It was 100 years ago today that Houdini's first solely produced motion picture, The Man From Beyond, premiered at the Times Square Theatre in New York. This was the start of an exclusive engagement and to ensure packed houses Houdini developed 30 minutes of magic that he would perform after each showing. He even revived his vanishing elephant which had so thrilled New Yorkers back in 1918.
|New York Tribune, April 2, 1922.
The day of the premiere Houdini paraded his two Ringling Bros. elephants, Lucy and Fannie, along Broadway. While both elephants were smaller, Houdini reportedly still used his gigantic Hippodrome cabinet to do the vanishing. He also performed Goodbye Winter, Arrival of Summer, the Needles, and his straitjacket escape. At the last minute Houdini learned the film lacked the necessary certificate from the New York Censor Board. Because of this he was unable to charge admission on opening day. (The film received its certificate the following day.)
The New York Tribune gave the film a rave review -- "the theater resounds with applause when he finally dragged his release from the raging torrent." But the New York Herald gave the film a much more mixed review, pegging some of the issues that are obvious today. Below is that review in full.
|New York Herald, April 3, 1922.
A dandy detail here is that Houdini's co-star Jane Connolly assisted Houdini with his magic. This is the only mention of Connolly being part of the premiere that I've read.
The Man From Beyond with "Houdini in Person" played for three weeks at the Times Square Theatre. That theater still stands today and is currently undergoing a major renovation.
The Man From Beyond is available on DVD, YouTube, and streaming. I plan to pop in the Blu-ray tonight to celebrate this milestone and remember Houdini's frozen man. Still alive after
100 200 years!
Photo: John Hinson Collection