Friday, January 23, 2015

TCM ACQUIRES 'THE GRIM GAME', SCREENING IN MARCH

"The Grim Game is not just a long lost film from the silent era, but a really great and fun film that will surprise and entertain all."
- Rick Schmidlin (Restorationist)


HUGE Houdini news today! Turner Classic Movies (TCM) has acquired the only known print of Houdini's 1919 feature, The Grim Game. The movie has undergone a full restoration by renowned preservationist and silent film scholar Rick Schmidlin. The restored film will have its world-premiere at the TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood in March with a live score conducted by composer Brane Zivkovic. It will then play on the TCM network later this year.

Here is the full press release from TCM:

Turner Classic Movies to Host World Premiere Screening of Long Lost Harry Houdini Classic The Grim Game at 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival

Turner Classic Movies (TCM) is bringing the long-lost Harry Houdini classic The Grim Game (1919) back to the public eye in a world premiere screening during 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival held March 26-29 in Hollywood. This much-sought-after film – a complete print of which was only recently rediscovered and brought to TCM for restoration – features the escape artist and legendary illusionist in one of his few starring roles. The film was discovered and the restoration was produced and restored by award-winning film preservationist and silent-film scholar Rick Schmidlin, whose credits include such landmark restorations as The Dickson Experimental Sound Film (1894/'95), Greed (1924), London After Midnight (1927), Touch of Evil (1958) and Elvis: That's the Way It Is – Special Edition (1970).

"The discovery, restoration and screening of The Grim Game is the perfect embodiment of the TCM mission to celebrate our cinematic heritage and share it with new audiences," said Charles Tabesh, senior vice president of programming for TCM. "We are thrilled to be collaborating with some of the most important figures in film preservation in order to bring this timeless classic back to the screen for the first time in decades."

In The Grim Game, Houdini plays Harvey Hanford, a young man who is framed for murder. As Hanford escapes from the police and goes after the gang of men who framed him, the movie offers numerous opportunities for Houdini to display his own skills as an escape artist, illusionist and stunt man. Among the most remarkable sequences is a mid-air collision between two airplanes that was actually a real accident caught on film and used in the story.

During the world premiere screening at the festival, composer Brane Zivkovic will be on hand to conduct a live performance of his new score for the film. Additionally, The Grim Game will make its world television debut on TCM later in the year.

Below is the complete story behind the rediscovery and preservation of The Grim Game, including restoration credits. Information about the other films added to the 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival can be found online at www.tcm.com/festival.
A Classic Rediscovered: How The Grim Game Came to TCM
In April of 2014, noted film scholar and preservationist Rick Schmidlin met with friends Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz, who own The Houdini Museum in Scranton, PA, where they discussed having a lead on the long lost 1919 feature starring Harry Houdini, The Grim Game. The only known copy of the complete film was held by Larry Weeks, a 95-year-old retired juggler who lived in Brooklyn. Weeks had obtained the film from the Houdini estate in 1947, had only shown it a few times and had never been willing to sell it. Schmidlin decided to give it a try, knowing that his friend Charles Tabesh, senior vice president of programming for TCM, would be interested in obtaining the film for the network. Schmidlin eventually got in touch with Weeks and made arrangements to visit him to assess the condition of the film.

When Schmidlin arrived, Weeks showed him the two-film cans that he thought contained The Grim Game. After examining the film by hand, he let him know that TCM was willing to make an offer, and after two hours of discussion, Weeks finally agreed.

Schmidlin had become friends with Brane Zivkovic, who teaches film and music composition at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, where Schmidlin regularly lectures. After the two discussed The Grim Game, Zivkovic expressed his interest in composing and conducting the score for the film. Zivkovic also introduced Schmidlin to Paula De Stefano, the Barbara Goldsmith Curator for Preservation at NYU's Preservation and Conservation Department. Through De Stefano, Schmidlin arranged to bring Weeks to New York in June to screen the entire film and arranged to have NYU provide storage for the film in their on-site vault.

Leading up to this day was tense for Schmidlin, as he wondered if he had really found the complete version of The Grim Game. "If so this would be the first major project I've produced in 12 years. I felt as if this was the greatest adventure in my career and well worth the wait to find a long lost film desperate to be restored," said Schmidlin. 
When they arrived at NYU, they examined the film and found that the total movie was five-and-a-half reels, not the five reels that had always been reported. They also had two reels of negative film. "Nothing was missing," said Schmidlin, "The film was a complete joy to see. The Grim Game is not just a long lost film from the silent era, but a really great and fun film that will surprise and entertain all."

