10 user 6 critic

The Great Houdini (1976)

A biography of the renowned escape artist Harry Houdini, examining his fascination with the occult and his promise to his wife on her deathbed that he would speak from the beyond.


Melville Shavelson
Nominated for 2 Primetime Emmys. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Paul Michael Glaser ... Harry Houdini (Erich Weiss)
Sally Struthers ... Bess Houdini
Ruth Gordon ... Cecilia Weiss
Vivian Vance ... Minnie (Nurse)
Adrienne Barbeau ... Daisy White
Bill Bixby ... Reverend Ford
Jack Carter ... Theo Weiss
Peter Cushing ... Conan Doyle
Nina Foch ... Reverend Le Veyne
Wilfrid Hyde-White ... Superintendent Melville
Geoffrey Lewis ... Dr. Crandon
Maureen O'Sullivan ... Lady Conan Doyle
Clive Revill ... Dundas Slater
Barbara Rhoades ... Margery Crandon
Marilyn Brodnick Marilyn Brodnick ... Dorothy Weiss


A biography of the renowned escape artist Harry Houdini, examining his fascination with the occult and his promise to his wife on her deathbed that he would speak from the beyond.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Biography | Drama


See all certifications »

Did You Know?


Adrienne Barbeau's first TV movie. See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: Hallowe'en Eve 1928 See more »

User Reviews

Credible portrait of Houdini with his disagreements with his mother, wife and Conan Doyle
6 January 2016 | by clanciaiSee all my reviews

Another outrageously ignored, underrated and neglected biopic excellently staged on film with great performances everywhere, especially by Paul Michael Glaser, Sally Struthers and Ruth Gordon as the three main characters in the complicated relationships between son, mother and wife, the two latter having problems with each other, the wife coming between the mother and son and the mother always intruding in his marriage even after her death. The best scene is the first London scene, when Houdini accidentally meets Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Peter Cushing, not very like the real Doyle) and the director of Scotland Yard (the old incorrigible Wilfred Hyde-White) with consequences. The development of the relationship between Houdini and Doyle is true to history, they actually became almost enemies after having started as true friends understanding each other, while Houdini never could accept Doyle's weakness for elves. The spiritualistic part of the story though gives Doyle the right, who survived Houdini with five years, and this is actually the most interesting part of his story. All the tricks with his constantly risking his life twice a day ("and thrice on Saturdays") is all too well known, so not more than necessarily much celluloid is spent on all that, while the drama is his personal relationships. The domestic family scenes and the one in Budapest are priceless for very convincing insights, especially the Jewish wedding scene at home. The jewel in the crown however is the fantastic performance by Vivian Vance as the nurse and indispensable factotum who actually both introduces the drama and finishes it, in a very clearly surveyable interesting and skillful composition to explain the extraordinary life of one of the greatest magicians ever.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 10 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.






Release Date:

8 October 1976 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Great Houdinis See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

ABC Circle Films See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Black and White (archive footage)| Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page

Recently Viewed