A review by Shlomoh Sherman
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
On TV - Aired Monday & Tuesday, September 1 & 2, 2014 at 10PM on the HISTORY Channel
Plot: Follow the man behind the magic as he finds fame, engages in espionage, battles spiritualists and encounters the greatest names of the era, from U.S. presidents to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Grigori Rasputin.
Stars: Adrien Brody, Kristen Connolly, Evan Jones
Several actors have portrayed Harry Houdini. Among them are:
Tony Curtis in the 1953 biographical film about his life,
I was a fan of Tony Curtis and I remember well his performance together with his then wife, Janet Leigh. I have not seen the other two actors who portrayed him, and I am sure that there have been other film versions of his life of which I am not aware.
I am also a great fan of the amazing Adrien Brody among whose films I remember are:
Summer of Sam, Midnight in Paris, Predators, Splice, King Kong (3rd remake), The Jacket, The Village, The Pianist, and many otherswhich I either have not seen or do not remember having seen.
In my opinion, the producers of this TV minseries could not have picked a better actor to play Eric Weiss, alias, Harry Houdini, the great magician and escape artist.
For whatever reason, the script writer has chosen to make Houdini's Jewishness a major area of interest. Brody's own father was Jewish but his mother's family of origin was Hungarian Catholic. His mother was not interested in either Catholicism or Judaism.
The performances of the cast is remarkable as are the special effects which display Houdini's many tricks. According to the movie, Houdini constantly alleged that he was a "fake" or a man of fakery or trickery. He did this in order to steer people away from belief in the supernatural and metaphysical. Houdini's father had been a rabbi whose congregation fired him because they said that he was too much inured in the "old world" and had not even tried to learn English after living in AmericA for many years. The film does not depict any serious emotional attachment to the father on the part of the young Harry [Eric]. In contrast, it shows Harry's mother deeply emotionally involved with Houdini's life almost to the point of an incestuous romance, not that there was any real incest in the family.
His parents' marriage was not too loving and his own marriage had its ups and downs due to Houdini spending excessive time on his craft and too little time with his wife, Bess. In later years, afraid of losing his wife, Houdini stopped his dangerous escape tricks which really put his life in peril and returned to vaudevilel magic.
What is not well known is that Houdini was recruited by both the American and British secret service to spy on both Germany and Russia since both America and Britain feared a coming war with Germany and possibly Russia. The information gathered by Houdini helped the allies after the outbreak of hostilities in 1914.
Part Two of the series deals largely with Houdini's return to escape tricks and his angry exposure of charleton mediums claiming to be in touch with the dead. Houdini, on his death bed, told his doctor that he wishes that he had chosen career other than magic ebcause magic, he declared, is a sham and an escape from real life. He declared that his escape tricks were only a reflection of his own desire to escape the discomfit he felt with himself. The doctor replied that Houdini was the most real person he had ever met, possibly alluding to Houdini's honesty with himself and his audiences.
The HISTORY channel is to be applauded fir its rfecent dramtic miniseries of real events and people. It's a far cry from the time some of us referred to it as The HItler Channel because of its constant playing of WWII documentaries.
I am sure the the History Channel will repeat this 2 part movies. If you missed it, try to see it then.
"Can't watch any more" - mmoreland-1
"Too many commercials" - donalddcky
"Houdini show reviews" - bricebrok
"Looks like bland revisionist history" - boscofuller
"Can this Mini-Series help Adrien Brody's career?" - Criticman12
"Love Magic" - simplerocker
Discuss Houdini (2014) on the IMDb message boards
Series cast summary [first billed only]:
Adrien Brody ... Harry Houdini
Kristen Connolly ... Bess
Evan Jones ... Jim Collins
Tom Benedict Knight ... Dash Houdini
Patrick McCullough ... Sheriff Olson
Louis Mertens ... Young Houdini
Gyula Mesterházy ... Kaiser Wilhelm II.
Simon Nader ... Tsar Nicholas Romanov II
Iván Kamarás ... Rasputin
George Mendel ... Mr. Bird (2014) (unknown episodes)
Jeremy Wheeler ... Rabbi Mayer Samuel Weisz
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