The Grim Game Restoration Credits
The Grim Game restoration was produced and supervised by Rick Schmidlin, in association with The Barbara Goldsmith Preservation and Conservation Department, New York University Libraries, Kimberly Tarr, head of the media preservation unit, and Benjamin Moskowitz, lab supervisor who helped prepare the restoration. The digital restoration was carried out by Thomas Eberschveiler at Metropolis Post in New York City, with John Rizzo as project manager and Brian Boyd as colorist for the black-and-white timing.

Brane Zivkovic – who teaches music composition for film and television at the Kanbar Institute of Film and Television, Tisch School of the Arts, NYU – composed and conducted the score for The Grim Game. The music was recorded under the supervision of music contractor Dave Eggar at Dubway Studios, New York, with recording engineer Mike Judeh. It is being mixed by Matt Rocker at Underground Audio, New York.

Consultants for the restoration of The Grim Game are Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz, owners and operators of The Houdini Museum in Scranton, PA.

This is tremendously exciting news! At long last everyone now has a chance to enjoy what is said to be Houdini's best film work.

Dorothy Dietrich, Rick Schmidlin, Dick Brookz © 2014 Houdini Museum.

Thanks to Rick Schmidlin.

UPDATE: I didn't realize this until now, but this momentous news was announced on Bess Houdini's 139th birthday.

UPDATE: The screening is set for Sunday, March 29, 2015 at the Hollywood Egyptian Theater. Click for details.

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35 comments:

  1. John Hinson great nephew of Bess. and Harry HoudiniJanuary 23, 2015 at 9:33 AM

    Can not wait for the movie

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  2. Brilliant. Cannot wait.
    :-) @ long last

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you to the late Mr Weeks & TCM.

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  3. WOW! WOW! WOW! This is almost orgasmic . . . can't wait!

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  4. Such amazing news....

    It's a shame Larry Weeks didn't live to see this happen. While it was frustrating to not have this best Houdini film available, in the end Larry turned out to be an excellent custodian. I'm certainly grateful he sold to TCM. Can't image a better place for it to go as it will now be preserved and enjoyed by the public. And from what the preservationist told me, the film was complete and in great shape.

    Thank you, Larry.

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  5. Just another thing to check off on our bucket list like...

    Open a Houdini Museum...

    Begin cleaning Houdini's grave and bring attention to its needs via youtube, press releases, etc...

    Replace Houdini's missing bust...

    Get permission to take over care of Houdini Grave from the cemetery administrators and the Houdini family...

    Pass that honor and responsibility to a reliable group that will live beyond our years. We had feelers out to the Masons, Jewish Philanthropy's and The Society of American Magicians. Our first choice was The Society of American Magicians and that has been working out...

    Get Grim Game released to the world with the help of old time friend Larry Weeks and not go to some collector who would hoard it in their basement or whatever.. We even built a web site for Larry... http://larryweeks.info

    We want to thank our friend for some 20 years, Rick Schmidlin. With out him this would not have been possible!

    Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz
    The Houdini Museum
    The Only Building in the World Dedicated to Houdini

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  6. I wonder how Mr. Weeks managed to keep the film in a well preserved state all these years.

    I look forward to the TCM DVD of this film!

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  7. So exciting. 2015 seems to be a landmark year for premiering long-lost silents: First William Gillette's "Sherlock Holmes", and now this. It makes me wonder what silent masterpiece we'll be treated to next (Fingers crossed for "London After Midnight"!).

    -Meredith

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  8. To Leo Hevia;

    He had it transferred many years ago to 16 mm film
    Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz

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  9. WOW. This is exciting news indeed! I'll...have to try to watch TCM somehow when "The Grim Game" comes around to TV. (Even better when the DVD comes out!).

    I was also very surprised to see "London After Midnight" mentioned there. Holy Crap, I thought it was lost forever! Guess I haven't been paying attention. It'd be really cool to see that, too!

    Thanks to the late Mr. Weeks for keeping this film preserved, and I'm glad TCM took an interest in restoring it and going all the way with it. *happy dance*. :D

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    Replies
    1. I believe the reference to "London After Midnight" refers to the 45-minute reconstruction done by Schmidlin in 2002 with still photographs. The actual film stock is yet to be found.

      -Meredith

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  10. Thanks D & D!

    Did TCM perform the restoration from the original print or the 16mm copy? Is the 16mm copy all that is left? Did the original print crumble away?

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  11. Thanks to Dick and Dorothy who lead me the way and John Cox site that helped to me to give info to TCM about his research on The Grim Game.

