Houdini (TV Mini-Series 2014) Poster


User Reviews

Review this title
32 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
A modern mini-series that is worth watching.
Dr_Sagan2 September 2014
This is definitely a modern miniseries.

Quick editing, fancy graphics and lots of slow motion effects. It even has some CSI-like visuals where you get to see how the muscles of the abdomen react to a direct punch and other similar graphics that usually appear in the CSI franchise.

The music is a mix of classic instruments, heavy metal guitars and synthesizers and adds to the modern feel of the show.

Harry Houdini is presented as a bigger than life character who quickly becomes rich and famous with his wit and boldness. Fame and fortune isn't enough though. He wants to be legendary. Also he wants to make his life count, so in this version he becomes an international spy who uses his performances in Germany and in Russia to gather intelligence before the first world war.

Adrien Brody is good enough as Harry Houdini and his narration, that you can hear throughout the episode, contributes to the dramatic tension that you may think that the show is lacking because of its very modern presentation.

Overall: A series worth watching for entertainment. From a biographical point of view you may want to look elsewhere.
38 out of 55 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Another poor Houdini biopic, intellectually and emotionally lacking
msecaur1 September 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Like many fans of Harry Houdini, I wanted to view this with an open mind. To my dismay, "Houdini" follows the pattern set by the previous string of disappointing Houdini biopics, the most major sin being that invented situations are favored in place of actual fact. With a screenplay based on a 1976 book that sought to psychoanalyze the great magician rather than tell his story, this film is perhaps the most disrespectful and historically inaccurate attempt yet, and is not only an insult to Houdini himself, but also to anyone who knows anything about his life.

While the screenplay leaves much to be desired, filled with more fiction than fact and inanely on-the-nose dialogue that never even tries to capture the cadence of the time-period, this could have been a fairly good film, if not for the filmmakers' preoccupation with giving every scene some psychological double-meaning. To this end, there is an overabundance of frankly weird and slightly trippy effects: fast, jerky cuts, an intrusive voice-over that dominates the first half of the story, and a melodramatic, oft-repeated gut-punch every time something traumatic happens to Houdini that, through the help of CGI, goes so far as to show the muscles and organs themselves. John Debney's electronic-heavy and unsettling score also adds to this slightly nightmarish atmosphere.

As entertainment, "Houdini" might appeal to some, but overall, it is simply too much of a fantasy to qualify as a true biopic. The most interesting, important, or character-building events of Houdini's life and career are changed, shifted around in time, or thrown out altogether in favor of giving precedence to completely invented scenes and situations. While every screenwriter has the right to invent, the problem you are bound to encounter when you start rewriting history is that eventually people start believing it. No doubt this film will only add to the already long list of Hollywood-created misconceptions about Houdini. Oddly enough, although this is the first film to depict his death accurately (from appendicitis, not drowning in the Water Torture Cell), they pander to this myth by including a scene showing Houdini nearly drowning while practicing and having to be axed out, with the afore-mentioned gut-punches acting as a remarkably unsubtle bit of foreshadowing.

With a script that doesn't try very hard to be true to actual fact, it should come as no surprise that this holds with the characters as well. With almost no time for character development or even insight into their motivations, it is hard for them to emerge as much more than window-dressing. The final scene between Houdini and his wife should be moving, but because no time was spent building their relationship and personalities, it doesn't have the impact that it should.

Adrien Brody might be a good actor in other roles, but as the great illusionist he is something of a mismatch. With his lean face and puppy-dog expressions, it's hard to equate him with the slight, smiling showman that Houdini really was. His nasally Brooklyn accent makes him sound more like a member of the mob than a Hungarian-born kid who spent his formative years in Wisconsin and New York, and his sleepy, brooding demeanor doesn't gel with Houdini's legendary passion, charisma, and almost hyper-active energy. Most of the fault is, again, due to the script, which takes great liberties with Houdini's personality, leaving how Brody's Houdini managed to achieve the success he did as the greatest mystery of all.

