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Houdini: The Movie Star (Three Disc Collection)
Houdini The Movie Star
Three Disc Collection
Actor: Harry Houdini
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
NR     2008     7hr 30min

By the year 1919, Harry Houdini was known throughout the world as a master magician and escape artist. Having conquered the stage, he set out to rule the screen, appearing in a series of thrillers built upon his almost sup...  more »


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Movie Details

Actor: Harry Houdini
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Format: DVD - Black and White,Color
DVD Release Date: 04/08/2008
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 7hr 30min
Screens: Black and White,Color
Number of Discs: 3
SwapaDVD Credits: 3
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 12
Edition: Box set
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

True Manna from DVD Heaven
E. Hornaday | Lawrenceville, NJ United States | 01/21/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"When I was a kid in the late 50s, Houdini was still THE man. Escape artist, illusionist and master magician, Harry Houdini fired our youthful imaginations almost as no other - even though we had almost never seen him except in faded stills or old newsreels. We certainly never heard him speak, but had only read avidly about his past exploits.

Now, Kino International is giving Houdini back to his legions of devoted fans by releasing a three-DVD set that includes ALL of the surviving silent movie films of "Houdini - the actor," as well as footage of escapes and an audio clip of the master's voice!

More than mere entertainment, this wonderful collection is truly an historical presentation of Houdini's film career.

By 1919, Houdini was known internationally as an unparalleled master magician. Having conquered the stage, he set out to do the same thing to the "new" medium of the day - the movie. Houdini appeared in a series of thrillers built upon his almost supernatural powers, which he performed the majority of the stunts himself in all of his films.

This incredible boxed set represents the first time that these images (except for "The Man from Beyond") have ever been released on DVD, and may very well be the first time a lot of fans have seen these wonderful productions in more than 75 years!!

Kino International culled everything it could find from film archives and private collections to gather and remaster this amazing material. It includes all of Houdini's surviving silent films as an actor, rare footage of actual handcuff and straitjacket escapes, as well as a wealth of historical information. It also includes a serial in which may have been the first-ever robot on screen to be a threat.

Included in this DVD set is: The Master Mystery (1919, 238m, Color Tinted), a cliff-hanging serial in which Justice Department Agent Quentin Locke (Houdini) must investigate a powerful cartel protected by a robot (referred to as "The Automation") and using a gas weapon "The Madagascar Madness"; Terror Island (1920, 55m, B&W), which involves an inventor of a submarine (Houdini), a damsel in distress, her captured father, hostile natives on an island, a family of villains and some shipwrecked treasure; The Man From Beyond (1922, 68m, Color Tinted), which includes a jail type escape, a fist fight with Houdini winning of course, and a sensational scene with Houdini swimming the rapids at Niagara Falls; Haldane of the Secret Service (1923, 84m, Color Tinted), Heath Haldane (Houdini) tracks down a vicious gang of counterfeiters, narrowly missing death several times. He must rescue Adele Ormsby, whom he loves despite her pending marriage; and The Grim Game (Fragment, 1919, 5m, Color Tinted), a film that featured a famous jump from the wings of one plane to another, and the first in-air plane collision ever recorded by a movie camera.

Special Features include filmed records of Houdini escapes (ca. 1907-23); an audio recording of Houdini speaking (1914); Excerpts from the NY Censor Board files; Slippery Jim, a 1910 Houdini-inspired comedy; and the illusion Metamorphosis performed by Houdini's beloved brother Hardeen, and others.

Beyond recommended!!"
For Houdini Nuts Only
Jack Hawkins | colorado springs, co United States | 06/06/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This DVD set falls under the "I did not know it still existed" category. I am a Houdini Nut and I had to see what I thought was gone forever. Well, it almost should be. What has survived and re released is in pretty bad shape. Most of one serial, a late movie Houdini pieced together and a few newsreel shots of his actual escapes. And a French cartoon so unrelated as to be absurd. The newsreel bits of upside down straight jacket escapes sort of redeem it. A 2 DVD set might be be a better concept. Maybe one? This is not for light entertainment. Serious students only."
Houdini Returns...On DVD.
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 04/10/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Kino's new set HOUDINI: THE MOVIE STAR is a three disc collection of just about everything that Houdini did which still survives. HH made 5 films over a 5 year period (1919-1923). His first effort THE MASTER MYSTERY is a serial which survives mostly intact. It's also a rare opportunity to see Mae Marsh's older sister Marguerite in action and she's pretty good given the material.

Of the other four only his last effort HALDANE OF THE SECRET SERVICE is fully complete. 1919's THE GRIM GAME has only about 5 minutes but it contains an actual midair collision which was left in the film. THE MAN FROM BEYOND is Houdini's best known film and the 16mm copy here is much better than any of the previous video incarnations. The story of a man revived after being frozen for 100 years has been reworked many times and is never less than fascinating. The highlight of the collection is TERROR ISLAND. Although missing reels 3 and 4 it has the advantage of high production values (it was made at Paramount), a quality director in James Cruze (THE COVERED WAGON), and a cast of strong supporting players led by Eugene Pallette (he was Friar Tuck in Errol Flynn's ROBIN HOOD) whose career stretched into the 1940s.

