Derren Brown – The Specials is absolutely fascinating, and unnerving (or maybe Brown planted that in my mind). This DVD is a collection of 4 mind control experiment TV specials. Derren Brown The Specials DVD works as pure entertainment but you can also get a lot out of the lessons Brown indirectly, sometimes vaguely teaches about how to, as Dale Carnegie did not quite put it, pretend you’re friends and manipulate people.
U.S readers must be aware this is a Region 2 DVD. The codes to crack many low-priced DVD players and make them region free are available on the net.
The best episodes on Derren Brown The Specials are The Heist followed closely by The Séance. The System and Russian Roulette are interesting but comparatively less so. The Séance is particularly creepy and scary; its try this at home aspect makes it perfect for a Halloween party.
In The Heist Brown invites some middle management types to a motivational conference. Brown puts his guests through a couple of challenging situations and studies them to figure out which middle manager is most likely to be talked into committing armed robbery.
It is Brown’s explanation and deconstruction of the mind tricks a lot of motivational speakers and even less scrupulous people use that really nail you to your favorite chair. His use of various in situ experiments to gradually control his guests is scary: Step 2 of The Heist has Derren Brown repeat the very hard to watch Stanley Milgram control experiment
You absolutely want to watch to the end to see which of the remaining managers will go through with the heist they have been brainwashed or motivated into pulling.
In the second show on this DVD, Derren Brown The System, the mentalist convinces someone he has come up with a foolproof plan to make money betting on horse races. Horse race betting is not interesting so the mesmerizing (pun) part is when he shows horseracing experts how he can predict things. What the psychological magician says he is really proving is how homeopathic and new-agey stuff is all bunk though he fails to make the connection clear.
The most controversial Derren Brown show is also on The Specials. In Russian Roulette, Brown chooses 100 people, then 5, then the one person who will be asked to load a gun Russian roulette style for Brown. Entertainment wise and comparatively speaking, this episode is less interesting than The Heist though the end is excellent. A lot of it is the selection process that got the “winner” to the end of the show. The end of this episode was originally broadcast live.
The Séance’s play along aspect makes it really cool though I did not dare to. Derren Brown is out to explore the phenomenon behind Victorian age and modern séances. He gathers twelve students in a building once used for a suicide pact and thus said to be haunted. The mentalist then does a few experiments before he contacts one of the people in the suicide pact.
The weird thing about The Séance is Brown encouraged people to play at home during the broadcast and included a phone number to report strange goings on. He still encourages people to play at home but there is no contact number: Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters?
Derren Brown The Specials is a DVD that is going to really fascinate any viewer. It certainly has that “You’ve got to see this” quality that will make your friends curious about it: It is real or is it mentalist?