When I saw this broadcast on May 15, 1976, it blew my mind every bit as much as the Tony Curtis movie had exactly six months earlier. When it repeated in 1978 I was able to record it (on Beta -- I still have my tape) and watched it continuously. It remains my favorite Houdini documentary and watching it always brings me back to those early days of my Houdini mania. And now seeing the likes of Milbourne Christopher, Walter B. Gibson, James Randi and Sidney Radner talking about Houdini in their prime feels as special as seeing the footage Houdini himself.
The Truth About Houdini was never released commercially. (Bill McIlhany sold a VHS through the Houdini Historical Center in the 1990s.) So on this anniversary, I've decided to upload a full HD version to my WILD ABOUT HARRY YouTube channel. I'm not sure about copyright so I might have to take this down. But for the moment, here is the first great Houdini documentary for all to enjoy.
For fun, here's the Los Angeles Times review of the documentary from May 15, 1976 and my original Beta tape.
Thanks to Brad Hansen of Retro Cars Forever for his help converting this to HD and improving the video quality.
Unfortunately, as with most copies of this program....the scenes of Sid Radner demonstrating (and then exposing) the mechanical "Cross Escape" (neck & wrists tied to a cross, via ropes) - has been edited out.ReplyDelete
Anyone know why?
I've never seen a version with the cross escape included. Although I have seen the footage on its own. It could be it was edited out of the U.S. version to make room for commercials. But I also read The Magic Circle was upset that the doc featured exposures, so maybe it was cut because of that? This would have been a good question for Sid. Dang.Delete
Haven't seen this since 1976. Thanks for posting it! Radner had a little trouble unbuckling the back of the punishment suit. A demo of the milk can would have been nice.Delete
Wow, you hadn't seen this since '76? Glad I could bring it back for you! :) Surprised you didn't catch any of the repeats. It appears to have been in regular rotation on TV until 1979. But then it vanishes.Delete
Yeah--never saw it again until now. I never saw it on rotation on television. The documentary is nice, but after all these years of acquiring info on HH, nothing really new.Delete
I've done a post about the cut scene. Careful. You'll never be able to unsee Sid Radner as Jesus. :pDelete
Thank you so much. Really enjoyed this.ReplyDelete
Thanks! I’d never seen this one. -bulletReplyDelete
Wow! Thanks for posting this. This was one of the 1st things I'd ever seen on TV about Houdini when it 1st aired in '76. I also recorded it on Beta and kept it until my dad accidently taped over it.ReplyDelete
At the time I had a big Houdini crush going on and was reading/buying any book about him I could find. As I recall, there was a big furor and lots of stuff coming out (or being re-released) due to the 50th anniversary of his death coming up in October.
I was doing magic shows for kids birthday parties and I figured out how to unlock my dad's handcuffs (He was an auxillary policeman in N.Y.) He showed me how to shim them, and then showed me how double locking prevented shimming.
Thanks for the memories.
Awesome! So happy I could bring this memory back for you. Yes, in 1976 there was an explosion of Houdini interest and activity. I'm hoping for the same in 2026 for his 100th. Hard to believe it's been 50 years!Delete
Can't imagine how I've missed this film, but I'm quite sure I haven't seen it before. So THANK YOU, John! Wow, it really is in a class by itself as far as Houdini documentaries go, but also as far as most documentaries go -- even good ones can be very formulaic. This was obviously made by very skilled filmmakers who could really think out of the box (no pun intended) as to how to tell Houdini's story in a more emotionally engaging and relatable way. Just the skillful way they used the seance footage at the end, which we've all seen and heard a million times, is really impressive, and Bess's "Goodnight, Harry" speech resonated more with me than it ever has before. Looking forward to watching this again, and thanks again!ReplyDelete
So happy I could bring it to you! I've always assumed people knew the doc inside and out like the Curtis film, but I'm realizing that isn't the case. And I guess that should be expected as it fell off TV in 1979 and never had a commercial home video release. So posting this was long overdue!Delete
It is a wonderful doc. And it has a few photos and films clips that remain unique to it.