The set comes with lots of extras including actual clips of Houdini performing and an audio recording of him advertising his act from 1914. As a performer Houdini was charismatic but his films suffer from the same plots and stunts used over and over again. If you've seen one, you've seen em' all. Nevertheless this is a valuable piece of celluloid history and is certainly worth having for the discriminating collector or silent film lover. Just don't expect something "magical"."
A Great Collection of Houdini Film, And a Challenge!
Patrick Culliton | Hollywood, California | 09/23/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Everyone who is interested in Houdini, even casually, should buy this three DVD set of extremely rare footage of the great star. It is a wonderful set. To those interested in early cinema, the silent screen, vaudeville, sci-fi/fantasy, and superheroes this set is invaluable. Now, I want to talk about something which is very important to me. There has never been a collection of Houdini film footage before. KINO has created a beautiful product in "Houdini, the Movie Star." In doing so, they call our attention to footage that is missing. That is what I want to discuss.
In the KINO set, there is a great deal of footage I've never seen before, and this is Houdini's Ghost speaking. One bit of film shows Houdini running through a park in Paris. Two pairs of handcuffs are locked on his wrists. He stops at the wall outside the Paris morgue, strips off his clothes to his boxer trunks, then climbs a gate and stands atop of the wall of the morgue. Then he jumps into the river Seine.
He surfaces a couple of times before he frees himself from the cuffs, then, he swims to the opposite shore where men are waiting for him. They throw a coat over his shoulders and hustle him into a car which drives away, pursued by four French policemen who look very much like Keystone cops.
Here's the point: in 1909, Houdini starred in a 10 minute Pathe short. I have never seen the opening sequence, but some private collectors do have it and I have been told that Houdini is seen on a street in Paris. He observes a Parisian policeman arresting a drunk. Houdini protests the treatment of the drunk and is arrested himself. The next segment I have seen. Houdini is taken inside the police station and tied to a chair. A policeman sits in a chair nearby and dozes off, and Houdini escapes from the ropes and ties up the sleeping cop.
I've also seen the next segment in which Houdini is strapped in a straitjacket and locked in a padded cell. He escapes. Apparently, what follows is the piece of film in the KINO special features in which Houdini, handcuffed, jumps into the Seine. To my knowledge, all these segments have never been put together, or rather, put back together.
There are two shots missing from the Paris Seine footage in the KINO set. One is a close-up of the cuffs on Houdini's wrists as he stands atop the wall. The other is the actual shot of him jumping into the water. The missing shots are acknowledged in the DVD. I happen to know where those two shots are. They were used in a BBC documentary on Houdini back around 1976. I remember the filmmakers insisting on first-generation footage. Somebody cut those shots from the Paris footage to be used in the BBC documentary, and they never got put back.
Likewise, there is footage missing from "the Master Mystery." We see, for example, Houdini placed in a packing box and thrown off a pier. An inserted title card explains that Houdini escapes underwater. Well, the underwater shot was also used in the BBC documentary. And also never replaced.
Probably the man responsible for scattering so many elements of the "Master Mystery" to the four winds was Ray Rohauer, who can also be thanked for removing three chapters out of the 15 chapter Serial, and losing them. At one time, Houdini performed approximately two escapes per episode. Many of them are now missing. A particularly unfortunate loss was of a chain escape Houdini performed. I also missed seeing a scene in which Houdini is locked in a jail cell. He stares at the keyhole and we get an x-ray view of the lock as his mind causes the bolt to open.
This lost Houdini footage may still exist in private collections. What must happen is that collectors must unselfishly help to gather the distaff elements together. In the KINO Houdini DVD set, are five minutes of the feature length Houdini film "the Grim Game." Actually, an hour long version of that film still exists and a man who considers himself Houdini's greatest fan has been sitting on it for 50 years. Incidentally, while collectors hoard their Houdini film footage, it is dying.
In 1976, a film archive, Sherman Grinberg, screened about an hour of Houdini footage for me when I was technical advisor on a TV movie about him. A couple of years later, I tried to get another screening, but, the nitrate film had shrunk and would be too expensive to try to salvage. When the director/writer Mel Shavelson went to Houdini collector Larry Weeks to look at some very rare footage, they found that quite a bit of it had degenerated to a volatile goo.
I have a special perspective about this lost Houdini footage. Back in the late fifties, I saw the entire 15 chapters of Master Mystery twice and each chapter was complete and intact. We are losing these films almost faster than anybody can rescue them, but, we all should make an effort to save every scrap of film we possibly can.