Written by: Carroll Jenkins on September 5th, 2008
Theatrical Release Date: USA, July 2nd, 1953
Director: George Marshall
Writer: Phillip Yordan
Cast: Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh, Torin Thatcher, Angela Clarke, Stefan Schnabel, Ian Wolfe, Michael Pate, Connie Gilchrist, Malcolm Lee Beggs, Frank Orth, Barry Bernard, Douglas Spencer
DVD released: June 3rd, 2008
Approximate running time: 100 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Legend Films/Paramount Pictures
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $14.95
This is Hollywood romantic fiction disguised as a biopic. Other than core facts, like he had a mother, there isn’t much truth here as regards Houdini’s life or career.
The movie does succeed as light fluff. The chemistry between leads Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, newlyweds in real life, is one of its greatest strengths. Janet is cute and Tony’s performance is engaging, and there are numerous humorous moments. Some of the set pieces are memorable, such as the Wild Man sideshow and the frozen river escape.
The character played by Torin Thatcher (Seventh Voyage of Sinbad) is both a blessing and a curse. Tony spends half the film looking for a mysterious German spiritualist, then discovers he missed him “by that much”. Instead he inherits his personal assistant Otto. Though Torin exudes personality throughout, and his addition is very welcome, his character never becomes integral to the plot. This situation represents a sorely missed opportunity to bring some real dramatics and tension to the film.
This is the full screen Technicolor original aspect ratio (or very close) right before wide-screen became the norm. Slightly soft in places, this is still a pleasing presentation. No subtitles but closed captions are included.
Though Houdini bears little resemblance to the performer’s actual life, it does present an entertaining Hollywood biopic with romance, drama, and humor.