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Harry Houdini (story)
Coolidge Streeter (adaptation)
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Release Date:
2 April 1922 (USA) See more »
A man who has been frozen in the Arctic ice for 100 years returns to civilization to find his lost love. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
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User Reviews:
Brought Back to Life! See more (11 total) »


  (in credits order)

Harry Houdini ... Howard Hillary / The Man From Beyond
Arthur Maude ... Dr. Gilbert Trent
Albert Tavernier ... Dr. Crawford Strange
Erwin Connelly ... Dr. Gregory Sinclair
Frank Montgomery ... François Duval
Luis Alberni ... Captain of the Barkentine
Yale Benner ... Milt Norcross
Jane Connelly ... Felice Strange / Felice Norcross

Nita Naldi ... Marie Le Grande

Directed by
Burton L. King 
Writing credits
Harry Houdini (story)

Coolidge Streeter (adaptation)

Produced by
Harry Houdini .... executive producer
Cinematography by
Louis Dunmyre 
Harry Fischbeck  (as Harry A. Fischbeck)
L.D. Littlefield 
Alexander G. Penrod 
Irving B. Ruby 
Frank Zucker 
Bob Rose .... stunt double: Harry Houdini (uncredited)

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74 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.33 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful.
Brought Back to Life!, 17 April 2008
Author: JohnHowardReid

A very odd film indeed, which completely mystified me on the first run. I couldn't make sense of the story at all, let alone follow the complicated plot. It wasn't until a second viewing that it all came together. The reason, of course, is that it's edited in a very peculiar manner. This is not your standard Hollywood grammar of 1922 at all. It's the editorial grammar of "Caligari" and other German expressionist films of the period. Mind you, this is pretty identical to the editorial grammar in use in 2008—which is one reason I don't watch contemporary movies. I can't follow them. When I see a close-up, for example, I immediately conclude the director is going to special pains to draw this particular character to my attention, so in my mind I file away this player for further reference. Five minutes and fifteen close-ups later, I'm totally lost.

When "Grand Hotel" received its New York premiere, many critics (including Mordaunt Hall of The New York Times) walked out, claiming that director Goulding had used so many close-ups, they couldn't follow the story. But "Grand Hotel" is poverty indeed compared to the plethora of odd close-ups in "The Man from Beyond". True, it makes sense the second time through, but who wants to watch a melodrama like this twice? Even to see Houdini brave the rapids of Niagara Falls, "Niagara" fashion? And even to eye Nita Naldi at her slinkiest?

Mind you, the tinted print offered by Kino in their "Houdini" box is much easier on the eyes than both the black-and-white DVD versions available from Alpha and Grapevine. This said, however, I cannot recommend the Kino print unreservedly as it is missing the key sequence of Houdini's first recorded glimpse of his savior's home. This sequence features the most effective close-up in the whole movie.

On the other hand, although there seem to be other bits and pieces missing from here and there, the Kino copy does restore at least one important sequence that was presumably censored from the black-and-white prints.

Most peculiarly, none of the three current versions feature an actual brought-back-to-life sequence, although we do receive a tantalizing glimpse of it in a flashback. Presumably it was removed from the movie at an early stage.

Which brings me back to the very odd way in which the movie is edited. Another feature of German expressionism is that shots often don't match, a deliberately contrived device to startle the audience. The same device is used here. For example, in medium shot a character may be smiling placidly. In close-up, however, his features are contorted with rage. In long shot, his arm may be raised. In close-up, his arm is by his side. This device is used neither too often nor too sparingly so that I wonder if it was the result of a deliberate intent or merely due to either the director's or the film editor's incompetence. Fortunately, it is in dialogue (or sub-titled) scenes that this often occurs. The action sequences on the other hand are very astutely and effectively edited.

To enjoy the action highlights at their best—particularly the extended climax which culminates at Niagara Falls—it's essential to view the Kino edition. The tinting is not only so realistic that it immeasurably adds to the thrills, but the print is so sharp that it's obviously Houdini himself performing these dangerous stunts (and not Bob Rose as some critics have claimed).

Although Houdini had a much-publicized interest in life after death, his story is pure melodrama of the most ridiculous caliber imaginable. Even on its own puerile level (and disregarding its supernatural elements), the gaslight plot makes no sense whatever. (Of course, Bela Lugosi could have given the villain a good run, but Arthur Maude is far too conventional). Its purpose, however, is primarily to showcase Houdini's various escapist stunts and thrills; and this it does quite well. As an actor, however, his powers are somewhat limited, but these limitations are cleverly disguised by the role he plays here. He has seen to it that he is given plenty of close-ups and it's fascinating to watch this somewhat odd-looking, yet undoubtedly charismatic little man, go through his paces.

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