Kristen Connolly as Houdini's wife Bess is the closest match physically to the real Bess we've seen on film (again disregarding the height discrepancy), but her performance also leaves much to be desired, once again a consequence of the abysmal script. Most of the problem is that you don't see her enough. When you do, she comes off as a nagging, unsupportive, and slightly dim-witted woman who doesn't seem to love him very much, which leaves what ought to be the major emotional thread of the film hanging.

Screenwriter Nicholas Meyer's preoccupation with giving Houdini a complex on everything is most flagrantly apparent in the exaggeration of his relationship with his mother, Cecilia Weiss. Suffice to say, you couldn't get much more Freudian with it, and the scenes that result are, in a word, disturbing. This, predictably, creates tension in his relationship with his wife, Bess, who resents her mother-in-law with emotions verging on hatred. If he had cared to do a little more research on 20th century culture and Houdini himself, he might have better understood that while he was deeply devoted to her, in that period, being a "mama's boy" was expected and could exist without Oedipal undertones, and that she and Bess were not mortal enemies.

But the unkindest cut of all is the filmmakers' decision to do a lurid expose in vivid CGI of all of Houdini's escapes. Besides being in poor taste, it also effectively breaks the code of any magician's society, and amounts to something near sacrilege. While most devoted Houdini fans have a rudimentary idea of how he effected them, do we really want to know? These intermittent forays break up the flow of the story and strips the film of any magic or wonder it might have had, the only exception being the Vanishing Elephant which is, thankfully, not explained.

What disappoints the most is that despite all the reverence and admiration still felt for the master mystifier almost 90 years after his death, no one seems to be able to bring themselves to make a decent film about him. If you don't know a thing about Houdini, this film isn't going to help you, as most of it is complete poppycock. If you do know something about him, don't sport with your intelligence by watching it. Just pick up a book, or watch Harvey Keitel's amazing performance as Houdini in "Fairytale" (1997).
60 out of 95 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Houdini series is poor and misleading at best!
rikam-97-6260912 September 2014
I cannot agree more! I have read EVERYTHING about Houdini in the last 30 years and this is simply a poor representation of a great magician. The writers took every rumor and manufactured a story beyond what actually happened. It is a sad story of the man and his family. The writers should be ashamed of this version as it pales in comparison to the REAL story. Hollywood's depiction is to sell DVD's not to tell the truth. I am embarrassed for the writers who embellished this awesome story.

Houdini's story is worthy of your attention, please do research on your own and discover his greatness. Please do not allow these pathetic authors to spoon-feed you this drivel. I am appalled by the obvious false truths this story evokes. The History Channel should be more accurate and provide viewers with a more factual representation of history.

I miss the days when actual history was told on The History Channel, it seems ratings out-weigh history anymore....for shame! Adding an accomplished actor was a great ploy, but misleading the public is heinous.
51 out of 87 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A familial abomination
NormJohn3 September 2014
This disgrace started with the late Bernard C. Meyer, a psychoanalyst at Mt. Sinai hospital in New York. His specialty, apparently, was to write books about historical figures based on his "analysis" of their characters. To do this he would cherry-pick facts and anecdotes written by others about his subject (and therefore hearsay) to gain "insight" into their true character.

His work was then taken by his son, Nicholas Meyer, and turned into a screenplay for the History Channel. This is not, of course, history. It is a copy of a copy of an opinion based on little evidence. If the name Nicholas Meyer is familiar to you it may be because he is the author of "The Seven Percent Solution" in which he portrayed Sherlock Holmes as a delusional drug addict who hallucinated his deductions. Apparently creating fiction and passing it off as analytical thinking is a family trade.

Please do not think that this pastiche has anything at all to do with the real Harry Houdini. It is a characterture created to enhance the reputation of two members of the family Meyer. There is no history here. There is very little fact here. There is NO legitimate analysis of the character of Harry Houdini here. There is nothing here.

