I ran across this amazing illusion recently and have been intrigued: how did the magician do this?
Was the guy who was chopped in half actually two people? Was the short guy running around at the beginning of the scene the bottom half? Here's another view of the trick;
Apparently, "half-men" have been known before;
OK - On first impression the thick table top on the "medical cart" draws my attention - what are they hiding in there? I know that through careful construction with a trick of perspective something like that can be thicker than it looks. And there's all this extraneous stuff action on to distract us.
I'd have to watch more, but I'm thinking along the lines of a very good contortionist in a "puppet suit" that he can slide part way out of the suit and into the table.
Through witchcraft, of course.
"OK - On first impression the thick table top on the "medical cart" draws my attention - what are they hiding in there? "
I would guess the top half of the person providing the legs during the parts of the illusion where the standing legs move.
There are a couple of switches done. One to switch out the real legs of the guy hiding his top half in the thick table for some fake legs than can be picked up an moved.
Then another switch for the half-man/fake legs for a whole man.
In the first version there is a cutaway hiding the switch between the half-man and the whole, in the second video they very obviously roll the cart offstage and bring it back on with the whole man.
Either that, or ... witchcraft.
When Penn and Teller do it, there's more blood:
It's kind of a long shot, but perhaps the top half could have been a hemicorporectomy survivor? Or maybe a (very uncomfortably compressed) dwarf with artificial arm extensions? (Although that does make the finger wiggle a puzzle.) My thought was that the distracter dwarf in the beginning is to psych us into thinking since there was already one dwarf in the show, it's less likely they're using another in the actual trick.
Watched Penn & Teller three times...still baffled.
Abstract of a Survivor Case Report: http://ptjournalonline.net/cgi/content/abstract/83/3/263
"Either that, or ... witchcraft."
A side note: the most likely answer is "something else". Smart people should acknowledge the possibility that they are wrong ;)
in the second video, the dwarf is a red herring.
order of trick.
1. man with cart is hemicorporectomy survivor sitting atop a man bent at the waist with the upper body in the rolling cart. cart and legs leave stage.
2. hemi... survivor placed on cart with fake set of legs, rolled off stage.
3. different man rolled back on stage in identical clothes, with white lab coat covering his contortion to bend at the waist that way.
in the first video you are seeing an edit. there are parts of the trick that are not shown in the replay for tv. note the act is pretty heavily choreographed to the music in the second video where there are no cutaways. in the first it is not. never *ever* believe that an edit does not cover something up in any motion picture representation. (especially something that purports to be documentary.) remember that the basic philosophy of magic, which is making the viewer look exactly where the magician wants the viewer to look, is exactly the same for an editor.
I think Peter is pretty close. I believe that the "half-man" is a person with sacral agenesis rather than a hemicorporectomy survivor. Persons with sacral agnenesis lack a sacrum and may lack one or more lumbar vertebrae; legs may be present at birth but they're sometimes amputated if non-functional (Johnny Eck most likely had this condition, and he did have legs which he generally concealed under his clothing).
A contortionist, bent at the hips, his upper body concealed in the cart, performs the role of the legs in the first half of the trick. He reappears as when the cart with the upper and lower "halves" is rolled back onstage and "reassembled."
Note that the face of the man who is "cut" is heavily disguised with a mask, cap, and goggles. About the only thing we can say for sure is that he is Black throughout the trick. Also, the "upper half" wears a coat that is cut differently than the one worn by the "reassembled" man.
Criss Angel performed a similar trick employing a contortionist and a woman with sacra agenesis.
I think the upper half is a contortionist with his or her legs crossed in front of his body and tucked into his shirt (which has a stiff frame), to make him appear a little heavyset. The bottom half is a second person with their upper body hidden inside the cart. After the "person" is cut in half, the lower legs dance a bit and then our attention is drawn to the upper body, which gives the person playing the legs a chance to hide inside the cart, leaving the empty legs (which must have some hollow frame) in place. While the body is being reassembled the upper half quickly untangles his legs and inserts them into the hollow legs (you can almost see this, but the "Doctor" blocks the view), and then stands up.
One more thing, re my last comment: