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The Master Mystery

The Master Mystery (1920) starring Harry Houdini

The Master Mystery stars Harry Houdini as Justice Department agent Quentin Locke, who is investigating a powerful cartel that’s protected by a “menacing” robot (referred to in the film as “the Automaton‘); the cartel is using a gas weapon called “the Madagascar Madness” — and, given that this is an old-time silent film serial, there’s a cliffhanger ending at the end of each chapter.  And, since this is a Houdini film, there’s plenty of escape artistry to get out of them. The Master Mystery is available on DVD as part of the DVD collection, Houdini: The Movie Star.

The Master Mystery Chapter Titles:

  • Living Death
  • The Iron Terror
  • The Water Peril
  • The Test
  • The Chemist’s Shop
  • The Mad Genius
  • Barbed Wire
  • The Challenge
  • The Madagascan Madness
  • The Binding Ring
  • The Net
  • The Death Noose
  • The Flash of Death
  • The Tangled Web
  • Bound at Last or The Unmasking of the Automaton

Trivia for The Master Mystery

  • Probably the first on-screen portrayal of a robot.
  • A novelization of the serial was written by John W. Grey and then-popular mystery writer Arthur B. Reeve, who also co-wrote the script. Published in 1919, it contained many stills from the film.
  • 13 of the original 15 episodes of this serial survive in the UCLA Film and Television Archives, the two missing episodes are chapters 4 and 10. Their whereabouts are unknown at this time and are presumed lost.
  • The Kino Video version contains chapters 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 14 and 15 in complete form and fragments from chapters 3, 4, 5, 6, 10 and 11.