The Magic of Max

Bruce Von Stiers

About a month ago, I was in a social media conversation with Katherine Norland. I was interested in learning about her work as an actor and producer. And the possibility of reviewing some of that work. Katherine let me know about a film that she had done a couple of years ago. The film is titled Magic Hour. It is about a once noted magician who has fallen on hard times. I decided to check out the film and possibly write a review of it. I didn't know quite what to expect but found that I really liked the film.

The story revolves around Max, who had been a much respected and sought-after magician in the L.A. area. Due to a series of circumstances, Max is now doing magic tricks along Hollywood Boulevard to earn money. Max is played by Theo Crisell. As a child star, Theo worked with such notables as John Wayne, Lucille Ball and Walter Brennan. As an adult, Theo had worked on many television shows and films.

The film follows Max as he tries to entice people on the street to watch him perform magic and give him money. More often than not, his tricks fail, and he doesn't get much in the way of tips. A little later, the film finds that Max is behind on his rent. He goes to his old manager to borrow money. That doesn't work out too well. Robert Waldman played Max's manager. Besides acting, he has been a photographer on set for a couple of films.

The next day finds Max back out doing magic tricks. This time, he meets a woman, Kat, who clearly doesn't want to be bothered. But somehow, Max reels her in. The more he tries, the more he fails, at both the tricks and winning over Kat. She finally leaves, unimpressed and agitated. Kat is played by Katherine Norland. She has been in films such as Monster On and the series Dhar Mann. And Katherine has been screenwriter and producer for several short films.

As the film moves along, we find out why Max is no longer a top named magician and that Kat has some personal struggles herself, including a husband who doesn't support her dreams and could possibly be cheating on her.

Later, Max finds Kat and, after a lengthy conversation, she allows him to show her around. This ends up being a whirlwind tour of things in downtown L.A. that are beyond what tourists normally see.

They are two wounded souls who need to find their way back. But does Max figure out how to help Kat? Does she figure out a way to help him get back to being a top-rated magician? That's pretty much where I'll leave the plot description.

As for the filming, it was pretty cool. They set out to do almost documentary styled camera work. That is, it seems like the camera was just following Max around and observing him. I was told that much of the filming was impromptu and unscripted. In one scene Max runs into an old friend on the street. Apparently, that was a true event that was filmed as it unfolded.

As the camera followed Max and Kat as they wandered around on the streets, they encountered all kinds of people, including a drum group and a guy dancing with them. Most of the people they interacted with had no idea that there was filming going on. And there were all kinds of art being displayed on sidewalks and at storefronts. According to Katherine, there was an Art Night in that part of L.A. when they were filming.

Probably the coolest location in the film was The Last Bookstore. I'd heard about this cool, eclectic bookstore in L.A., but had never seen any pictures or video of it. The film takes Max and Kat through different parts of the store, with them eventually sitting on a sofa there, discussing their futures.

Magic Hour's director was Bart Vandever. He was also the cinematographer and editor. Bart's work spans from acting in front of the camera to producing, editing and filming behind it. He was an assistant editor on the film Jack The Giant Killer and wrote and directed the just completed film Women.

The film was written by Theo, Katherine and Bart. The three of them were also the producers for the film.

Jeff Allen plays Steve, Kat's husband, who is in a few scenes in the film. Jeff has been in several films and been seen in episodes of My Crazy Ex and Dhar Mann. TJ Myers played Naomi, who takes a liking to Max. Along with appearing in numerous films, T.J. has been seen in episodes of Bones, The Finder and The Closer.

Several other people had screen time in the film. Those people included Love Johnson, Isis Nix, Julia Lima, Timothy Omand, Vincent Galli, Magi Avila and Manta Balourdou. There was also Matthew Barch, Tanalee Glaser, Kimberly Laux, Fabia Skobin, J.D. Harrison and Timothy John Norland.

Normally, in a film like this, there wouldn't be a need for stunts. But a bit at the end of the film had a little bit of physicality. So Cheryl Rusa provided some stunt work for the film.

One thing I do need to add here. Last year, 2021, Theo Crisell died from COVID.

As I said earlier, I really liked Magic Hour. It was a nice dramatic piece. The characterizations seemed very real and somewhat raw. The acting was done well. And I really enjoyed the shot locations, especially The Last Bookstore.

At this time, Magic Hour can be seen on various streaming platforms. Those include Tubi, which is where I watched the film.

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© 2022 Bruce E Von Stiers