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Top Customer Reviews
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...
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.
For a basic plot summary, this film tells the rough story of Harry Houdini (Tony Curtis), known to this day as the greatest magician of all-time. His wife, Bess (Janet Leigh), also plays a key role, as the two sometimes work together while other times are at odds over Harry's magic-fueled obsessions. This film follows the rough chronological timeline of Houdini's life, but to say that it is an accurate portrayal would be a disservice, as it really mashes a lot of things together and is just plain wrong on other accounts.
Simply put, "Houdini" is a product of its times, back when movies weren't supposed to be anything "deep". Families went to movies together, so they had to have a broad (which often equaled bland) appeal. The tale of Houdini is an utterly fascinating one, but in this portrayal it is more about letting Curtis be his charming self and putting Leigh in as many fancy dresses to show off her curves as possible.
So, if you are old enough to have watched "Houdini" around its theater date, this movie might hold a good deal of nostalgic value to you. It also seems to be great for children, as it is quite colorful and the action is always moving forward. However, if you are looking for even a hair of substantial material about Houdini and his life, please look elsewhere. Only a few scenes (mostly in the final 15 minutes of the picture) convey any real, heartfelt emotion. Otherwise, this is all about the "pomp and circumstance".
The film hits some of the high points of the magician's colorful life, embellishing the truth for dramatic purposes. Curtis certainly shines in his portrayal, bringing a lot of flair and charm to the role. The early part of the movie recounts Houdini's humble beginnings in vaudeville, his romance and marriage to Bess, and the period where the couple lived with Houdini's mother (Angela Clarke), who remained a major influence in his life.
With Bess as his assistant, Harry focused on becoming an escape artist and illusionist, working to master the opening of locks, handcuffs, and eventually safes. Winning a prize provides the opportunity for the Houdini's to journey to England, where Harry gains more notoriety after escaping from a prison cell. Performing in Europe, Houdini's career takes off. While mostly based on some elements of truth, the film features a mysterious German magician named Johann Von Schweger, who Houdini unsuccessfully attempts to contact many times. After Von Schweger passes away, in another strange development, Von Schweger's assistant Otto (Torin Thatcher), becomes Houdini's loyal aide.
Returning to America, the magician works to establish himself as a performer.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It's great to watch an old movie that is still relevant and it's style and content. This will make you a lover of Houdini. Skip the new version go for the classIV. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Louiebaby
saw this picture as a kid.....loved it....thrilled I could still get a copy----holidays have prevented me from getting a chance to rewatch it.Published 7 months ago by REEL RELIEF
this was a awesome movie about the Magican,, also they r husband n wife in real life,, n their daughter is Jamie Lee CurtisPublished 7 months ago by LEE GREAR
The title of this review contains Houdini's last words in this film. One critic remarked that if Houdini does indeed come back, his first visit may very well be a vengeful one to... Read morePublished 8 months ago by just me