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There are numerous magicians today that have astounded us with their feats of the weird, unusual, and excellent acts of prestidigitation. Whether it is something as simple as a card trick or as complicated as making a 747 jumbo jet disappear, we have been amazed at the things that can be pulled off right before our very eyes. Names like Penn and Teller, David Copperfield, and Cris Angel are what people hear today when the mere thought of magic is being discussed. But it’s a man by the name of Harry Houdini that was a true magician and one of the most interesting men of all time.
Houdini was a man that loved his magic and wanted nothing more then to always perform it for the crowds. Some of his greatest feats involved escaping from life-threatening situations like a strait jacket as he was attached to a flag pole or from a tan of water he was locked in. As he performs his act in different places, he meets many interesting people but only one ever really caught his eye; his future wife Bess. After marrying, they head out together and play for some raucous crowds and Bess thinks maybe Harry should get a more stable profession. She eventually convinces him to take a job in a factory, but the love for magic never leaves him so back on the road he goes.
This is supposedly a look at Houdini’s life and it takes on a bit of a biographical feel, but it just doesn’t seem quite right. To call it a biography and actually change facts; well, that’s a bit of a lie then isn’t it? Perhaps it was thought of to be more entertaining if things were done the way they are in the film then how they were in Houdini’s real life, but that still bothers me. I’ve read up on the master magician some time ago and know a lot of what he went through and how he lived his life. A good bit of that is shown here in Houdini, but I wouldn’t go as far as to call this an accurate portrayal of the life of one of the greatest magicians ever.
Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh give impressive performances as the traveling Houdinis so their acting is what really keeps this film afloat. Maybe others checking out Houdini won’t be bothered as much by some of the inconsistencies with reality, but that is my fault to some extent for just knowing too much. It’s not a bad film and as said before, Curtis and Leigh really hit it off on screen together and make for some enjoyable scenes. It’s a fun watch if you are completely ignorant to Houdini’s life or can simply block out what you know about him and not let it bother you.
The film is shown in 1.33:1 Full Screen format and it shows its age a tad bit in that some of the colors are a little drab or just look very old. Not everything is bright or gorgeous, but nothing is too awful.
The film is heard in 2.0 Stereo Sound and it sounds just fine. No glaring problems in volume or being able to make out everything being said.
While Houdini will entertain you for over an hour and a half, it’s not something that will land in your DVD player over and over again. My honest suggestion is to pick up a book explaining his life in detail and how things really went down. If you’re not a reader or don’t really care about a few inaccuracies, then by all means grab this film up. It is fun to watch and will keep you mystified about what magic was really like before camera tricks or getting far too complicated. The only special feature is a trailer and that was kind of disappointing since I was sort of hoping for real footage of some of Houdini’s tricks or something. Nonetheless, this is a DVD that will be a personal choice because even though it wasn’t one that I enjoyed so much; you may see differently. And *POOF*…I’m gone!
Legend Films presents Houdini. Directed by: George Marshall. Starring: Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh, Torin Thatcher, Angela Clark. Written by: Philip Yordan (screenplay) & Harold Kellock (novel). Running time: 107 minutes. Rating: Not Rated. Released on DVD: June 3, 2008. Available at Amazon.com