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Death Defying Acts (2007)

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On a tour of Britain in 1926, Harry Houdini enters into a passionate affair with a psychic out to con the famous magician.


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Leni Harper ...
Leith Romeo's wife
Ralph Riach ...
Flower Stall Seller
Oily Librarian
Billy McColl ...
James Holmes ...
Ugly Mug
Rose (as Frankey Martyn)
Aileen O'Gorman ...
Effie - Elderly Seamstress
Raymond Griffiths ...
Music Hall Dwarf
Shaun Mason ...


During Harry Houdini's tour of Britain in 1926, the master escapologist enters into a passionate affair with a Scottish psychic. The psychic and her daughter attempt to con Houdini during a highly publicized séance to contact his mother whose death has haunted him for many years. However all does not go to plan... Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


There is no escape. See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for some sensuality, thematic material, language, violent content and smoking | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:







Release Date:

13 March 2008 (Australia)  »

Also Known As:

Death Defying Acts: Houdini's Secret  »

Box Office


$20,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$3,561 (USA) (11 July 2008)


$3,561 (USA) (11 July 2008)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


(newsreel footage)|

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


In the scene before Houdini try to communicate with his passed mother via Mary McGarvie, it can be clearly seen there is a vacuum tube that happened to be a 6C33C Russian vacuum tube, which does not exist until the 60s, and further more, that vacuum tube couldn't work anymore, since it was leaked (it has a white layer of powder inside the tube that shows there is air inside). See more »


[first lines]
Benji McGarvie: [with Scottish accent] When I was very small, I had a gift. I saw things other folk did nae see. It was like looking into deep water and seein' things on the other side. As I grew up, the gift vanished, just like my mam said it would. And I saw the world as it really was - with all its sweet lies and trickery. The the great Houdini came into our lives, and changed everything forever.
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Referenced in Lockout (2012) See more »


The Flowers of Edinburgh
[Played by fiddler in the pub]
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User Reviews

Houdini Affairs of the Heart and Head.
7 July 2014 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Death Defying Acts is directed by Gillian Armstrong and written by Tony Grisoni and Brian Ward. It stars Guy Pearce, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Timothy Spall and Saoirse Ronan. Music is by Cezary Skubiszewski and cinematography by Haris Zambarloukos.

Not a biopic of Harry Houdini, but an episode in his life, Death Defying Acts (a bum steer of a title) is lukewarm across the board. Story charts the years after the death of Houdini's mother, where he travels to 1920s Edinburgh and falls in with Psychic Tricksters Mary (Jones) and Benji McGarvie (Ronan), a mother and daughter team who spy an opportunity to prise a cash reward offered by the great escapologist.

What is intended to be a searching examination of Houdini, his mental fragility, hang-ups, strengths and etc, just plays out as a romantic period piece lacking vim and vigour. Pearce works hard as Houdini but never gets to grasp the tormented angle of the man, while Jones is miscast and not even her pretty face can light up a dull performance. Ronan is sprightly enough and Spall shows some emotive verve as Houdini's concerned manager. The moments of trickery perk things up a bit, but even then the makers think it's wise to debunk the mysticism. The romanticism of the era, and that of Houdini's place in it, is well crafted onto the screen, but the flatness and confused thematic threads elsewhere leave this well below average. 4/10

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