Monday, August 17, 2020

The Sherman Grinberg Film Library has something exciting to show us

The Sherman Grinberg Film Library, located in Los Angeles, is the world’s oldest and biggest privately held film archive with over 40 moving image libraries, serving Hollywood and the world film community for more than 75 years. Not long ago Lance Watsky, Manager of Media Archives & Licensing, appeared at the Magic Castle Library with something extraordinary. He had discovered in their collection two reels of high quality 35mm film of Houdini. He was hoping the Castle could help identify exactly what this footage was and whether it would be of interest to magic historians. On the night of the last Houdini Seance, librarian Bill Goodwin showed us "Houdini Nuts" the footage. And what we saw blew our minds!

One reel contains an assemblage of footage that is largely known, but the first generation quality is spectacular! The footage is so clear it actually reveals details that have never been visible before, and allows for precise identification that was never before possible. The second reel contains footage that has NEVER been seen and is truly wild! But I won't reveal what that is just yet.

The original plan was to debut this footage, along with our findings, during a special Magic Castle perk last April called "Houdini Lost & Found." This would have been done in conjunction with the reopening of the Castle's new Houdini Seance Experience. But Covid hit and everything was cancelled. With the prospect of the Castle being closed for the rest of the year, we've decided to make "Houdini Lost & Found" an online "Behind the Bookcase" perk for AMA members. This will happen on Thursday, August 20 at 7:00 PM. Behind the Bookcase can be viewed by AMA members on the Magic Castle website.

The footage will eventually be made available to view online, but details are still being worked out.

So get ready to see something very exciting from Lance Watsky and our friends at the Sherman Grinberg Film Library! Harry can't wait.


  1. Can't wait to find out what was in the second reel.

    1. All I'll say is there were five hardcore Houdini nuts watching it and we were all baffled by it. But I'm now petty certain I know exactly what it is, and it's amazing that it somehow still exists.

  2. The film inside those two canisters bust be around at least 100 years old. They were run thru a projector and survived getting pulled around the sprocket gears?

    1. That's a good question for me to ask Lance. It isn't necessarily the case that these reels are as old as the images. These reels were likely struck from the original negative at a later date, and the negative then tossed (as it was likely nitrate). It's also possible they were never projected. Could have been struck and preserved. That's why they are in such great condition. But they could still be 50+ years old.

    2. Ah! Not as old as I thought then. Threading and running thru a projector is a punishing experience for film. I look forward to watching it when it hits the Internet.

  3. Ooh! I must remember to check in after the event and see how it went!

  4. Well, apart from the host getting accidentally booted offline at the start leaving me alone to vamp for a few minutes, I think this went really, really well. Maybe my favorite perk so far. Too bad we couldn't have done it at the Castle itself because that would have been a blast for Lance and I. But online worked well.

    I believe Joe Notaro will do a post about the footage as his regular Sunday post at HHCE. So watch for that! Lance is also completely open to posting the footage online, but we still talking about how to do that in a way that works best for Sherman Grinberg. But it will come.

    Thanks to everyone who watched!


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