The History Channel should be truly ashamed.
41 out of 69 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A sad, sad excuse for "history"
johnbarton-381-4809781 September 2014
Warning: Spoilers
It is a travesty that this production is from "The History Channel"- there's more factual content in stories front The Onion. There's more fantasy in this production than in Houdini's own self-made mythology... And he was the king of self-promotion, creating a much better fictional background than creators of this junk food television. I shudder to think of the people who are "learning" history from this network... When the Tony Curtis movie came out in the 50's, America "learned" how Houdini died performing the Chinese Water Torture Escape- an illusion not even on the bill the night he received the blows to his stomach that ultimately proved fatal. He died in the hospital a week after his final performance of peritonitis, brought on my a ruptured appendix. And, yet, that is now part of popular culture. But at least that one was a theatrical release. This masquerades as fact, and that's disturbing. The fact that is so poorly written just exacerbates the problem. I feel bad for Adrien Brody's participation; he's much too fine an actor to be associated with this sad piece of theater.
26 out of 42 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Truth is more interesting than fiction
Adrian2326 March 2015
It seems in the interest of inspiring awe, the creators of this series removed all of the actual awe around this legendary person and replaced it with annoying effects and hurried editing. The voice-over narration is uninspired, and makes the genius Houdini sound like a nitwit. The relationship between him and his family is reduced down to clichés and is indicative of lazy screen writing.

The worst part is that the actual history and character of Houdini is astounding and truly awe-inspiring. It doesn't need bells and whistles to be entertaining. All of this extra fluff was completely unnecessary and removes from the entertainment.
8 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Kristen Connolly steals this movie
A_Different_Drummer22 September 2014
... which is both a good and a bad thing.

It is a good thing because over the course of the 2-parter you start to realize that the intensity comes not from the escapes, but rather from Connolly simultaneously delivering her dialog with that machine-gun rasp of hers, at the same time those extra-wide "cartoon" eyes pause for emphasis. I don't mean to make light of this, it is very unusual, and very effective.

The bad news is that, as interesting as Connolly is, she should really not be able to steal the entire film. That she can, speaks to the weakness of the script, and meandering self-indulgent arc that passes for a plot.

Brody tries hard. In fact, Brody is one of those actors who seems to be merely tolerated by his audience during his actual career but, I suspect, will become a cult idol to nextgen viewers. Here he does the best he can with what he was given.

If you bring no expectations to this film, it is entertaining, although truth be told I think the History Channel should set its standards a bit higher. (With Hatfields/McCoys, which I reviewed here, they nailed it AND were factually accurate to boot).

Never liked the Curtis film but I did read Houdini's autobiography, so I empathize with the angry reviews in this list.

In the end, it is true, Houdini was able to escape everything but his own ambition.
13 out of 21 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Those who don't believe in magic will never find it!!!!!!!!!
rajatdahiyax21 October 2014
Houdini is a two-part, four-hour History channel event miniseries written by Nicholas Meyer and directed by Uli Edel.

The miniseries follows the man( Adrien Brody ) behind the magic as he finds fame, engages in espionage, battles spiritualists and encounters the greatest names of the era. The drama will chronicle the life of a man who can defy death through his stunts, his visions and his mastery of illusion. It was shot entirely in Budapest, Hungary (coincidentally the real Harry Houdini's birthplace). Brody, who had studied magic as a child, performed many of the show's stunts himself, including the suspended strait jacket escape and the famous Chinese Water Torture Cell.
7 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Flawed, but compelling miniseries
rprince-832-629426 March 2015
-Houdini (2014) miniseries review: -Houdini is a two-part series following the life and career of Harry Houdini, played by Adrian Brody. Mainly focusing on his rise to fame and career as a major entertainer, Houdini looks at various elements of his life, such as his marriage, family, rivalries, and of course, escape magic tricks.

