26 September 2023


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Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

Director: George Marshall, Via Vision Entertainment.

Cast: Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh, Torin Thatcher, Ian Wolfe.

Famed Hungarian-born American illusionist and stunt performer Harry Houdini (1874-1926) was noted for his startling escape acts. Houdini traces the fascinating life of the world’s foremost illusionist and escapologist from his early years working the Coney Island sideshows to career heights performing for dignitaries and royalty the world over.

It stars the then husband-and-wife team of Tony Curtis (Spartacus) and Janet Leigh (Psycho) in the roles of Harry and Bess Houdini. The film follows his love for his wife, the stage illusions and his most dangerous stunts. It skillfully recreates many of Houdini’s most famous escapes including one of his most memorable and dramatic: being trapped below the ice following his escape from a submerged metal box. getting Other ‘acts’ were getting out of straitjackets and locked safes.

A blast from the past, this 1953 classic sees Houdini rising above his craft to become a sincere superstar of the early 20th century. It details his beginnings as a locksmith, up through to his international success as a world-renowned escape artist and stage magician.

A carnival performer, Houdini was ambitious about becoming a stage magician, but his wife got tired of life on the road and got him to take a normal job. He returns to the stage, however, not as a magician, but as an escape artist. Harry is encouraged by magic specialist Malue (Wolfe) to locate an elusive escape artist named Von Schweger, who was said to ‘dematerialise’ himself through mental concentration. Harry does hire Von Schwger’s assistant, Otto (Thatcher) to help him devise even more ingenious escape stunts.

After his mother (Angela Clark) dies, Harry becomes interested in the possibility of communicating with the dead, with his inquiries exposing fake mediums and other clairvoyant cons.

Based on the book Houdini by Harold Kellock, the film’s screenplay is by Philip Yordan. Marshall (How The West Was Won) capably captures the glamour, drama and hazards surrounding Harry.

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