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Houdini (2011) (American Experience)

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Product Details

  • Format: NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: UNRATED
  • Studio: Public Broadcasting Service
  • Release Date: Oct. 4 2011
  • Run Time: 60 minutes
  • ASIN: B005DJ7B1Y
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #58,500 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)

Product Description

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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 8 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Brings the remarkable history and legacy of Harry Houdini to life Oct. 14 2011
By DVD Verdict - Published on
Kent Dixon, DVD Verdict --American Experience is a PBS program that airs documentaries about important people and events in American history. In 2000, the series aired American Experience: Houdini, a biography of the legendary magician, illusionist, and escape artist. Narrated by Mandy Patinkin (The Princess Bride), the documentary explores Houdini's life in depth, beginning with his trip from Budapest to New York in 1878 when he was just four years old.

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
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
One of the better Houdini documentaries Oct. 15 2011
By John Cox - Published on
Verified Purchase
This PBS American Experience documentary was first broadcast on January 24, 2000, and until now has only been available on VHS. Hosted by David McCullough, this very good hour long doc includes interviews with David Copperfield, James Randi, Ken Silverman, E.L. Doctorow, Dorothy Young, and even artist Al Hirschman, who knew Houdini and talks about being invited to punch him in the stomach in his dressing room (and "hurting my hand").

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."
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2000 documentary on the great escape artist makes its home video debut. Sept. 17 2011
By Steve Ramm - Published on
This is a nice concise 54-minute summary of the famous Harry Houdini (real name Eric Weiss) who was best known as the world's most famous "escape artist". Narrated by Mandy Patinkin, with major comments and insights from Houdini's biographer, magician The Amazing Randi, "Ragtime" author E.L. Doctorow and illusionist David Copperfield, this documentary mixes archival footage of Houdini (He made a series of 15 silent films) and recreations (which seem out of place - at least for me).

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.

Steve Ramm
"Anything Phonographic"
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
American Experience Houdini June 4 2014
By Jim Towlson - Published on
Verified Purchase
Enjoyed the movie! Learned a lot about the man and the movie if your a fan of Houdini this is a must see!
Wonderful documentary. I bought it for my 95 old ... June 23 2015
Verified Purchase
Wonderful documentary. I bought it for my 95 old father and he loved the music. The history facts were too much for him but I was pleased to learn so much from Houdini. What a character! A true star.

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