+ $3.99 shipping
Used: Like New | Details
Sold by MovieMars
Condition: Used: Like New
Comment: Sealed item. Like NEW. 30 Day Satisfaction Guarantee.
Other Sellers on Amazon
Add to Cart
& FREE Shipping on orders over $35.00. Details
Sold by: Amazon.com
Add to Cart
& FREE Shipping on orders over $35.00. Details
Add to Cart
& FREE Shipping on orders over $35.00. Details
Sold by: TheCuriousityShop
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon

Image Unavailable

Image not available for
  • Death Defying Acts
  • Sorry, this item is not available in
  • Image not available
  • To view this video download Flash Player

Death Defying Acts

List Price: $6.95
Price: $5.04 & FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Details
You Save: $1.91 (27%)
Only 10 left in stock.
Sold by SOUTHWEST MEDIA and Fulfilled by Amazon. Gift-wrap available.
34 new from $0.50 34 used from $0.49 2 collectible from $10.00
Watch Instantly with Rent Buy
Other Formats & Versions Amazon Price New from Used from
"Please retry"
1-Disc Version
$0.50 $0.49

Deal of the Day: Sons of Anarchy: Seasons 1-6 plus coupon for Season 7
Today only and while supplies last, save 47% on the Sons of Anarchy: Season 1-6 limited edition box-set plus receive a coupon code via email to get a copy of Sons of Anarchy: Season 7 to complete your collection. Offer ends December 18, 2014 at 11:59pm PST. Learn more

Frequently Bought Together

Death Defying Acts + Rebound
Buy the selected items together

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?

Product Details

  • Actors: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Guy Pearce, Anthony O'Donnell, Ralph Riach, Timothy Spall
  • Directors: Gillian Armstrong
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Weinstein Company
  • DVD Release Date: October 28, 2008
  • Run Time: 97 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001CDFY5A
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #144,314 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Death Defying Acts" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Commentary by director Gilliam Armstrong and producer Marian MacGowan
  • The making of Death Defying Acts
  • Trailer

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

During Harry Houdini's tour of Britain in 1926, the master escapologist enters into a passionate affair with a Scottish psychic.

Stills from Death Defying Acts (Click for larger image)


Death Defying Acts would more aptly be titled Houdini’s Whirlwind Romance as it focuses less on the famed magician’s skills and more on what kind of secret lovers he may have had. In this historical drama, ravishing con-artists, Mary McGarvie (Catherine Zeta-Jones), and daughter, Benji (Saoirse Ronan), play two sharp girls ready to take Houdini (Guy Pearce) for a ride. Set in 1920s Scotland, the plot centers on a contest Houdini hosts in Edinburgh to find a psychic medium who can channel his deceased mother. Mary, tired of pick-pocketing to stage fake magic shows, desperately wants Houdini’s $10,000 cash prize and auditions successfully for the role of (real) medium. From there, passions flare up as they negotiate how much of their magic is sheer trickery. Director Gillian Armstrong’s (Little Women) rendition of Houdini’s life depicts him as a regular joe struggling to convince his pragmatic business manager, Sugarman (Timothy Spall), that magic and science are connected. Scenes in which Houdini trains for and then tests his boundaries and skills during famous theater acts, are highly entertaining and well re-created. Scenes in which McGarvie and her daughter read characters for clues to rig their paranormal hoaxes are equally well-done, and Zeta-Jones is gorgeous as a spiritualist. But when Mary and Houdini collide, their definitions of magic turn to mush through Hollywood translation, as something semi-equivocal to faith in love. This unfortunate injection of melodrama in an otherwise smart film cancels out its better parts. Do Houdini fans really want to see him, on screen, grappling with CG angels as he floats, straitjacketed, in his sealed water tank? I doubt it. Still, Death Defying Acts stars Houdini, which automatically makes for some fun. —Trinie Dalton

Customer Reviews

Catherine is such a good actress.
NY rat
I had this movie once before but we lost it in the move now I have it again and have watched it 4 times already!
Heather Douglas
Get this if you must; I know I'll never waste a minute watching it again no matter what.
E. (Harry) Hernandez

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 31, 2008
Format: DVD
Gillian Armstrong makes fine movies: she is a director who knows how to tell stories and enhance what appears on the surface to be reality with a healthy dose of fantasy. Her sense of pacing and image creation adds substance to her tales that sometimes border on bizarre.

