Movie Mirrors Index

Houdini

(1953 c 106')

En: 6 Ed: 6

A magician falls in love and gets married. After working in a safe factory he becomes an escape artist and the famous Houdini.

         Bess (Janet Leigh) sees a show with Harry Houdini (Tony Curtis) doing magic tricks. He wants to see her again and is fired. On a date with Fred she watches Houdini escape death. A week later she sees an old man become young Houdini. She leaves Fred for Houdini. He takes her to meet his mother (Angela Clarke) at 2 a.m. They are married, and she stays in his room. Houdini uses her in his act.

         They perform before an angry audience. Bess complains and asks him to work in a safe factory. Houdini works on the assembly line. He shows Bess he can get out of handcuffs. Houdini takes Bess out to a magic show. He volunteers and is put in a straitjacket. Only Houdini gets free. The magician advises him to drop it, or it will kill him. Houdini won a ticket to Europe, but he lets Bess cash it in.

         At lunchtime Houdini is locked in a safe, and he is fired. At dinner Bess says she is leaving. Houdini leaves, and they go to Europe. Houdini and Bess perform magic. Dooley (Michael Pate) challenges Houdini to escape from the London jail, and he accepts. Houdini is locked in a cell, and he picks the lock with his foot. At the matinee Bess says that Houdini will appear from the spirit world. She impersonates him, and he arrives.

         They go to Paris and Berlin. On his birthday his mother arrives. Houdini hypnotizes Bess and suspends her in the air. Houdini is charged with fraud and put on trial. He is asked to open a safe, but he is locked inside and gets out.

         Houdini looks for the mysterious magician Von Schwager, and his assistant Otto (Torin Thatcher) says he died two days ago. Otto goes to work for Houdini.

         In New York the press ignores him. So Houdini hangs from a tall building and gets out of a straitjacket. He bathes in ice to get used to cold water. Houdini is chained and locked in a metal box that is dropped through ice in the Detroit River. He gets out but can’t find the hole in the ice. They pull the box out, and Bess faints. Everyone leaves but Otto. Houdini comes home to Bess and says he heard his mother’s voice. Houdini gets a call that his mother died.

         After two years of seclusion the reporter Simms (Douglas Spencer) questions Houdini, who says he is trying to contact his mother. They invite Simms to a séance and see strange phenomena, but Otto and Houdini expose the tricks. Houdini offers a reward of $25,000 for proof of contact.

         Houdini and Otto prepare a large bottle. Bess complains that Houdini risks death. They quarrel, and Houdini gives in. Otto tells Houdini his appendix is bad. In his show Houdini gets out of a metal straitjacket. The audience demands more, and Houdini is in pain. He is locked in a torture chamber with water. After a while Bess screams, and Otto smashes the glass. Houdini coughs and tells Bess that he will come back.

         Essentially true except in the manner of his death, this biopic portrays a performer of extraordinary feats who gradually increases the risk of death. Houdini and reporters did in fact expose the frauds of seances and mediums in his quest to contact his mother’s spirit.

Copyright © 2009 by Sanderson Beck

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