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Houdini (1953)

Tony Curtis , Janet Leigh , George Marshall  |  NR |  DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh
  • Directors: George Marshall
  • Format: Color, NTSC, Closed-captioned
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Legend Films
  • DVD Release Date: June 3, 2008
  • Run Time: 107 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0016LFUVG
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #50,051 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Houdini" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Tony Curtis will amaze and astound you with one of his best performances as Harry Houdini, "the man of 10,000 tricks." Houdini has nothing up its sleeve, but the charismatic Curtis and Janet Leigh ("Hollywood’s Most Exciting Young Lovers," proclaims the film’s original trailer, the sole bonus feature on this disc), as Houdini’s wife, Bess, levitate this conventional, albeit enormously entertaining 1953 biopic that follows the legendary magician and escape artist from his days as a sideshow attraction to international stardom. Houdini dedicates his life to giving audiences "bigger and bigger thrills," and the film’s best scenes recreate Houdini’s act and death-defying escapes, including a harrowing plunge into the frozen Detroit River while locked in a trunk. Houdini’s fate is well-known, and while the film plays loose with the facts, it does conjure up an eerie foreboding by the time he takes the stage for his final, ill-fated Halloween performance. After Houdini’s first strait-jacket escape, an elderly magician urges him, "It’s isn’t a trick. Drop it. It will make you famous, but it will kill you." At long last available on DVD, Houdini is old fashioned movie magic that’s no trick and all treat.--Donald Liebenson

Product Description

Tony Curtis gives a winning performance as the great Houdini, the struggling circus performer who emerged as the world s most captivating magician and escape artist. From his beginnings as a wild man carnival act to the internationally famous feat of escaping from a locked trunk in an ice-jammed river, Houdini effectively captures the amazing life and courage of this fascinating man. Also stars the beautiful Janet Leigh as Houdini s supportive wife who lovingly stood by his side throughout his legendary career.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Houdini" finally materializes, on DVD! May 12, 2008
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Finally this cinematic treasure comes to DVD. While sometimes not historically accurate, it does portray a young Ehrich Weiss and his passion for the art of escapism & illusion and his love for his wife Bess. Real life husband and wife couple, Tony Curtis & Janet Leigh are more than convincing as "The Great Houdini" and his stage assistant.

This delightful film will bring enjoyment to legions of fans of old like myself as well as a cursory enlightenment of Harry Houdini for newer generations.

Filmed in 1953, "Houdini" is presented in Technicolor with an Aspect Ratio of 1.37:1. A very family friendly movie, recommended without reservation.

09.30.10 Rest in Peace Mr. Tony Curtis; you will be missed...
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Long Time Coming April 12, 2008
Remembering this movie as a child and finally it has made it to DVD. What took the studio so long? I am sure that I am not the only person asking that question? Although not true to the real life of Houdini the film is a fun and entertaining piece of work that at times will keep you fixed to the screen. Giving it a five star rating and suggesting that it be watched by all members of the family so that a new generation of people can enjoy its magic.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
This film is a very enjoyable if not completely accurate rendition of Harry Houdini's life. Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, young and in love in real life, do a great job of playing Harry and Bess Houdini. An amateur magician himself, Curtis gives a great performance in the first really good role of his career. There will be many to come. What's accurate about this film? Most of the escapes shown in the film such as when Houdini allowed himself to be hung upside down outside of a tall building while confined in a strait jacket, his offering and succeeding to escape from any pair of handcuffs that his audiences could produce, and his decision to go through with being locked in a box submerged in water while he himself is bound in chains.

What's inaccurate in the film? It's more a matter of what is omitted. The film does mention Houdini's running battle with spiritualists. What it doesn't mention is Houdini's tiff with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle over the whole issue. The depth and length of this disagreement is considerable, though, and it's understandable that in a film not of documentary length that it had to be left out.

