The quality is very poor, but the content is incredible. Below is the embedded clip set to begin at the Houdini footage at 59:48 (you might want to mute the sound).
UPDATE: As you can see, the original video has been removed, but
selected clips can be viewed HERE.
Here's a breakdown of what I consider the most remarkable footage seen here. Timecodes show where the clip is located in the above video.
Houdini Visits Gladys (01:21:14): The most mind blowing footage for me is what appears to be unedited home movies of Houdini visiting his sister Gladys during a snowy day. After several shots outside of Houdini leaving (the footage is not in sequence), we cut inside the house to find Gladys playing the piano as Harry and Bess enter. Gladys then greets Houdini's assistants one by one: Franz Kukol, James Vickery, Jim Collins, and an unidentified assistant. Two more men are greeted by Gladys and Houdini, but I don't know who they are. As everyone leaves, Houdini takes a moment to pick up and kiss a photo of his mother. We then see Houdini hugging and kissing Bess outside in the snow. Incredible.
Houdini's Paris Movie (01:23:52): This next clip is of huge significance to Houdini movie history. It's the first three minutes of Houdini's 1909 movie Les merveilleux exploits de Houdini à Paris, complete with the original French title cards. The key here is that includes the opening incident in which Harry and Bess help a drunk man on the street and are arrested. With this footage, a restoration is now doable (although we are still missing the very opening in which we see the Alhambra decked out in Houdini posters).
Houdini Coin and Cards (01:14:48): A real mystery is this one minute of footage showing Houdini doing coin sleights and card manipulations in slow motion. It's tempting to think this is a lost fragment from his 1925 Marvels in Motion appearance (later released as Velvet Fingers). But Houdini is dressed here in a suit instead of a tuxedo, so this could be something entirely different. Whatever it is, it's a remarkable minute of film and breathtaking to watch Houdini's hand movements.
Monk Table Tie Escape (01:27:10): This is footage of Houdini doing an escape on the set of Haldane of the Secret Service. This is not from the movie itself. The scenario here appears to be that he's being challenged by monks (played by actors and his assistants). This footage has appeared in documentaries, but it always cuts off as Houdini is being tied. Here the footage is complete and uncut, showing the full escape and Houdini being raised up on the shoulders of the ecstatic monks.
This compilation also includes several unfamiliar clips of suspended straitjacket escapes; behind the scenes filming of The Man From Beyond; the familiar footage of Houdini outside a Kansas City theater and the Rochester bridge jump; Harry Kellar visiting Houdini, Dash and Bess at Hardeen's Flatbush home (where Houdini was living at the time); and several clips from The Mastery Mystery with original title cards and some footage not seen in the Kino DVD.
So where the heck did this film come from? I'm afraid I don't have any answers, and I don't know who runs this YouTube Channel (it appears they may be outside the U.S.). But this channel includes a treasure trove of rare magic clips, and I can't help but wonder if we are somehow seeing part of the recently auctioned Bill McIlhany collection? But wherever it came from, what a way to start the new year!
Thank you Leo for sharing this fantastic find.