HOUDINI, which was filmed under the title, Believe, stars Johnathon Schaech as Houdini, Stacy Edwards as Bess, and Mark Ruffalo as Theo (Hardeen). Shimada also makes a cameo appearance as a street magician. Production design is magnificent, as is the musical score, and while not the best of the Houdini biopics, it has much to recommend it.
Notably, HOUDINI is the first Houdini biography to tackle and dramatize the issue of Houdini’s egotism. Certainly in this way Schaech’s manic Houdini is far different from Tony Curtis or Paul Michael Glaser. Of course, it also makes him less likable and more alienating. But as Bessie says in the film, “I fell in love with Ehrich Weiss. I put up with Houdini.”
But the film keeps the pedal to the metal in its depiction of Houdini’s stunts, eager to show Houdini as the original king of “extreme” (is that still a thing?). Standouts are the suspended straightjacket escape and a rather flamboyant depiction of the Milk Can. Jim Bentley and Jim Thompson are credited as magic consultants.
Densham explains his ending by saying, “Well, you can look at it three ways: Either he dreamed it, or she dreamed it, or it really happened. I have my own theory, but I’d prefer not to say.”
HOUDINI was released on VHS in 2000, but it has yet to appear on DVD. While Death Defying Acts was released in 2008, Houdini was the last straight-ahead biopic of the great magician. Let's hope it isn't the last.
|Johnathon Schaech as Houdini|