Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Great Houdinis 40th anniversary

It was 40 years ago tonight on October 8, 1976 that The Great Houdinis aired as the ABC Friday Night Movie. The made for TV film starred Paul Michael Glaser and Sally Struthers and was the first Houdini biopic since the classic Tony Curtis Houdini of 1953.

The original TV Guide ad for the October 8, 1976 broascast.

In some markets The Great Houdinis aired from 8-10; others from 9-11 (including Los Angeles). Competition that night was from the 1975 John Wayne movie Brannigan on CBS and The Rockford Files with James Garner on NBC. In some markets, the film's final line, "I believe the son-of-a-bitch loved her," was edited out.

Even though the movie took liberties with the truth, I've always been a fan of The Great Houdinis. The casting alone makes it a standout, not just among Houdini biopics, but '70s television movies in general. It also came at a special time. Along with the coffee tables books of Christopher and Gibson and the Doug Henning "World of Magic" specials of the seventies, The Great Houdinis was one of the pop culture events that helped bring about a resurgence of interest in the Handcuff King that remains to this day. As the final minutes of the movie portrayed, Houdini did indeed return that night!

The promo below is from the second airing on April 6, 1977 (when the title was changed to The Great Houdini). But this is the same promo that played before the '76 broadcast. So click below and experience what audiences who tuned in to ABC saw 40 years ago tonight.

Were you watching 40 years ago tonight? If so, share your memories in the comments below.

Tomorrow I'll continue my look back at The Great Houdinis with: Paul Michael Glaser – the Houdini of '76.



  1. I must have seen the original airing because I remember the title being the great Houdinis. This and the Tony Curtis movie along with Doug Henning is what got me into magic, escapes and Houdini history.

    Thanks for the memories John!


  2. ridiculous that this isn't legtimately available on DVD or streaming.

    1. It is a shame. But so many of the great TV movies of that time aren't available for some reason.

  3. I was 13 years old and already a huge Houdini fan. I still have the original TV Movie Guide Ads I cut out as a kid for the 9:00PM Friday Night showing on Channel 7 (ABC) in Los Angeles. I also have a 1986 VHS recording from a 9:00PM Saturday Night showing on Channel 11 (KTTV) in Los Angeles, that refers to the movie as “The Great Houdini’s” during the commercial breaks.
    BTW: According to Genii, Manny Weltman participated as a member of the audience as a temporary “extra”; he also consulted along with Johnny Gaughan.

    1. I love that you captured "The Great Houdinis" in the 1986 broadcast. I wonder if they used old recordings from the '76 airing for these?

  4. Hello John, I agree with what you have said above wholeheartedly. "The Great Houdinis was one of the pop culture events that helped bring about a resurgence of interest in the Handcuff King that remains to this day." Keeping the legacy alive is so important. Something you do so well. (By the way, sincere congratulations on your recent award. Well done, and well deserved. If people only stuck to the facts about Houdini and so many others, once the facts were exhausted so would the interest of other generations. A little "poetic license" is needed to keep interest and investigation going. It's the kind of magic that, perhaps, The Great Houdini would approve.