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Houdini (2011) (American Experience)
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Wrapped in chains and encased in a crate, magician Harry Houdini was dropped into New York's icy East River. Horrified onlookers watched him emerge, unharmed, less than 60 second later. Easily the world's most famous escape artist, Houdini mesmerized audiences with astonishing acts of magic like the Water Torture Cell. A circus performer turned gifted artist, Houdini confronted humanity's greatest fears: entrapment, pain, and death.
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Through archival footage and photographs, as well as on-screen interviews and dramatic recreations performed by escape artist Bob Fellows, American Experience: Houdini brings the remarkable history and legacy of Harry Houdini to life. The full screen video presentation is solid, despite a wide range of content, from archival footage and stills, to more contemporary on-camera interviews and recreations. The 2.0 audio mix does its job as well, serving as adequate for a documentary of this type. There are no extra features of any kind.
American Experience: Houdini is a fantastic documentary that presents the life of one of the most memorable historical figures the world has ever known. While Houdini is long gone, his legacy has served to inspire generations of magicians, illusionists and performers all around the world and his achievements continue to amaze and astound us.
-Full review at dvdverdict.com
One thing I really like about this particular doc is it doesn't fall into the familiar narrative trap of transitioning from his mother's death to his anti-spiritualist crusade, thereby lopping out 10 years of his life and his entire movie career. This documentary tracks his career very accurately. This doc also features several unpublished photos, including a shot of Houdini standing in his Milk Can in handcuffs that I've never seen anywhere else. It also ends with wonderful footage of Harry and his wife Bess kissing and hugging outside a theater.
I recommend this documentary to seasoned Houdini buffs and anyone who might be curious to learn more about the great "master mystifier."
As I watched this new 2011 release from PBS Home Video of this "American Experience" episode, I kept thinking that Copperfield looked awfully young and there were interviews with cartoonist Al Hirschfeld - who died years ago. Then, as the final credits rolled, I saw that the show was done in 2000 - 11 years ago. Apparently this is the first home video release since it aired. Still, the story is interesting and you will learn much of what you need to know about Houdini in under an hour.