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Houdini (1953)

Tony Curtis , Janet Leigh , George Marshall  |  NR |  DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 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 (90 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0016LFUVG
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,916 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
23 of 23 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 Captures Houdini's life February 15, 2001
By Mark
Format:VHS Tape
Not many vaudeville performers are as well remembered 75 years after their death as The Great Houdini. Though not very accurate in details, I think this movie did a good job of capturing the aura and mystique of Houdini's life. This was my favorite movie as a boy. The movie has some stirring music and features authentic-looking period settings. It also has a few good magic tricks -- Dunninger, the great mentalist, who personally knew Houdini, was the movie's technical director. This movie has had such a profound impact on popular culture that 50 years after it was filmed, most people still believe that Houdini died in the Water Torture Cell as depicted in the movie. This is an entertaining film. I suggest that people follow it up with a good book on Houdini's life.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Houdini: The Escape from Humdrum to Stardom June 11, 2002
Format:VHS Tape
HOUDINI is not meant as a movie that is true to life. If it were, then the finished product might have been more factual but less entertaining. Tony Curtis plays Houdini as a young Jewish man who seeks more than the dullish life that as Erich Weiss he was born into. Early on, the audience learns that the solid, conservative life that his family thought to place him is simply not in his plans. He makes a rational analysis as to how he can make the leap from the ordinary to the extraordinary. It is in showmanship that he will excel. With no small amount of humor, Curtis gives Houdini a patina of technical virtuosity with escapes combined with razzle-dazzle country fair sideshow barking. This reaching out for the seemingly unobtainable for one of his humble class extends even to his choice of a wife. He marries a woman whom he feel sure that his mother will reject. For one of the few times in his life,he is wrong. Mama Weiss eagerly embraces her new daughter-in-law.
The force of this film lies not in the continuity of the Houdini character from scene to scene. Rather, the intensity lies in a series of vignettes, each roughly pointing Houdini in the same direction: to ever newer and more dangerous escapes. Most people who discuss this movie point to the grand finale, the Chinese Water Torture Chamber scene, where Houdini is very nearly killed in attempting an impossible escape. This scene is dramatic certainly, but I see it as only the culmination of a long series of lesser escapes, with paradoxically the most interesting one occurring at the midpoint. Shortly after his marriage, Houdini and his wife attend a dinner in which the MC dares volunteers from the audience to wriggle out of a straight jacket. Houdini leaps at the chance and along with several others attempts to escape.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
have not viewed yet but should be fine
Published 2 days ago by Trent L.
5.0 out of 5 stars Happy
In great condition. Was so happy to watch it and brought back lots of memories of the old Hollywood era.
Published 7 days ago by Kellie Wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars Historical Romance and Sadness- a must have.
True story. Tony Curtis at the top of his game. A must see must have.
Published 7 days ago by Tony Silver
5.0 out of 5 stars I highly suggest purchasing and watching this outstanding film
Tony Curtis did such a spectacular job playing Harry Houdini. I cannot imagine anyone else in that role after seeing him in it.
Published 8 days ago by Nicholas in Seattle
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Published 10 days ago by Stoney
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Remembered this from years ago. Wanted to see it again. Early Tony Curtis.
Published 16 days ago by musicmaker
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
the beginning of magicans movies n real ones began!
Published 1 month ago by Torin Walz
1.0 out of 5 stars It may be pretty, but it's not accurate.
While many people cite this film as the springboard for their interest in Houdini and magic, I would have to agree, though not in the way you'd expect. Read more
Published 1 month ago by M. Secaur
4.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed watching the movie with her along with the plot ...
I rented this movie for my niece who is more into magic then I am. I enjoyed watching the movie with her along with the plot line and great acting by Curtis and Leigh. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Kojak NYC
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Very good!
Published 2 months ago by Mary
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