-I honestly wish Houdini would have been a film. If has a total runtime of 2 hours 20 minutes, a great cast, and high production design. But as a series, it was still pretty darn good! -The story was well focused and very compelling. The second half is very different from the first half because of Houdini's change in interests, but that is what actually happened, so….

-The pace was fantastic. It never became not interesting to me. I binged-watched it because I could not turn it off.

-The acting is very good. Adrian Brody does a very convincing job and the supporting cast did great.

-The characters all feel very human and flawed, which is something I am glad they showed because of how inhuman Houdini appeared to everyone at the time. I also really liked seeing his rivalries with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Charlie Chaplin.

-The music did not fit very well. It had a very modern vibe to it, which aided the pace, but made the overall tone feel too…. hip? Something like that.

-The editing was also pretty choppy. It matched the fast cuts in the music, which was played for suspense, but was not needed for it. It is prevalent that he lives through dangerous escapes, but his life was still on the line, so modern music and quick-cuts don't were overkill.

-The production design on the film was great. Everything from costumes to makeup was done very well. I also really liked seeing how tricks were done, and some of them are explained afterwards, making you guess first. I am also not going to complain about an anticlimactic ending, because that is how Harry Houdini went, very anticlimactically.

-Houdini had some flaws trying to add style and suspense, but despite its best efforts, it was very well done, well-acted, and compelling due to an engaging story and relentless pace. Houdini, being slightly shy of Amazingtastic, is definitely worth checking out! -Houdini is TV-14 for some mild language, intense scenes, some violence, and some brief sexual content, but no nudity.
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The Pis-story channel creates another soap
HUXLEYedwards3 September 2014
While the merit of some set designers, some actors and some cinematography (what little of it actually which is melded with some cheesy computer set designs) can be commended, modern influence of abrupt and noisy scene changes, bad edits, and absolutely horrible soundtrack (inspired by that noise band from the 90s Nine Inch Nails ie distorted sawtooth waves and jarring effects) helps bring this 'bio' pic down to the average spectrum of creativity. But this is modern Hollywood and about famous Jewish guy. So be it. It was funny seeing the 'jealous' Rasputin though. That made the series for me. Oh Houdini's main squeeze is one terrible actress - doesn't even bother to try to conform to dialect and nature of a lady from over 100 years ago. Adrian Brody - a good actor but IMO not a good choice as Houdini was stalky and had no nose of a vulture.
14 out of 31 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Not the greatest show on earth
paul2001sw-120 September 2014
Harry Houndini was a great magician, showman, and at least according to his own legend, a fascinating character. But this doesn't mean that his life story is actually a single great narrative. This glossy renditioning of his biography leaves (too) little to the imagination; yet it's continuously straining, trying to find a uniting theme that means something more than the birth, extraordinary career, and death of one man. In places, the over-stretched story makes little sense: it's understandable that Houdini's assistant should have been grief-stricken by news of his death, but not that this should make him want to destroy all of his master's equipment. Aiden Brody has been good in other stuff, but in this role, there's a lot of screen time and not much to do with it. I could imagine Houdini playing a role in a clever-clever drama not unlike Nic Roeg's 'Insignificance'; but as a biographic hero, this is obvious and surprisingly dull stuff.
7 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Who this Houdini?
Lejink22 September 2014
I actually had quite high hopes for this two part Bio-pic of the great escapologist Harry Houdini. For one thing, being in two parts should give the narrative plenty of room for detail and development. It was also a "History Channel" production which I presumed meant it would focus on factual and not fictional incidents in Houdini's life. I even thought that the casting of Oscar-winner Adrien Brody would confer some gravitas on proceedings. Well, sorry to say I was wrong on every count.

