Skip to content
Home » History Channel’s Houdini

History Channel’s Houdini

  • by
Houdini – History Channel biography of Harry Houdini, starring Adrien Brody
Spread the love

Houdini – History Channel biography of Harry Houdini, starring Adrien Brody

Something that comes to mind about the History Channel’s Houdini biography, is actually a comic strip. Once, many years ago in the Bloom County comic strip, Opus the penguin was writing a movie review, which read in part:

“This bad film just oozed rottenness from every bad scene –simply bad beyond beyond all dimensions of possible badness. Well, maybe not that bad, but Lord, it wasn’t good.”

Buy from Amazon In a nutshell, that’s my opinion of the History Channel’s Houdini biopic, starring Adrien Brody — and that a true pity, for several reasons. First, the acting was very good — Adrien Brody has been a favorite of mine since I saw him in Peter Jackson’s King Kong, and he’s quite capable of performing the role. Likewise, the actors and actresses playing his wife Bess, aide Jim Collins, brother Dash/Hardeen, etc. all did well — given the script that they had to work with. The problem really does come down to the script, for several reasons:

Problems with History Channel’s Houdini

Adrien Brody as Houdini, chained in a cell
  1. The show feels rushed, without taking the time to flesh out the characters into people that the audience would care about. As a result, most of the characters seem like two-dimensional cardboard cut-outs.
  2. Several of the characters aren’t sympathetic in the least. The film portrays Bess Houdini as an alcoholic, with a marijuana dependency, who acts like a shrew who will try to pull her husband down at any opportunity.
  3. Accuracy was the last consideration — for example, it spends much time on Harry Houdini’s career as a spy. Although there’s not a stitch of evidence that he ever did that.  To go from that to having Houdini stealing documents from a German ambassador’s safe is a massive stretch. Likewise, it shows Houdini fretting over motion pictures stealing his audience — including playing to half-empty houses.  But it totally ignores that Houdini himself made multiple movies, and owned his own motion picture company.  There are many more examples — literally dozens.  But possibly the most egregious is portraying Harry Houdini as a serial adulterer.
  4. The producers committed the major sin of exposing how the various magic tricks work.  I don’t have a problem with their using CSI-style x-ray view of Houdini picking a lock, for instance.  But they went from there to expose several secrets still in use by magicians today.  Houdini, a member and former president of the Society of American Magicians, would have complained loudly were he still alive.

Leave a Reply