Sadly enough, the film has only a trailer as an extra feature.
A commentary track, an actual documentary, or even - if it was possible - to include the excellent 1976 made-for-TV film "The Great Houdini" with Paul Michael Glaser in the title role would have made for a better package. That 70's version of Houdini's life gives more details about what made the man tick, even if there is something about its atmosphere that transports one back to the days of disco. At any rate, when it comes to classics from Paramount, I'll take them any way I can get them.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars George Pal's Magician Among the Spirits July 16, 2004
Format:VHS Tape|Verified Purchase
This romanticized look at the career of Harry Houdini played with charm by Tony Curtis is full of the mysterious "other worldly " effects that George Pal made his reputation on in productions to come. In several scenes, Curtis taps into the Spirit world to...escape from a straight jacket, find the hole to get out of the frozen Detroit river, and seek out an experienced peer to solve the "Man in a Bottle" trick. He also manages in the process to stigmatize Halloween forever as a "bad omen" and gives new meaning to a Mother complex greater than Richard Burton's in "Alexander the Great". Still, the movie is a marvelous dose of "entertainment" and the sets are superb, there is a great veteran supporting cast and the screenplay is well written. This was a VERY popular movie and Tony Curtis does a great job in the role, even though there is a lot of deviation from the real Harry. It needs a DVD polish and presentation of extras with trailers and perhaps some interviews. It would be interesting to hear from Tony Curtis about this film after all these years. Good family fun!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tony and Janet's HOUDINI: a Halloween tradition October 13, 2009
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
When I was a kid, HOUDINI (1953) with Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh was always broadcast in October, usually as a Saturday afternoon movie.

There are two mentions in it of Halloween.
The first happens when Harry and Bess Houdini visit a magician's convention on Halloween night. Unhappy Harry failed at magic and took a job in a lock factory at his wife's urging, but when given the opportunity to go on stage as one of five challengers who must try to escape from strait jackets, Harry jumps at it. He wins the contest and his prize is a single round-trip ticket to Europe. Eventually the couple trades it for two one-way ducats. Harry and Bess find fame in Britain and on the Continent and then repeat their success in America.

The second Halloween reference is to a near-tragic stunt held on Halloween afternoon: an escape from a locked trunk submerged in the iced-over Detroit River. When he emerges from the trunk, Harry's swept downstream by the current, can't find the large hole cut in the ice and nearly drowns and/or freezes to death.

Despite that and a sad ending, this is generally an upbeat film. Colorful re-creations of late 19th Century sideshows are fun and so are the many magic tricks and escapes. Also, Leigh and Curtis make a most pulchritudinous couple and are clearly in love (for real!).

I recommend HOUDINI to all as a pleasant October diversion.

BTW-- does the Detroit River REALLY ice over before October 31st and is the outside temperature ZERO degrees in the DAYTIME? (Don't answer that!)
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars oh my my this brought back memories
watched this movie so many times as a child - now I GOT THE DVD and iam a happy girl! so much fun to watch again after so many years and i will continue to watch many more times!
Published 4 days ago by Maureen
5.0 out of 5 stars Great movie
Great movie for anyone who likes magicians and also like Tony Curtis. Houdini was a great magician and even though the movie is not exactly accurate with what really happened in... Read more
Published 6 days ago by L. Sorensen
2.0 out of 5 stars Not the most accurate tale
Bought for my young son after reading a childs bio of Houdini. I was disappointed that many of the facts presented in the film, about 90%, are incorrect. Read more
Published 1 month ago by TH
5.0 out of 5 stars A great classic
This is the movie that to me shows Tony Curtis at his best. The acting is great all the way through the movie. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Robert Benjamin
5.0 out of 5 stars houdini movie
I choose this rating because I love old movies and this one was just great---it will stay in my old movie collection
Published 2 months ago by Linda Stiley
2.0 out of 5 stars Weak film
I saw this film a long time ago and remembered it as being better than it really was --- enough said.
Published 2 months ago by PondDog
4.0 out of 5 stars Short, but Nice.
I remember seeing this when I was younger. Good movie...a bit short...wish it was longer with more background details about the characters. I felt it was a bit rushed. Read more
Published 5 months ago by sc
5.0 out of 5 stars wanted this one to honor both actors.
this movie was a good although untrue story of the life of Houdini. I have read about him many years ago and some of what they say in this movie was true, but the water torture... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Gene De Vito
4.0 out of 5 stars Bought as a gift
Bought this as a gift for a relative who is an old movie buff -- I have seen it before, and it was a better than good movie. My relative loves it.
Published 6 months ago by ginar
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonder how much of this movie is true?
Not usually a Tony Curtis fan, but I loved the subject of Houdini. I thought Tony Curtis did a great job showing sides of an interesting man in history. I loved this movie
Published 6 months ago by Bookworm
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