I've done a little background research and can't see any evidence of Houdini's secret spy-work across Europe prior to World War I (far less break into the German Embassy's safe for valuable papers, during his own act), ringing the Kremlin bells for Czar Nicholas and his family, far less meeting Rasputin or do the bullet-catch trick in front of Kaiser Wilhelm. Houdini surely had such a fascinating life that there was no need for these fictitious sensational-isms. Even real-life events such as his exposure of the fraudulent medium Margery (with gratuitous seduction scene, natch!) or thevfall-out with the Conan-Doyle's seemed souped-up, to say the least.

I also hated the production values with its trendy post-"Sherlock" use of jump-cuts, time-compressions, internal anatomy close-ups and worst of all the booming cacophonous soundtrack employed presumably to accentuate dramatic scenes. Then there's Adrien Brody himself, that's tall, gangling Adrien Brody playing short stocky Harry Houdini. And just what were those far from platonic kisses with his adored mother all about?

No, I really hated this, it really did, for me encapsulate all that's bad in Hollywood representations of supposedly factual events. One day, we'll presumably get an accurate retelling of Houdini's fascinating life and times, but this assuredly wasn't it, not by a long chalk.
13 out of 29 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
"The Great Houdini"…becomes...The Good Houdini TV-Movie
LeonLouisRicci3 September 2014
The History Channel has been Accused of Escaping from the Real Life Story of the 20th Century's Most Renowned and Recognizable Stage Showman/Magician and Delivering a Spiffed Up Glossy Conglomerate of Psycho-Babble and Stiff Characters.

Adrian Brody does Fine as the Charismatic Curmudgeon of the Spiritualists and Highly Successful Performer that Searches Diligently for the Next Illusion and Death be Damned. This Takes a Toll on His Wife Along with the Burden of a Mother Fixation.

But it's Obvious He does Love His Wife although She Seems to be Playing Third Fiddle to Mom and His Obsession with The Act. This All Makes for Good Drama, but Wait there's More.

We are Informed through some Pretty Bad Dialog and at Times Even Worse Narration that All of this is Playing with Houdini's Head, or at Least the Performer was a Heady Individual.

The Usually Good Screenwriter Nicholas Meyer's Sub-Par Script is Less than Insightful and not Very Witty. It is Downright Dull at Times. What Saves this 2-Part TV Mini-Series from Awfulness is Brody's Energy, the Art-Design, Costumes, and General Look of the Thing.

The Movie is Guilty of Over-Exposing and Telegraphing the Ending with Way too Many Scenes of Houdini's Innards. Ironically with All of the Money Spent on the CGI the Most Impressive Ambiance here is the Vintage Posters that are Everywhere and Use the Original Artwork with Brody's Face Inserted.

Slightly Above Average for This Type of Thing but it's Strength is not its History, but the Sheer Dynamism as a Person and Performer along with His Hyper-Volatility and Fascinating Life that was "The Great Houdini".
15 out of 35 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Really bad casting
nicholls_les8 September 2014
Anyone who has read anything about Houdini, seen his picture or the rare film footage we have would have to wonder why Adrien Brody thought he could carry this off. He looks at best ridiculous as Houdini. Physically Houdini was a mini muscleman but Brody is painfully skinny. He doesn't have the charisma either. Houdini could capture his audience and his eyes according to those who met him were intense.

Adrien Brody was reasonably good in the Pianist (not deserving of an Oscar in my opinion) but I have not seen him carry of anything well since. In Cadillac, the film about Chess records he was just awful, but in this he is even worse.

Sadly other cast members seem quite well cast, especially Kristen Connolly as Houdini's wife Bess.

Who knows one day we might actually get a good film about the great Houdini?
12 out of 28 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Award Winning
Bmiceter3 September 2014
Can everybody who worked on this PLEASE get an Academy Award? I mean seriously, this is one of the best projects I've seen all year... film or television.

Every actor was AMAZING. Houdini, his mother, wife, assistant, everyone was cast perfectly. It has been a while since I've seen a cast mesh together so insanely well. Adrien Brody, Kristen Connolly, Evan Jones, and Eszter Onodi should be nominated in every acting category, along with best ensemble cast.

