Saturday, November 29, 2014

Becoming Beyond

Only a few weeks after Houdini announced the formation of his new Houdini Picture Corporation in April 1921, he announced his first film. But what we now know as The Man From Beyond originally carried a very different title. On April 16, 1921, the Boston Post announced:

The title The Far North might have been an attempt by Houdini to link his film in the minds of moviegoers to the popular 1920 D.W. Griffith movie, Way Down East. That hit film also featured a climax in the which the hero saves the heroine from river rapids and a waterfall. Later publicity would repeatedly liken Houdini's own Niagara Falls climax to that of Way Down East, touting it as being even more exciting. The two films even had similar posters. So maybe it's not a coincidence that, in the beginning at least, they had similar titles.

It appears Houdini's film carried The Far North title well into production. The clip below is from The Coffeyville Daily dated June 3, 1921:

However, a quote from Houdini himself while filming in Niagara Falls a month earlier suggests that The Far North might have only ever been a working title and the real title was being kept secret:

When the film was completed in June, the final title was revealed as The Man From Beyond. This is the earliest mention I could find from the Brooklyn Eagle on July 20, 1921:

The Man From Beyond wasn't the only Houdini movie to undergo a title change during production. The Grim Game was originally called Circumstantial Evidence and Terror Island was Salvage. Interestingly, when Houdini announced his next Houdini Picture Corporation production on July 26, 1921, it was with the "temporary" title Haldane of the Secret Service. But this turned out to be the one title that took.

Thanks to Joe Notaro for alerting me to this alternate title on his blog Harry Houdini Circumstantial Evidence.



  1. Got that everybody? Producer, star, SCREENWRITER. And I can assure you that Burton King was directing the way Houdini wanted him to. And Houdini would have been in charge of staging and camera angles for stunts (even if he was being doubled). Houdini was an auteur.

    1. I think there's an untold story in Burton King's involvement with Haldane. We see here he was announced as director and we see his name on a slate HERE, but when the movie came out, Houdini was credited as the director. What happened?

    2. I'm starting to think King did direct Haldane and over the years his credit has just fallen away and Houdini's had been put in as a default. The surviving movie itself doesn't have a credit. I believe Kevin Connolly has a Haldane pressbook. I would be interested in what that says.

  2. Exhibitors Herald August 6, 1921 has the following:
    Title: King to Direct Second
    Ad: Burton King, who directed “The Man from Beyond,” which presents Houdini for the first time as the star of his own company, Houdini Picture Corporation, has been retained to direct the second picture, upon which production has started. “Haldane of the Secret Service” is the temporary title. Houdini is the author.
    However, MFB was released in 1922 and HOTSS was released in 1923. There is no mention of Burton King in relation to HOTSS after 1921 that I could find. Houdini is listed has author and director in Exhibitors Herald the day before it was released in 1923.

  3. Although they were released in 1922 (MFB) and 1923 (HOTSS), I believe Houdini wrapped up both films in 1921. So with that said, both films could have been directed by Burton King but under the supervision of Houdini. Houdini basically had total control over all phases of the production: he wrote, produced, directed, edited and was the star.

    1. It's remarkable how little we know about the making of Haldane. The fact that it was made in 1921 right on the heels of Beyond might even be new info. It could be that King did the principle photography with the actors, etc., but because so much of the footage Houdini himself shot in Europe in 1920 was used, HH might have always seen this one as a directorial collaboration.

  4. By the way, if you want to see that Man From Beyond poster in color... BOOM!