Houdini is written by Nicholas Meyer (Sommersby, Star Trek VI; The Undiscovered Country), directed by Uli Edel (The Mists Of Avalon) and based upon the book “Houdini: A Mind In Chains: A psychoanalytic Portrait” by Bernard C. Meyer.
Right from the start it is made very clear that this is not intended to be wholly historically accurate, but I’m more than comfortable with that. I have grown up with the legend of Houdini very much still alive in the public consciousness and this portrayal of him is fascinating and thrilling from start to finish, regardless of whether it is fact or fiction.
This mini series chronicles the life of The Great Harry Houdini (Adrian Brody – The Pianist, King Kong), born Erich Weiss, beginning with his early years in Appleton, Wisconsin, growing up with his mother, Cecilia (Eszter Onodi – Aglaya), whose unwavering faith in his abilities stays with him throughout his life, his brother, Dash (Tom Benedict Knight – Kick ass 2, Underbelly), with whom he shares a lifelong rivalry and his father, a failed Rabbi whose lack of ambition and success haunts Houdini and pushes him to strive for ever greater things.
We also see Houdini’s impressive escape from Appleton and from the poverty and obscurity it brought, with the meeting of his devoted and beautiful wife, Bess (Kristen Connolly – The Happening, The Cabin In The Woods), who helps him to build a two-bit magic act in seedy clubs and travelling shows into the amazing publicity machine which was The Houdini’s.
The final piece of the puzzle falls into place when Houdini and Bess walk into a magic shop, where they meet Jim Collins (Evan Jones – 8 Mile, Glory Road), soon to be their partner, whose skill in creating new tricks and contraptions is unrivaled. Together they create some of the most spectacular and dangerous stunts ever attempted, including the Chinese water torture box and of course the amazing disappearing elephant.
Houdini is extremely well written, with superb performances from all concerned. Adrian Brody is quite magnificent, very believable and this is a very touching piece in a number of places. The story is exciting, with tales of espionage, meeting the great names of the day and a war with the spiritualist community and keeps you engaged from start to finish.
The presentation of the story is extremely modern, with some very unusual shots, we see the inner workings of locks and safes as they are being picked and even the reactions of the stomach muscles to the punches for which Houdini was so famous.
All in all, this is a great mini series, very enjoyable and I would thoroughly recommend adding it to your DVD collection.
“One way or another, we all wanna escape. An ordinary life shackles us, we need to get away. Get away from boredom, from pain, from fear. But not me. Fear is how I know I’m alive. Unlike other people I don’t escape life, I escape death. Helluva way to make a living…”
Houdini is available to buy on DVD from 06th Oct 2014.