Besides the actors, the directing, and cinematography was great. No matter their challenge, they went above and beyond. From underwater shots, night or day shots, expressing emotions and mental states, it was all on point.

This is easily one of the best (if not the best) documentary/biopics ever created.
17 out of 44 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The least accurate Houdini biopic ever made
thecrazyelwin23 October 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Its a shame that a channel like History would show such fiction. This movie is more based on, or an accumulation of, past movies on the man than they are on his actual life.

It is entertainment and in such, writers will change what they want to make it more interesting. As the saying goes "Controversy creates cash." If not, then Hollywood would be broke.

As far as facts, they did get his name right. The way he met his wife, also quite true. His relationship with his father, no. His relationship with his mother they really down played, he was very devoted to her. The time lines of his escapes, wrong and the secret agent stuff was the worst fiction of all.

For a mini-series, they told less about the man than the 1953 movie with Tony Curtis. While the 1953 movie had it's own mistakes, it was a lot more accurate than this mini-series was.

I gave it 2 stars only because the actors did good with what they had.
4 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
jboothmillard28 September 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Directed by Uli Edel (Body of Evidence, The Little Vampire), I spotted this two-part miniseries advertised and became most interested both because of the story of the famous man of the title and the leading actor playing him. Basically this television made film tells the life story of legendary and world famous Hungarian-American illusionist and escape artist Harry Houdini (Adrien Brody), looking behind all the magic tricks and traps to getaway from that brought him fame and fortune. This includes his childhood living in poverty, his early beginnings doing magic tricks on the street and in the circus, meeting and marrying his beloved Bess Houdini (The Cabin in the Woods' Kristen Connolly), meeting and partnering with Jim Collins (Jarhead's Evan Jones) who became his stage assistant. The legendary escape challenges for Harry featured include from a jail cell, the Chinese water torture cell, the suspended straitjacket escape, chained up and jumping into icy water from a bridge and escaping from a locked bank vault style safe, it also shows Harry using his kills to engage in espionage missions for the government, working for head of MI5 William Melville (Tim Pigott-Smith). Through the years he encounters great names of the era, including Sherlock Holmes creator and spiritualist believer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (The World Is Not Enough's David Calder), Tsar Nicolas II of Russia, mystical adviser Grigori Rasputin and Presidents of the United States. Following the death of his mother, Cecilia Weiss (Eszter Ónodi), he seeks to confront, battle with and expose fraudulent spiritualists, but ultimately he returns to his magic routes until mortal pains occur, most likely caused by many punches in the stomach that he took and blocked out the pain, in the end Harry Houdini died at age 52 of peritonitis, secondary to a ruptured appendix. Also starring Tom Benedict Knight as Dash Houdini, Shaun Williamson as Riley, Linda Marlowe as Lady Doyle and Louis Mertens as Erich Weiss. Brody is a very good choice as the leading man, Connolly is also well cast as his both loving and long concerned wife, the style of editing and use of special effects makes for great trick and escape sequences, you are gripped into finding out whether he will do it or not, and how, and the personal character story throughout is interesting to watch as well, all in all it was a well thought out and interesting drama. Very good!
4 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Very Poorly Done
wtmerrett9 February 2017
I was hoping this would have been better but was sadly disappointed. The facts of Houdini's life were well represented but this so called movie was just a series of events strung together with little story to bring them life. Badly written. Badly directed and with some atrocious acting thrown in here and there. The fact that Houdini died due to a blow to the stomach is well known but the director and writer felt they had to remind us of this fact at least a dozen times with horrible effects of a fist to the abdomen and the internal muscles shown getting hit in slow motion. Come on...we get it..stop hitting us over the head with this image. It recalled an Oliver Stone picture and his annoying not at all subtle approach. There was no development of the characters or anything about who they are and why they are the way they are. The Houdini story could make a good movie but not with this director or writer having anything to do with it. Run.....don't walk away from this boring mess.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Stunningly Impressive for a Cable Movie
aesgaard4117 August 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I'm a big fan of Houdini; he ranks up there as one of the top historical figures to fascinate the present. The multiple layers of his life and the different translations of it from his public side to his private side have become fuel for some very interesting depictions from the 1953 depiction, "Houdini," to "The Great Houdini" with Paul Michael Glaser and Sally Struthers in 1976, the one that ranks as my favorite. However, after Jonathan Schaech's 2008 version, one might start to wonder what might be left to dramatize. Well, there is the rumor that Houdini might have been drafted to work as a spy for British Intelligence, a claim that has never been proved. With this depicted in the film, one might start to wonder what else did they get wrong? "Houdini" still manages to adhere to the basic time-line of Houdini's life and career, but it also seems to bend things here and there to create drama and to rush into the famous moments of his life we all want to see brought to life on the small screen. From his simple life working for carnivals to his later successes, the movie actually condenses the one thing that Houdini was actually best known for than his magic: his war on phony Spiritualists and then going much further than that by establishing his motives. Could Houdini have actually believed in an Afterlife so much that he outed all the charlatans he encountered trying to find a one-true psychic in touch with the spirit world. It's a very novel interpretation that I've never seen posed before, but it also makes sense when you keep it in mind to re-watch the other Houdini movies. However, where it starts becoming unbelievable are in depicting Houdini's possible spy career and more fiction with Houdini entertaining the Russian Royal Family and meeting Rasputin before the revolution, events I've learned which never happened. It does stay essentially truthful to his death in the hospital rather than the stage legend that has been forced down our throats. (Thank you, Tony Curtis.) Nevertheless, the movie does not fail to entertain or keep our attention. Despite being thinner and more gaunt than Houdini, Adrien Brody enjoys himself in the role and gives an excellent performance, as does Kristen Connolly who is woefully underused at times as a fiery and strong-willed Bess. The highlights are the explanations behind some of Houdini's lesser-known illusions. I enjoyed the movie, and unless you're a massive Houdini purist for accuracy, this one should appeal to you as well.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A messy blend of non-fiction and Fiction
CraftMuch14 September 2014
Now I want to say before I start that this show is actually a mixture of fiction and non-fiction. Not all of it is real, most of it is speculation and some of it is completely made up, however all of it is picked, to give the watcher the best experience possible. That being said, this show was nothing special.

