Sunday, April 29, 2007

A restoration that’s a revelation

Houdini fans were pleased last year when Alpha Video finally released a DVD of Houdini’s 1922 film, The Man From Beyond. However, I’m here to tell you the Alpha release this is by no means a definitive version of this film. Not by a long shot.

That distinction belongs to Bruce Cardozo’s new The Man From Beyond Restored, which offers the best quality and the most complete print of this movie ever presented.

I’ll let Bruce -- an expert in silent cinema and a film professional with over 30 years visual effects and restoration experience -- explain how he tackled his first Houdini film:

“Alpha Video's version is basically off the British release which is missing the original Main Titles, several other titles and a few scenes. The American Release of the film (which is what is being sold by my eBay competitors) is in worse shape than the Alpha Video release and had several scenes censored that were in the British Release. They include: the sexual innuendo during the chess scene, the shots of the hypodermic needle and the ghost scenes. These scenes may have been censored when the film was re-issued.
The source material was so poor that most companies won't even touch it. Early on the project, I brought it to one of the top restoration companies in Hollywood. They put parts of it thru a $250,000 piece of equipment. I thought the project was beyond what I have in my home office. Well, the results were terrible! So bad, in fact they gave me money back! That's when I invested in additional software to tackle the project here.
I used very high end software that seeked out almost every piece of dirt. Then I spent months doing hand repairs and stabilization. The restoration was 6 months very grueling work. There are some shots I redid many many times. But the final results are worth it!
The film literally comes alive with the restoration and music. I used a special Music program called Sonic Fire that literally composes music to film. And I based the composition on the music notes in the pressbook. People have told me it is like watching a different movie. Houdini is riveting with a proper presentation!”

Having just watched this DVD alongside the Alpha version, I concur! Highest praise goes to the new music and the stabilization. This really does make it a new experience. And it’s GREAT to finally see the original main title cards.

My one and only quibble is the recreation of some title cards. While this does make some unreadable cards readable and the font matches exactly, I’m a purist in this sense and want to see the original titles as photographed, regardless of quality. I miss those big looping question marks.

As a bonus, Bruce has included the full The Man From Beyond pressbook as 300dpi PDF, and a rare program flyer for The Master Mystery. Also, this DVD includes complete and uncut footage of Houdini escaping from a straight jacket in Dayton, Ohio. [See UPDATE] I’ve see bits of this footage, but never the whole escape, start to finish, filmed in long shot. What’s cool is at one point we can see a cameraman set up on the ledge and shoot the closeup footage that we see most often in documentaries.

The escape is followed by dynamite footage of a very happy Houdini taking bows to the cameras as Jim Collins tries to hustle him away (pic below). This bonus footage alone makes this DVD a must!

The Man From Beyond Restored can be purchased on

UPDATE: I've discovered the bonus straitjacket escape footage is not Dayton. It's actually the Hearst Bldg in Chicago, Illinois, February 24 1922.

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