Harry Houdini, the 19th century illusionist and escape artist, has been the subject of various biographies. Tony Curtis starred in a popular bio-flick in the early 1950s and for many contemporary viewers, that film remains the benchmark performance. Academy Award winner Adrien Brody stared in a two-part television mini-series, Houdini for the History Channel. (The production is now making its way to DVD.) Though it's more than 60 years later, the new Houdini doesn't rely on camera tricks to wow its audience, but on Brody's talent.
|Courtesy of Lionsgate |
The set-up: Based on Bernard C. Meyer's book Houdini: A Mind in Chains : A Psychoanalytic Portrait, this is a look at not only what he did but why he did it. His drive to excel, we're alternately told, comes from his desire to escape the poverty he knew as a child, to win his overly strict father's approval, to outdistance the doubt and fear that plagued him throughout his adult life. Which is true? All of them, none of them. For the purpose of the mini-series, those reasons are as good as any others.
The two-part series follows Houdini as he moves from small time sideshows to bigger stages and better tricks, eventually becoming the most famed illusionist in the world . Along the way, we're shown the the physical workings of his marvelous escapes and illusions (the ingenious hiding places for keys to the handcuffs and locks, the fake floor that lets him pass "through" a brick wall). It satisfies our need to know, but also leaves us a bit disillusioned. More »