People see the topic of Houdini bashed about now and again, however what we know of Houdini's "real" life is so little it becomes a topic which struggles to live and dies sour.

This is why most of us were so shocked when we heard there was going to be a Houdini biopic, I mean it had to be done, one of the greatest figures of the late 19th/early 20th century was going to get his screen time.

But from the first day it started to go down hill. The initial cover art and the poorly chosen cast were the first of many mistakes which lead to this mediocre expo. The second mistakes made, were the poorly written (and acted) dialogue and lack of attention to details which really shone through in the finished piece. Finally it has to be the airing of the show on the "History Channel". Now I'm not sure if this was planned from the start or a change made in production or maybe the original channel who produced it didn't want it, but I couldn't have picked a worst channel to air this on, surely history is something true and honestly, to be fair, barely any of this is actually true. However "luckily" for me and my 64 million neighbours the show was aired on channel 4, a TV- channel known for airing interesting and provocative dramas.

All in all the finished product was rather average and most definitely disappointing, the latter episode being the worst of the two. My rating 5/10.
6 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A thoroughly predictable bio-pic...
DarthVoorhees4 September 2014
Warning: Spoilers
...but highly watchable nonetheless. 'Houdini' is nothing we haven't seen before. This is so formulaic that really without much rewriting this film could be about anyone. This script is dead awful in terms of creating a story about the life of a real human being. This is the kind of picture 'Dewey Cox' lampooned so brutally.

