Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Significant Houdini items in online auction

Random Treasures Auctions is currently running an online auction of magic memorabilia containing over 70 significant Houdini items, including original adverts, photos, books, and letters. Included in the auction is an original lithograph for the Water Torture Cell (currently at $55,739.00) and these two spectacular full-color lobby displays for The Man From Beyond.

The auction opened on January 1 and closes January 31. It also includes four different Robert Houdin clocks; original costumes and props of Chung Ling Soo; signed photograph by the Great Herrmann; Thurston ephemera and much more.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Guy Pearce on playing Houdini

Actor Guy Pearce has spoken with Movies Online about what it was like to play Houdini in the new film, Death Defying Acts, co-starring Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Q: You’re also playing Harry Houdini in a movie, how did you approach that? Obviously there’s not video on him.

GP: No, I treated that completely differently. It’s almost a fictional fairytale anyway. There’s footage of Houdini and there’s audio stuff of him, but I decided to go in a completely different direction and really just work off what my own imaginative response was to the script anyway, I think, rather than really just trying to channel somebody, which is what I felt like I tried to do with Andy in a way.

Q: Is Death Defying Acts the name of the film?

GP: Yeah

Q: When is that coming out?

GP: I don’t know actually, because I think they’re still putting it together. We only finished it in October.

Q: What was the movie that you got bulked up for?

GP: It was for Harry Houdini, it was Death Defying Acts.

Q: Was that because it was a physically demanding role?

GP: It wasn’t that I had to build up because it was more physical, I had to build up because Houdini is built like a Sherman tank. I was 63 kilos when I made Factory Girl, and I was 75 kilos when I did Death Defying Acts. It’s interesting really to play the two characters back-to-back because Andy is so light, white, fey, everything about him is floaty and kind of light and not wanting to be noticed in a way, whereas Houdini was very grounded, very gruff, very deep voice, he’s very masculine, completely opposite ends of the spectrum, as far as physicality and a number of other things, both highly self-promoting, poor immigrants of the 20th century, but aside from that they were pretty different.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Houdini's 'Haldane' screened in LA!

Haldane of the Secret Service was screened last night for a packed house at The Silent Movie Theater in West Hollywood. The film was proceeded by a Houdini trivia challenge, and three silent shorts. One of the shorts was a tour of Universal Studios circa 1925. Wild stuff!

Haldane of the Secret Service is generally considered Houdini’s weakest silent film. It was certainly his least successful, and led to Houdini giving up on the movie business and his Houdini Picture Corporation. “The profits are too meager,” complained Harry.

However, I thought Haldane was rousing good fun, and judging by last night’s reaction, so did the audience. While the plot is a bit convoluted, it’s still a fast-paced globe trotting adventure, not unlike a modern James Bond film. Houdini, as Secret Service agent Heath Haldane, dashes from New York to Scotland to London to Paris on the trail of counterfeiters and a lady love. Many of the street scenes were filmed during Houdini’s last European tour, and afford us wonderful shots of Glasgow, London, and Paris in the 1920s.

It’s also fun to see Houdini’s many changes of costume throughout the film. At one point he’s even in a top hat, cape and tux, looking every bit the image of a “classic” magician (although here it’s for a night out in the London clubs).

Like Houdini’s previous film, The Man From Beyond, Haldane of the Secret Service is low on escapes and lite on action. However, one sequence where Houdini is dragged along the side of an ocean liner is clearly done for real and thrilling. So too is the climatic water wheel escape, which is much more hair-raising than most biographers claim (one wonders if they have seen a complete version?).

Until now, Haldane of the Secret Service was considered unavailable. I've heard that the only way to see it was to rent a VHS dupe belonging to a private collector for an large fee. Therefore, I was surprised and thrilled to see it was going to play at The Silent Movie Theater. I spoke to the theater manager after the screening and learned that the print screened came from the extensive private collection of the theater co-owner and projectionist. It was not tinted as Haldane of the Secret Service was originally, but it was complete and looked very good.

One hopes this print could be used to strike a DVD release in the future.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Houdini inspires Stefani

Pop star Gwen Stefani's new album title The Sweet Escape was inspired by Harry Houdini, reports PR-Inside.com.

Stefani appears in her music video for the single "Wind it Up" in a predicament similar to one of Houdini's stunts -- she is shackled to a chain fence as if underwater and struggling to break free.

She explains, "In the video you can see the key coming out of my mouth. When Houdini used to do his tricks, his wife used to pass the key from her mouth to his mouth."

"It's the sweet escape. And I was thinking, the key is the music. It all kind of ties up together."

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Details of next Houdini & Nate novel

Details of the next book in the Houdini & Nate Mystery series have emerged thanks to author Tom Lalicki and the new Houdini & Nate official website.

Shots At Sea finds young Nate Fuller and Harry Houdini engaged in action alongside Teddy Roosevelt aboard the ocean liner Lusitania. A look at the prototype cover art can be seen on the right.

Author Tom Lalicki also provides us with some tantalizing exclusive details about the third book in the series. Book 3 -- which is being written now -- looks at the gang warfare between the declining Jewish and Irish gangs on the Lower East Side in 1912. Nate's Rivington Street buddy from Danger in the Dark becomes a cat's paw in the conflict...

But sure to check out the Houdini & Nate website for updates and more information on this entertaining series of books.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Haldane of the Secret Service to screen in LA, Jan. 11

Attention all LA-based Houdini buffs! The Silent Movie Theater in West Hollywood will be screening Haldane of the Secret Service this Thursday, January 11 at 8:00pm.

While screenings of The Man From Beyond are common, this is the FIRST time I’ve even heard of a screening of Haldane of the Secret Service. In fact, I’ve never seen this film!

Released in 1923, Haldane of the Secret Service was the second film made by The Houdini Picture Corporation. It was distributed by FBO and proved to be Houdini’s last feature film.

The Silent Movie Theatre is the only silent theatre in the USA. It is a vintage art deco theatre built in 1942 that has been fully restored to its original '40s deco design.

Ticket can be purchased in advance from The Silent Movie Theater website.

See you there!

UPDATE: Houdini's 'Haldane' screened in LA!