CAPE TOWN: The Great Escape
MIAMI: Head Under Water
DETROIT: Death By Audience
LONDON: Buried Alive
LAS VEGAS: Against The Odds
INDIA: The Rope Trick
EDINBURGH: Trial By Fire
LOS ANGELES: Daredevil
Over the top, dramatic and impressively wondrous, Death By Magic is an 8 episode series mixing magic with history to decent effect. Narrated and performed by British illusionist Drummond Money-Coutts, this globe-trotting series follows a familiar format for each of its 8 episodes but manages to inject a good mix of tension, drama and, of course, magic to make it a compelling and engrossing show.
Travelling the world, Drummond’s intent is to honour the memory of famous magicians by recreating the stunts that saw them meet their untimely death whilst learning what went wrong during that time. From being buried alive in a transparent coffin filled with concrete to escaping a locked car full of water, Death By Magic features some amazing and incredibly dangerous tricks to finish off each episode.
With this in mind, the episodes begin in much the same way; with a simple magic trick. From here the episodes build toward this grand finale, weaving different tricks performed out in the public with interviews and segments discussing the stunts and life of the magician being honoured during that episode. The format works pretty well too and this blend of educational history with globe-trotting magic gives the show a structure to cling to for the duration of its run time.
Much like other magic shows, there will undoubtedly be those going into this with cautious optimism and a keen eye to try and spot even the glimpse of how the illusionist performs his stunts. Much like Dynamo, Derren Brown and other magicians attempting these sort of stunts, editing and cuts do play a part but for the most part, Death By Magic does a good job keeping most of the tricks under wraps with little knowledge in how these were performed. It works really well too although those turned away from other highly produced, overly dramatic magic series may not take to Netflix’s Original that follows much the same format.
What really helps the show’s appeal is Drummond himself. Whether it be seeing his vulnerability whilst grappling with his own aquaphobia or his general respectful enthusiasm toward finding out about different magicians, the episodes work well to get us invested in him just as much as the tricks themselves. This is particularly important too given the familiarity this show breeds to other magic shows out there.
Whether you go into Death By Magic with a cynical eye, ready to pick apart every nuanced trick or love magic and its mysterious allure, the show does make for an entertaining and oftentimes tense watch. Seeing Drummond attempting these death-defying stunts may manufacture a fair amount of tension, it does so in a way that helps you empathise with the magician himself and invest in his journey. While this globe-trotting show doesn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel, it does polish up a well-rehearsed structure, blending history with magic in an engrossing and engaging manner.