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Houdini

4.3 out of 5 stars 124 customer reviews

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(Jun 03, 2008)
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Editorial Reviews

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.

Amazon.com

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

Special Features

None.

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: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (124 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0016LFUVG
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,027 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Houdini" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: DVD
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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Format: DVD
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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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
After being introduced to this movie as a child by my father, I remembered it being quite a spectacular. To a child's eyes, it probably was. However, from an adult perspective, this is the epitome of the "style over substance" Hollywood that ruled the decade in which it was made (1950s).

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".
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Format: DVD
The life of Harry Houdini (1874-1926), at the time the most famous magician in the world, is given the Hollywood treatment in Houdini (1953), with Tony Curtis starring as the Great Houdini, the legendary illusionist and escape artist. Janet Leigh, married to Curtis at the time, appears as Houdini's wife Bess. Leigh looks stunning, and gives a very solid performance, as Houdini's partner for life, both on and off the stage.

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.
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