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.