Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Death Defying Acts released on DVD

Death Defying Acts didn’t get much of a theatrical release (only two theaters), but it’s getting a second shot at life on home entertainment as it is released today on DVD.

The DVD includes commentary by director Gillian Armstrong and producer Marian MacGowan, a Making Of documentary, and the trailer.

The DVD art now sports the subtitle: Houdini’s Secret. Guess the marketing department behind this film decided maybe they should trade on the power of Houdini's name after-all.

Death Defying Acts stars Guy Pearce as Houdini and Catherine Zeta-Jones as a Scottish psychic. While it is an entirely fictionalized episode in Houdini’s life, it’s a decent movie with excellent production design and performances.

Houdini’s Hollywood Walk of Fame star rededicated

Neil Patrick Harris, Penn & Teller, Tippi Hedren, Milt Larsen, and other notables from the world of magic and movies were on hand yesterday to rededicate Houdini’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

A large collection of media and tourists gathered for the event at 2pm on the corner of Orange & Hollywood Blvd, just east of the famous Graumans Chinese Theatre. After the unveiling, press and guests were invited back to The Magic Castle for a reception and performance by Jim Bentley in the Palace of Mystery. Playing the role of Houdini, Bentley escaped from a straight jacket in true Houdini style. Guests were also given tours of the recently renovated Houdini Seance Room.

Houdini’s star was first dedicated on Halloween 1975 to commemorate the great magician’s life-long involvement with film and his brief stint as a Hollywood movie star. According to the Magic Castle press release, the star mysteriously cracked on Halloween 2000.

Among those contributing to the restoration include magicians David Copperfield, Lance Burton, and Siegfried and Roy.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Plymouth man believes house bricks from Garrick Theater

The Detroit News reports that a Plymouth man is selling bricks from his home which he believes came from the Garrick Theater in Detroit where Houdini last performed before his death on Halloween 1926.

An avid fan of Harry Houdini, Jamie Flora learned from his Plymouth home's original owner that it was built with bricks from the historic Garrick Theatre. He began researching, corroborating the homeowner's tale with a building permit issued by the township in 1928 -- the same year the theater closed and was demolished.

Flora, who removed more than 300 of the bricks during a restoration project, is selling off the 312 remaining "Houdini bricks" at the Lotus Gallery in Plymouth.

"I live in the house made from some of the brick from that theater," Flora said Thursday. "When I go to bed at night all the bricks on stage that night are around me and my wife and five kids."

Three of Flora's bricks have previously gone out -- one of which was donated to David Copperfield for the International Museum & Library of the Conjuring Arts in Las Vegas.

But Kevin Connolly isn't convinced. The member of the Magic Collectors Association has about 3,000 Houdini-related pieces, but said the brick isn't any more valuable than a paperweight -- even with concrete proof of origin.

"To me it's just a novelty. You've got to have provenance this is Houdini's," Connolly said. "When you look at my stuff you know that's Houdini's. That's the quality I want. I don't want questionable stuff."

The custom-made brick displays will go for $945 for a museum edition that includes a large plaque and backboard with historical photos and text and $450 for a smaller, collector's edition, Flora said.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Houdini star rededication ceremony Friday

Siegfried Fischbacher, Neil Patrick Harris and Magic Castle co-founder Milt Larsen will unveil Houdini’s newly renovated star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame on Friday, October 24th at 2:00pm on the corner of Orange & Hollywood Blvd (one block East of Graumans Theatre).

The unveiling comes exactly 82 years after Harry Houdini's final performance.

A reception is to follow afterwards at The Magic Castle at 7001 Franklin Avenue, Hollywood, CA 90028.

Among those contributing to the restoration include top magicians such as: David Copperfield, Lance Burton, Tihany, Marvyn Roy (Mr. Electric), as well as Siegfried and Roy.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Houdini (1953) makes list of 10 most inaccurate biopics

Yahoo Movies has named the 1953 Paramount movie HOUDINI as one of its 10 Most Biographically Inaccurate Movies. Says the site:

“To be fair, figuring out what was fact and what was fiction in Houdini's actual biography wasn't always easy. Even though he was born in Hungary, Houdini claimed in interviews to have been born in Appleton, Wisconsin. Of course, this film -- starring Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh -- didn't help matters much. The film states that his family name was Schwartz when in fact it was Weisz. The relationship between his Jewish mother and non-Jewish wife was portrayed as harmonious, when in real life it was definitely not. And in the movie, his death was caused by failing to escape from a Chinese Water Torture Cell following an injury with a prop sword. In reality, Houdini died of a burst appendix after being punched in the stomach.”

A few fact checks on Yahoo. The movie never says Houdini’s real name was Schwartz (wasn’t that Tony Curtis’ real name?). The movie actually make no reference to his real name. Their claim that Mrs. Weiss and Bess didn’t get along is speculative fiction from the 1976 TV movie The Great Houdinis. All evidence points to a good relationship between Bess and Mama in real life, not unlike what we see in the Curtis movie. The Water Torture Cell claim, however, is bang on.

HOUDINI was recently on DVD and can be purchased at Amazon.com

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Unpublished early Houdini photo at auction

In what’s become an annual event, Swann Auction Galleries will be hosting an all-magic auction at the end of the month. “Magic Collection of a Gentlemen” will take place on October 28 at 1:30pm at the Swann Galleries in New York.

Once again, the auction features a wide range of Houdini memorabilia, including a press booklet for The Master Mystery inscribed by Houdini (Lot 104), and several nice rare photos, including this incredible unpublished photograph of a young Houdini with an unidentified youth, most likely taken at the Pastime Athletic Club (lot 148). Photos of Houdini in his teens are rare indeed.

Lot 148

You can order the catalog for at the Swann auction website and view the lots. Houdini items start at lot #91 to 176.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sidney Radner plans to open new Houdini Museum

The Republican reports that Sidney H. Radner, who at one time owned the largest collection of Houdini props in the world (including the Chinese Water Torture Cell), is seeking funds to open a new Houdini museum in his home town of Holyoke, Massachusetts.

Radner, 88, is working on the new enterprise with Elizabeth C. Dobrska, a 19-year-old Mount Holyoke College student who sees the new museum as being an interactive experience. "I want it to be an interactive museum," said Dobrska. "I don't want it to be just artifacts."

Dobrska will serve as director of the museum which will also focus on the life and work of Radner himself.

The museum will be located at 147 High St., but before it can open, Dobrska and Radner need to raise $200,000 to renovate the building. "We are definitely searching for sponsors," says Dobrska.

Dobrska and Radner are optimistic because they believe many people will support a museum aimed at helping revitalize downtown.

While the bulk of Radner’s collection was sold at auction in 2004, he still has many Houdini-related items currently housed in Las Vegas. Those items will be shipped to Holyoke when the museum is ready to open, says Radner.