    Rick Schmidlin

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    Replies
    1. And you Rick have given all Houdini and magic fans a great gift! Even the mighty Pat Culliton calls this, "The biggest Houdini news in my lifetime next to hearing his voice." :)

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  12. Dear Leo;
    The final say on this would be the very accomplished Rick Schmidlin.

    I believe the restoration was done from the 16mm dub. Be reminded the dub was probably done some 40 or 50 years after the original and film technology would have be far advanced from when the original was made.

    For an updated telling of the story from our end and a more detailed bio on Rick Schmidlin go to...
    http://houdini.org/houdinigrimgameuncoveredbyhoudinimuseum.html

    Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz
    The Houdini Museum
    The Only Building in the World Dedicated to Houdini

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    Replies
    1. Dorothy Diethch and Dick Brookz, all can say that your musume is the only building the world dedicated to Houdini? This one of my great pictures that made with mys Beloved wife Bess she is one of the stars in with me and other stars that appear in it. I am not happy about you and TCM making money from my Picture that I made and not get any Rollaties from my work and srript that I wrote, I will not allow TCM to use my name and copy right that is my personal property of Houdini Pictures Incorporated, Signed , Harry Houdini, 02,19,2015

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  13. Well done to all involved.....
    .... now how can we get it over to Europe?

    Would make a heck of a festival somewhere

    Stuart Burrell

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  14. Hey! Thanks D & D! I will hop over to the link you provided. And thanks to Rick for the work he has done on this film.

    Not to worry Stuart. I will send you a DVD when it comes out of the TCM store.

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    Replies
    1. Eventually I hope to do a proper interview with Rick about what exactly Larry had and what it took to restore it. I know some of the details and it's fascinating stuff. As you can read in the press release, Larry actually had two reels of negative film.

      If Larry originally had a nitrate print, that would be long gone.

      Now, where exactly Larry got The Grim Game...is much less clear.

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  15. With all due respect to Larry, who would hoard such a significant piece of Houdini history for so many years? I mean, that's a _major_ thing not to share with the world. In any event, I'm glad it's now finally going to be seen. Better late than never.

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  16. BTW, how exciting is that pic of Rick, Dorothy, and Dick in that we see what I believe is the title card to The Grime Game. I've never see that before, and it's our first look at the film. Love the lock image. I'd say it's the best Houdini film title card. Bodes well for the rest of the film. :)

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  17. In the late 1990's I watched a segment of the film, about 30 minutes of it with Larry in his apartment. At that time the first five minutes of the film had a greenish tint on each side of the screen. Not certain if that was the film breaking down at that time? I'm sure the new ownership will return each frame to its glory. It was a treat to watch with Larry.

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    1. Great that you saw it with Larry. I never had a chance to meet him.

      Not only will it be beautifully restored, but the frame rate speed will also be corrected. It will be a far better version than what even existed in 1919.

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  18. Fantastic!! This old goth magician is also hoping Lon Chaney's London After Midnight turns up next.

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    Replies
    1. First William Gilliette's Sherlock Holmes. Now The Grim Game. Certainly give one hope that London After Midnight could show up next. :)

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  19. To David Haversat and others who saw the film...

    Larry did bring people over to see the film

    Question...
    Was it on film or video? I assume by saying it was green would imply film.
    What about anyone else who saw it. We saw it projected on film, but I understand there may have been crude video of it as well.

    Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz
    The Houdini Museum
    The Only Building in the World Totally Devoted to Houdini

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  20. I was told by Larry he always showed in his home on video.

    At the time it was 24 fps.

    The video may have been shot from a projected film with a video camera for VHS.

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    Replies
    1. I do know Rick and the restoration team went to great pains to correct the frame rate, and went beyond just a blanket fix. Individual action scenes needed specific work in regards to speed. The upshot is the film plays beautiful. You wouldn't want to watch a VHS shot from a playing print.

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  21. BTW, I didn't realize this until now, but this momentous Houdini news was announced on Bess Houdini's 139th birthday. :)

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  22. Happy belated birthday, Bessie.

    -Meredith

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  23. Dick and Dorothy here.
    There were several cases like this...

    There was one scene that sticks out in our minds, where Houdini was chased up a flight of steps and it looked quick like a Keystone Cop Charlie Chaplin chase. We all looked at it several times in several speeds again and again and "voted" for the one that looked most realistic.

    That is the kind of care that went into this. A lot of credit goes to Metropolis who hardly get mentioned. They were "hired guns" for sure, but they went out of their way to do as good a job as possible. They even asked for, and got, an extension of time to get it as right as they could.

    Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz
    Scranton's Houdini Museum
    The Only Building in the World Totally Devoted to Houdini

    ReplyDelete

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