?

In the days of long ago, they didn't know the pictures as we do, but a man like Horace King could change the picture at will. And it wasn't done by mirrors.

It's a well thought out presentation, and if you know your magic, it's easy. So the man wins the maid.

From the Holy of Holies, that is, the inner magic circle, comes Geoffrey Buckingham, who was awarded a Gold Star Medal, one of the highest awards of the circle. He is a winner of the Grand Prix at the International Congress of Magic, held in Paris in 1951. He is also one of the world's premier manipulators.

By invitation, he toured America in 1950, and was a delegate to the Conference of Magic of the USA. Never having to say Abracadabra, Geoffrey Buckingham, master of dexterity, just makes things happen himself. So he should, it took him 20 years to reach perfection. So we will sit back and marvel at his demonstration of sleight of hand, or proof that seeing isn't believing.

The London Society of Magicians has a student section, of which James Peasey is the chairman. They hold an initiation for all new students, the number of which is strictly limited and secrecy is strictly enforced.

A typical study group with a youngster being instructed in the art of magic. Geoffrey Robinson, the secretary of the society, joins in.

Here's one of the tricks where the students must learn to say abracadabra at the right moment, and the others stand by to see if he does.

This young fellow thinks the old method of making things disappear is still the best.

This 17 year old student is proficient and wants to show that gravity means nothing to him. He's even invented a trick to prove it. A book, a handkerchief, and two tumblers are the props. Keep your eyes on them and try to see how gravity is defeated.

So its suction, is it? To show that its no such thing to silk handkerchiefs are introduced and the trick is done again. Pulling the silks away, the glasses still remain fixed to the book. Not bad for a 17 year old.

Geoffrey Robinson has plenty up his sleeve and invites us to see just what. An oversized playing card, say Abracadabra, and its change. Come on, turn it over, says Jim. Not on your life, says Jeff. That's what we think, too.

An empty hat into which milk is to be poured. Why? I don't know, However, that's it. You'll spoil the hat. Have it your own way. We're puzzled too. That's putting the cart before the horse. Now take it out, Jim. How did the milk get in? That we'll never know. Well, we all saw him take the tumbler out, didn't we? Milk must agree with him. All you need for this trick is a small piece of paper. And the milk won't pour out when the glass is upturned. Take the paper away? Certainly. For goodness sake, it'll topple over. Put the tumbler back. Oh, thanks. It might have spilled.

Robert Harbin gives his impression of a man trying to read a newspaper in a crowded train.

That's better. He can spread out a bit now they've all gone.

Sawing women in half can be an interesting hobby, says Robert Harbin. Asking the lady if she's ever been halved before, and finding she's not, he invites her to have a go. All he needs to make a nice, clean job of it is this apparatus, which fits around the tummy and makes sure that the blade keeps in the right direction.

The lady is invited to lie down, a friend holding her head. After all, she might as well be comfortable.

Robin thinks of everything. It's just been shot.

Now, let's get to work. The saw can be seen passing through the pieces of wood on the sides. He asks the lady if she feels anything now that she's in two pieces, and removes the frame, which has also been sawn in half. The lady stands up. And if you can believe your eyes, the blade has passed right through her. Or could we be mistaken?

Oh, yes, the blade was sharp enough. She deserves a certificate which proves beyond questioning that she has been sawn in two. But she didn't seem at all cut up, did she?

Here's Horace King again, this time to show he too can use a knife to the advantage, or rather, the disadvantage of the unsuspecting victim. It's an apparatus of his own design. Very useful for chopping off hands.

Betty thinks it would make a very nice potato cutter. But Horace tells her that though it can be used for vegetables, they should go through the top and bottom holes like these carrots. The center hole? Oh, that's for hands.

So putting a carrot into the top and one into the bottom, all that remains is for the wrist to go through the middle. Just in case. It's sharp and easily cuts the first carrot, severs the wrist - not quite so easily - and through the bottom carrot. Hey presto! Everything still in its place.

No need to say Abracadabra. I am going to disappear now. Bye bye. 

[The End]

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