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The Magician

Season 1 Episode 6

Man on Fire

Aired Tuesday 9:00 PM Nov 20, 1973 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
8 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

Man on Fire
A woman who begins laughing hysterically when her boyfriend Paul proposes to her falls down a staircase after he shakes her. Matt Matthews, a supposed friend, photographs Paul as he carries the body outside and convinces him that the police will never believe his version of what happened and that he should put the body into a trunk and dump it in the lake. Matthews then immediately proceeds to blackmail Paul. Tony Blake is involved when Paul's son, Danny, finds out what happens and attempts to help his father, only to be captured by the villains. Blake's investigation leads him to a rendezvous at an ornate, Gothic style inn where he must find his informant and outwit the blackmailers.moreless

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  • Almost no magic, no much-needed humor, plot is convoluted, poorly motivated and poorly explained

    This is the weakest episode yet, watching them in order. The title "Man on Fire," seems to have nothing to do with the plot as there is no fire. Underutilization of the series' selling points reduces the flash factor: zero footage of the plane, zero of the car phone, and very little magic. Worse, most of the magic in this episode is performed by a nerd trainee of Tony's who even Tony admits has no talent. Worst of all? Mark Wilson and the writer murder Wilson's signature trick, the tried and true silk to egg. In the normal presentation of this trick the audience is supposedly shown how it is done and are then shocked to find they have been duped. However in this case Wilson doesn't bother to explain to the audience that it's done with a fake egg, so they have no reason to believe otherwise. Then there is no shock value when the egg is revealed to be real, because they assumed it was real all along. The presentation here only works if you have seen this trick before and know the egg is not real, but if you know that, then you already know the whole trick so the entire thing is pointless. On top of all that, the writer further murders it by making it seem as though the trick was bungled when the egg is broken, even though that is the climax of the trick and the nerd magician obviously intended to break the egg and show the audience it was real. This portion of the episode was badly mangled and must have been the product of a dysfunctional team with the writer fighting Wilson, or Wilson not there, or the writer's union refusing to allow Wilson to work with the writer.

    So far none of the episodes have had much humor, but the little bit featured in previous episodes really helped spice up the show. This one has none. Similar to previous episodes, however, is the convoluted plot that is implausible and poorly motivated and explained.

    Finally at the climax we get a self-indulgent director who is trying to double dip his time by filming an architectural documentary of the admittedly fabulous mission. We get endless long shots of every level from a variety of interesting angles. That's fine, but only draws more attention to the lack of dramatic content provided by the anemic story. To draw the camera through the levels, the girl plays hide-and-seek with Tony for no discernible reason.moreless
Carl Betz

Carl Betz

Paul Ryerson

Guest Star

Jane Merrow

Jane Merrow

Carol Spain

Guest Star

Lloyd Bochner

Lloyd Bochner

Matt Matthews

Guest Star

Jim Watkins

Jim Watkins

Jerry Anderson

Recurring Role

Todd Crespi

Todd Crespi

Dennis Pomeroy

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (0)

  • QUOTES (10)

    • Paul Ryerson: (about his son) Watch him on the rope trick. He could hang himself.

    • Danny, performing his first trick for his father and Tony Blake:
      Uh ... three scarves and a glass ... and a touch of inspiration. (Tying two scarves together) Ladies and gentlemen, I invite your attention ... your very ... um ... close attention. (Stuffing third scarf into fist) All things must return to their beginning and in the beginning was ... an egg. It worked! (Laughs.) Did you see that? But ... what happened to the scarf? Why gentleman, it's found a home. ( Vanished scarf appears between others) Three unscrambled scarves and one (accidentally breaks egg) ... scrambled egg.

    • "Where there is no vision, the people perish" -- inscription (from Proverbs 29:18) on the Mission Inn

    • "That's a very cold trick!" -- Danny, when fooled into giving Blake's plans by a phoney private investigator

    • "Call? I don't even encouraged them to write to me! With my following, I might get a hundred thousand responses!" -- Max Pomeroy

    • "Now wait, now listen, I know this is going to sound like a square idea, very old-fashioned journalism, but Max--now listen--it might make a good column: "WHO WAS CAROL SPAIN? If you've ever heard of her, call Max Pomeroy!" It's good stuff!" -- Tony Blake to Max Pomeroy

    • "Your kid's a little old to be learning the facts of life Paul--you'd better take care of that." -- Matt Matthews

    • "A very competent...amateur." -- Tony Blake

    • Paul Ryerson, about his nerdy and somewhat clumsy son, Danny: "Mr. Blake, I'm deeply attached to my son. If he were to practice constantly, seven days a week, what kind of a magician would he eventually be?"

    • "The most important thing in this kind of illusion is the pace with which you move. Also let them see that the object you're dealing with is solid." -- Tony Blake, instructing a magic student

  • NOTES (5)

    • A common technique used on television is to have a character appear to flub a trick but to do so in a way that actually makes the trick seem more amazing. That happened in this episode, when Danny appears to accidentally break the egg that he had transformed from a handkerchief. Someone watching this episode who thought he had an explanation for how the trick worked would find his explanation dashed by this apparent "accident."

    • The Mission Inn, the ornate, Gothic, Spanish style hotel featured in the climax of this episode is still standing and serving its original purpose. This fascinating structure, with its numerous terraces, balconies, towers, flying buttresses and other Gothic ornamentations, proved to be an excellent place for the villains to chase our heroes. Today it is a national historic landmark located in the quaint mission inn district of Riverside California. Of course it has a website: www.missioninn.com.

    • Additional Crew:
      Created by: Bruce Lansbury
      Teleplay: Sam Roeca, James L. Henderson, Juanita Bartlett
      Film Editor: Marvin Adelson
      Executive Story Consultant: Stephen Kandell
      Story Editor: Marion Hargrove
      Photography Director: Ronald W. Browne
      Art Director: Jack F. Deshields

    • This episode added an announcer's statement during the opening credits: "All of the magic you are about to see was performed without trick photography of any kind. By Bill Bixby...The Magician!"

    • Magic performed in this episode:

      Appearing Woman in Trunk
      Silk to Egg
      Scarf appears tied between two other scarves
      Sliding Knot on Rope