Monday, September 29, 2014

Lionsgate vs. History: Nicholas Meyer on the two versions of 'Houdini'

Looks like screenwriter Nicholas Meyer is stepping out to promote the upcoming release of the Houdini miniseries on DVD and Blu-ray (Oct. 7). And that could be because this extended edition -- or what he calls the "Lionsgate version" -- is the version he feels better represents his work. The official Star Trek website recently posted an exclusive interview with the writer-director, which includes this revealing exchange:

Let’s start in the present tense, before we dip into the past. You wrote Houdini, which just aired. How pleased were you with how that came together?

MEYER: Well, there are two versions of it. One is the international version, which is Lionsgate, and the other is the History Channel version. And I much prefer the Lionsgate version.

Really? How come?

MEYER: Well, they – you know, sort of re-cut the movie, and tore a lot of it out, and put in a lot of voiceovers and stuff that I just wasn’t crazy about. And wasn't our intention. It hadn't been written.

Having now seen the extended "Lionsgate version" myself, I must say, I'm in complete agreement with Meyer. The cuts HISTORY made to the series really hurt, and had I seen this complete version, I might have written a different review. In fact, I'm planning on giving the movie a re-review of sorts in the coming weeks (although with my Houdini talk at Hollywood Heritage looming, I'm up against the wall time-wise, so this may not happen in time for the DVD release).

Meyer also recently attended a Houdini Seance at the Magic Castle with Houdini star Evan Jones who played Jim Collins (photo above). You can read about that at Home Media Magazine.

Pre-order the Lionsgate version of Houdini on DVD and Blu-ray at Amazon.

Thanks to Neil S. Bulk.



  1. no writer is ever happy with the final version...but Meyer's got a point of, over-use of; booming voiceovers...this extra effect ruined it, for Houdini purists. On the other hand, if you're the History Channel network, you know, viewers are channel surfing, and just trying to grab their attention, it's a monumental task. I look forward to seeing final DVD, which I can imagine, is more of a movie experience, not cable/internet hyper world.

    1. The History Channel made cuts to fit in more commercials and a more restricted time slot. International markets don't have to deal as much with this.

  2. Well, how do we see the international cut ?

    1. Comes out in the U.S. on DVD and Blu-ray October 7. Pre-order link is at the end of the story above.

  3. No matter what he says to try to clean up his image, he wrote the silly stuff that Houdini was a spy, and opened safes to get state secrets, which was never in his fathers book. He got it elsewhere.

    He wrote things about Bess that were degrading.

    He wrote the lie that Houdini did the bullet catch in the mouth in Russia. Houdini Never did the bullet catch in the mouth anywhere!!! Around that time Kellar warned Houdini not to go near the stunt and Houdini complied!

    He wrote that Houdini performed in Brothels!!!
    Did he mix Houdini up with Scott Joplin and Louis Armstrong?

    He even changed the facts in silly ways like that Houdini lived in Brooklyn!

    None of the above was in the book his father wrote! On and on!
    Where did he come up with it?

    Shame, because it stood the chance of becoming the classic movie about Houdini!

    Dick BrooKz and Dorothy Dietrich
    The Houdini Museum
    The Only Building in the World Dedicated to Houdini

    1. Amen to that. Even removing the V.O. altogether doesn't change the lamentable mess of a screenplay that it is, and adding scenes, even if they are 100% historically accurate, won't alter how far out of left-field his little elaborations are. I'd much prefer an edited version to an extended version, to be perfectly honest.


  4. Meredith--if this Houdini biopic were edited down to a more accurate representation of Houdini, we would be left with just 10 minutes of film footage.

  5. You've got that right. Good one.