Saturday, November 28, 2015

Teller on Houdini and The Grim Game

Teller of the great magic duo Penn & Teller has posted his thoughts on The Grim Game at EatDrinkFilm.com, and when Teller talks Houdini (or talks at all), we listen! Teller calls Houdini "a sexy Jewish Schwarzenegger with more substance" and remembers collector Larry Weeks as a "wiry, goateed leprechaun with a beret and a wicked grin." It's a terrific article, so click below to read:

10 comments:

  1. "He'd botched his first attempt" (at acting in the movies).
    What is Teller talking about? The deal that fell through with the Williamson brothers? Or was it "Merveilleux Exploits du Célébre Houdini?"
    The one reel film released by Pathe in 1909 shows Houdini at his very best. And the cinema was still in it's infancy. Never mind Houdini's acting. In 1909, the general consensus among film exhibitors was that audiences wouldn't sit still for a movie longer than 10 minutes. I still haven't seen the entire one-reeler (Todd Karr went a long way toward piecing it together) but Houdini is as handsome as any movie star and his performance is dynamic.

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    1. My sense is that Teller was talking about The Master Mystery. But even there I'd say that wasn't botched. It proved popular and I think nicely launched HH as a cinema star. But maybe the thinking is a serial was sort of an old fashioned form and the plot was heavily melodramatic, etc. Certainly it was not as sophisticated as The Grim Game.

      You're correct that Merveilleux Exploits is terrific, especially for its time. That really was Houdini first stab at cinema and a successful one at that.

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  2. No, he wasn't. because he mentions that the Master Mystery was after the botched 1st attempt. If you could see the Master Mystery as I was able to see it -- complete -- you would understand why it was a world-wide hit and that Houdini was impressive enough onscreen that Paramount signed him to a two picture deal.

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    1. Oh, sorry, you're right. And you're right that he must then be referring to Merveilleux Exploits or maybe the aborted Williamson bros project. But like you, I wouldn't classify Merveilleux Exploits as botched.

      BTW, I've long heard Bill McIlhany has the first part of Merveilleux Exploits. Ken Silverman describes it in detail, so he saw it. I've asked Bill about it, but he says if he has it, he doesn't know where it is. If we could just get that first part, we could add it to the fragments from Karr and the Kino set (and the jump itself from Truth About Houdini) and make a pretty complete print.

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  3. He also refers to TGG as his “third major movie venture”. My guess is he is referring to the never completed Williamson brothers 1917 film prospectively titled “Houdini and the Miracle”, since it fits the category of a major motion picture; HH was to receive the largest sum of money ever paid to any one performer for this single motion picture.

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    1. Hard to know for sure. But if we count Houdini's (narrative) movies, then GG is indeed #3, so...

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    2. True, but Adventures of Houdini in Paris (1909) wasn’t botched. There was his movie venture, The Marvelous Adventures of Houdini, the Justly Celebrated Elusive American but like the Williamson’s movie venture, it was never completed in 1917.

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    3. Update: I believe the Williamson’s film prospectively titled “Houdini and the Miracle” and “The Marvelous Adventures of Houdini, the Justly Celebrated Elusive American” are one in the same.

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    4. That's interesting. I've never considered that connection, but you might be right. There's a whole underwater escape device thingy in it, I recall.

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  4. I like the part where Teller mentions that despite the fact that HH's midsection was getting thicker by 1919, he still moved like a panther. Absolutely, HH moved with agility and speed in the GG.

    Many years ago I had a Tae Kwon Do instructor who was a middle-aged and paunchy Korean. In spite of that, he moved with a lightning speed that left me dumbfounded.

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