November 22, 2018

Winnipeg
-6° C, Overcast

Full Forecast

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Plenty of tricks and treats in magical documentary



Toronto-born magician/escape artist James Randi took on  a sideline  of debunking psychics and charlatans.

PURE MUTT PRODUCTIONS

Toronto-born magician/escape artist James Randi took on a sideline of debunking psychics and charlatans.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/2/2015 (1370 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The first amazing feat performed by this documentary is to show why we should be grateful for corny Canadian television of the 1960s.

The opening credits unfold over a black-and-white show wherein the Toronto-born magician/escape artist the Amazing Randi escapes from a straitjacket while suspended upside-down. While doing that, a chanteuse sings The Magic Touch to provide a little additional audio entertainment. It's CBC cheese at it's cheesiest, but it's also undeniably sublime.

And it kicks off a documentary portrait of James Randi that is both entertaining and provocative. Like escape artist Harry Houdini, Randi took on a sideline of debunking psychics and charlatans by showing their feats of telepathy and psychokinesis as simple variants of tricks from the magician's toolbox.

Most famous and justly celebrated was Randi's takedown of evangelist-faith healer Peter Popoff, who seemed to know a lot of information about the crippled and ailing individuals who came to him for a miracle cure during his revival meetings. With the help of a private investigator, Randi determined Popoff was being fed radio transmissions by his wife giving him the details of the gullible, desperate individuals seeking a cure, right down to their home addresses. He exposed Popoff's methodology for all to see on an episode of The Tonight Show that was sufficiently impressive that Carson was compelled to utter an unseemly expletive during the segment.

Get the full story.
No credit card required. Cancel anytime.

Join free for 30 days

After that, pay as little as $0.99 per month for the best local news coverage in Manitoba.

 

Already a subscriber?

Log in

Join free for 30 days

 

Already a subscriber?

Log in

Subscribers Log in below to continue reading,
not a subscriber? Create an account to start a 30 day free trial.

Log in Create your account

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Mon to Sat Delivery

Pay

$34.36

per month

  • Includes all benefits of All Access Digital
  • 6-day delivery of our award-winning newspaper
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/2/2015 (1370 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The first amazing feat performed by this documentary is to show why we should be grateful for corny Canadian television of the 1960s.

The opening credits unfold over a black-and-white show wherein the Toronto-born magician/escape artist the Amazing Randi escapes from a straitjacket while suspended upside-down. While doing that, a chanteuse sings The Magic Touch to provide a little additional audio entertainment. It's CBC cheese at it's cheesiest, but it's also undeniably sublime.

And it kicks off a documentary portrait of James Randi that is both entertaining and provocative. Like escape artist Harry Houdini, Randi took on a sideline of debunking psychics and charlatans by showing their feats of telepathy and psychokinesis as simple variants of tricks from the magician's toolbox.

Most famous and justly celebrated was Randi's takedown of evangelist-faith healer Peter Popoff, who seemed to know a lot of information about the crippled and ailing individuals who came to him for a miracle cure during his revival meetings. With the help of a private investigator, Randi determined Popoff was being fed radio transmissions by his wife giving him the details of the gullible, desperate individuals seeking a cure, right down to their home addresses. He exposed Popoff's methodology for all to see on an episode of The Tonight Show that was sufficiently impressive that Carson was compelled to utter an unseemly expletive during the segment.

Randi also set his sights on "psychic" Uri Geller, a celeb of the 1970s who claimed to be able to bend spoons and keys with nothing more than the power of his mind. For every talk show on which Geller bent a spoon, Randi would show up, and perform the same feat... without claiming mystic powers.

More controversially, Randi was behind an elaborate hoax exposing the "channelling" scam in which a young man went to Australia and managed to convince much of the country that his body housed an ancient spirit. That young man, one Jose Alvarez, had a very personal link to the magician that exposed Randi himself to accusations of deception.

Of course, there is a difference between a lie and a secret, and when Randi came out of the closet at the age of 81, it was at least an indicator that he wanted to put his own secrets behind him. But that didn't really come to pass until one day, the FBI came calling on his Florida home to arrest Alvarez.

The directors interview many of Randi's admirers, including magicians Penn and Teller, scientist Bill Nye and Mythbusters' Adam Savage, as well as a couple of foes — Popoff and Geller.

It all amounts to a fascinating glimpse into the life of a man whose obligation to the truth caught up with him — a wizard who may have initially discouraged a glimpse at the man behind the curtain, but ultimately pulled back the cloth himself to invite everyone take a hard gander.

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Randall King

Randall King
Reporter

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

Read full biography

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective January 2015.

Advertisement

Advertise With Us