Sunday, October 21, 2012

Houdini mystery clip amid Lost Magic

Last Thursday The History Channel aired Lost Magic Decoded, a superb magic documentary/special by Steve Cohen. The show featured several mentions of Houdini along with film footage -- including this intriguing six second clip of Houdini in handcuffs. I never seen this piece of Houdini footage before.

Interestingly, I have seen a close-up of Houdini's cuffed hands from what I believe to be this same footage. It was included in the 1970 documentary, The Truth About Houdini, inserted into footage of his leap into the Seine in Paris. But the Seine jump was part of his 1909 film, Les merveilleux exploits de Houdini à Paris, so we now know that insert shot was not part of the original film as Houdini is clearly older here (not to mention in the film he's only wearing one pair of cuffs). So what is this from?

My guess is this is part of the footage Houdini shot during his 1920 European tour, some of which he later used in Haldane of the Secret Service. Is it possible Houdini restaged his Paris jump at that time? He is wearing the same pair of swimming trunks. Maybe Houdini himself inserted the close-up into the 1909 footage?

Nevertheless, it's pretty unusual to see Houdini at this age doing anything with handcuffs, and especially any kind of a bridge jump. This footage is a real mystery, but that's what we love!

If you missed Lost Magic Decoded, try to catch a repeat on The History Channel.


  1. I also watched the special and immediately thought where is this footage from?

    Gotta love a mystery.

  2. Great stuff John! The special was great. It is always nice to see film footage we haven’t seen before; still hoping to see TGG and find the lost MM and TI footage.

  3. John, I'm glad you posted this small piece of Houdini footage. I also wondered about its origin because he is indeed much older and way past handcuffs and bridge jumps. You're probably right that Houdini may have shot extra footage when he returned to Europe after the WWI. The hairs around his temples are black which means he dyed his hair before this film was shot.

    I know that TGG means The Grim Game--but what the heck is MM and TI?