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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
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 »
[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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Someone on this board wrote that this is the weakest of the "Magician" movies, meaning the Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale entries. I would agree except that this isn't a magician movie.
This fictional story draws on grains of truth. Houdini was after psychics and spiritualists and exposing them as fakes. Here, he offers $10,000 to any psychic who can tell him the last words his mother spoke to him on her deathbed. I'm not sure he did this in real life. I know when he died, he promised to come back and give his wife a message. It's controversial whether or not he did. Allegedly psychic Arthur Ford revealed the code that the Houdinis agreed upon to Mrs. Houdini in 1929, but later, she denied this. There is a film during which the Catholic church pressures her to say it didn't happen.
While performing in England and extending his challenge in the 1920s, Houdini (Guy Pearce) meets a fake psychic Mary McGarvie (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and her daughter Benji (Saoirse Ronan). Mary and Benji live by their wits, and Mary thinks she can somehow suss this out by breaking into Houdini's hotel room and researching the mother.
Houdini is taken in by Mary's beauty and, despite herself, she's taken with him. They fall in love.
This is a romance, though we see Houdini do a few tricks. It's nothing like "The Prestige" and "The Illusionist." Ever since Tony Curtis played Houdini, we've been seeing Houdini played by hunks in glossy versions, including Paul Michael Glaser and Jonathan Schaech. Houdini was no looker, and he was short. Guy Pearce has to play Houdini as a person instead of just as a performer, and he does a good job. He plays the role as a tough, plain-speaking, charismatic man, and a loving man at heart.
Catherine Zeta-Jones is stunning, whether on stage as an exotic psychic, in the clothes of someone with no money, or in expensive outfits. She shows us a Mary who is tough, determined, and fearless. My favorite scene was in Houdini's hotel, when she glides in wearing a gorgeous coat (which she took from a costume rack) and heads for the elevator as if she owns the place. The man at the desk takes one look at her worn shoes and knows she's a fake and hotel employees start chasing her. Great scene that shows her cleverness.
I actually found the last scenes very moving, and found the daughter's denial of her gifts interesting.
The photography is beautiful.
Though this isn't a great film, it's an absorbing one. The details at the end, as Houdini meets his public, are true, but some license was taken to make it more dramatic.
I can definitely recommend it as a rental.
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