DEATH DEFYING ACTS uses the character of Harry Houdini as the stimulus of to tell a story about the folk of Edinburgh, Scotland at a time when stage shows were embraced much the way America was using vaudeville - an escape from the rather dreary state of living to a world of entertainment and love of magic. Mary McGarvie (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and her daughter Benji (Saoirse Ronan) survive in Edinburgh by picking pockets not merely for cash but for information to use in their act in the little theaters. Mary does exotic dances then uses her 'gifts' to see into the 'other world' of people in the audience ( Benji does the investigative work and is the prompter for the séance like acts Mary performs). Their idol is Harry Houdini (Guy Pearce) and when they learn Houdini is coming to Edinburgh to 'perform', they discover Houdini is promising $10,000 to anyone who can prove they have the ability to look into the future (or past). Houdini's manager Sugarman (Timothy Spall) arranges Houdini's water tank escape acts and other acts of 'magic', and when Mary and Benji arrange to meet Houdini, Sugarman is aware they are charlatans. How Mary and Benji work their way into Houdini's belief system and love life with their con game forms the meat of the sparing.

The atmosphere of the film is well captured by cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos who understands who to balance the mire of the streets of 1926 Edinburgh with the gorgeous fantasies used during Houdini's escape acts.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Z Hayes HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 6, 2008
Format: DVD
"Death Defying Acts" is not a movie biography of Harry Houdini. Instead, it takes a small thread and weaves it into a full-length movie. The story here centers around mother-daughter con artists Mary McGarvie [Catherine Zeta-Jones] and her street smart daughter Benji [Saoirse Ronan whose claim to fame is from the movie Atonement]who barely eke out a living in Edinburgh, Scotland. They put on shows at the local theatre, where they play exotic characters that are able to foretell the future [having done research beforehand on the history of someone in the audience, usually by pickpocketing an object belonging to said person]. When the pair find out that Harry Houdini [Guy Pearce] is coming to Edinburgh and is paying out a 10,000 reward to anyone who can 'divine' his mother's last words written in a letter only known to him, they decide to con him. I'm not sure if the romance part was based on actual events but Houdini was a member of a Scientific American committee that offered a cash prize to any psychic who could successfully prove paranormal abilities. The prize however was never collected in real life.

Well, things get complicated when Mary and Houdini get emotionally drawn to each other and the rest of the story deals with the consequences as well as Benji's attempts to get her mother focused on the main prize.

Frankly, I was rather disappointed with this movie - I felt that the mother-daughter chemistry was far from credible, as the pair simply didn't click, and Zeta-Jones even at her 'shabbiest' seemed utterly unconvincing as a down-on-her-luck woman. Her role in this movie definitely lacked 'meatiness' in terms of substance [she dolls up well enough but that's all that she did really well here as there was no real character development].
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Luminoso on November 19, 2008
Format: DVD
If you're looking for a hard facts or a psychologically insightful bio of the great Houdini, then Death Defying Acts will disappoint. DDA is more a tea cake of a film, selecting odds and ends of facts from the life of the master illusionist and mixing them into a sweet, "what-if" confection.

Houdini did, in fact, mount an active campaign to debunk spiritualists and the Mary McGarvie of this film may have been suggested by a real life American psychic, "Margery" - one of Houdini's prime targets. Hardly the struggling single mother of this film, Margery Crandon was the popular wife of a Boston physician. DDA is full of similar juxtapositions of fact with fantasy that make for a gently told story which I found pleasant to watch, but neither gripping, nor illuminating.

Within the context of the script, the principal actors are excellent, but as I write this I can't help imagining what it would be like to see Pearce, Jones, Ronan and Spall in a "real-life" version of the Houdini story. One that probed the core of a man desperate for recognition, redemption, and resurrection. All four of these actors certainly have the juice for a film with that kind of edge!

Technically, DDA is uneven. In some instances the selection of locations and dressing of the sets is an early 20th Century enthusiasts dream. In others, the sets looked rather economically built. Beautifully filmed and edited crowd scenes are interspersed with some truly dull tracking shots and unimaginative cutting.

All that said... I enjoyed the film for what it was - a fantasy - and I'll watch it again. Probably several more times. So, if you're in need of an escape or a sweet taste of the guilty pleasure variety, this film fits that category perfectly!
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Most Recent Customer Reviews


There are no discussions about this product yet.
Be the first to discuss this product with the community.
Start a new discussion
First post:
Prompts for sign-in

SOUTHWEST MEDIA Privacy Statement SOUTHWEST MEDIA Shipping Information SOUTHWEST MEDIA Returns & Exchanges