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The Master Mystery

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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.

Cast of characters

  • Harry Houdini (The Grim Game) … Quentin Locke (as Houdini)
  • Marguerite Marsh … Eva Brent
  • Ruth Stonehouse … Zita Dane
  • Edna Britton … De Luxe Dora
  • William Pike … Paul Balcom
  • Charles E. Graham … Herbert Balcom
  • Floyd Buckley … Q the Automaton
  • Jack Burns … Peter Brent

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