But really I sort of expected this going into 'Houdini'. Bio pics really are a dime a dozen. None of them are particularly imaginative in framing the stories of their subjects. It's all about the presentation and the lead actor. In these regards 'Houdini' is a very fortunate movie. It's well shot, staged. and is very imaginative. Above anything else though Adrien Brody is the savior of this film. I think had a lesser actor been cast this movie could have been a disaster. This is a performance that transcends the clichés.

One of the glaring problems 'Houdini' and most bio pics has is that they want their titular characters to dissect life in a way that no real human ever does. Harry Houdini was a brilliant magician but that was also his job. If 'Houdini' wanted to dissect life through the lens of it's character it would devote more time to showing Houdini developing his performances and exploring his relationship with the audience. I really fail to see why this isn't more simple to comprehend. So the least interesting aspects of the film all have to do with the comical monologues Brody is given as he explains his deepest darkest fears. Frankly, they make Houdini sound pretentious and whiny. Brody does his best with them but they hurt both the pacing of the film and the audience's relationship with the character.

Unsurprisingly 'Houdini' works brilliantly when it goes into his magic acts. Brody exhibits a great starry eyed quality into his character. There's a great moment in the film when Harry talks about striving to give his audience the best and how that serves as a constant challenge to one up himself. Everything is recreated in a painstaking manner and Brody actually does a great job setting up these tricks. He is brilliant at making us interested.

The second half which delves into his quest to debunk spiritualists is even better than the first half. It really leaves the traps of the script here and we see Houdini as a real character. Frankly, I think this is what I admired most about Houdini. Brody shows Houdini as a man in grief who wants nothing more than to be wrong and to believe in a world of the fantastic despite knowing the secrets behind every magic trick. I think a great film could just be made with this aspect of Houdini's life because it shows Houdini for what he was best at, bending secrets. The fact that he bends secrets because he cares about people though is what makes him identifiable.

'Houdini' is goofy but really in the scope of things it is harmless and Adrien Brody is able to do some good things with the role. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in Harry Houdini and wants a somewhat fresh looking take. It's not terrible but serviceable. At the very most Adrien Brody wants to have fun even if it is ridiculous and Harry Houdini is remembered because of his ability to bring fun to the audiences.
4 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A fabulous ride.
kitellis-9812113 July 2018
All in all there is little to fault in this stylish and well-made biopic.

With heavily stylised visuals, anachronistic music, and very modern editing, this film presents its period storyline with a mind to 21st century audiences. But unlike most others that attempt this potentially hazardous balancing act, "Houdini" neatly pulls it off without injury.

I watched it on Amazon as one long and very satisfying film, but apparently it was originally presented as a two-part miniseries, which I can't imagine helped the pacing or momentum. I'm glad Amazon joined the two halves together into a complete and uninterrupted telling of Houdini's life, with a beginning, middle, and end.

Technically it is excellent. The performances are all top-rate. Adrian Brody shines in the title role, despite looking nothing like the real Harry Houdini.

The story unfolds in a mostly linear way, but there are several flashback sequences which interrupt the narrative somewhat, despite giving important and relevant insights. I'd have, perhaps, preferred it to be more linear.

Also, while I'm busy nit-picking, having already been aware of the circumstances of Houdini's death before watching, I was at first rather pleased with the early foreshadowing "moments" that this film inserted. But then it inserted them again and again. And then again. And then a few more times. Two or three evenly-spaced foreshadowing moments would have worked well. But by the time of his eventual death, I felt that I'd already seen it a dozen times. But this minor niggle did not mar an otherwise gripping and relentlessly enjoyable ride

Liberties may have been taken with a few historical facts, but that is neatly covered by the opening caption, which playfully encourages the viewer to separate fact from fiction.

Having thoroughly enjoyed the ride, I'll definitely be returning for more.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
for inner child
Kirpianuscus24 June 2017
each child has his heroes. this film reminds this fact. and gives the clothes to it. the CSI technology, the impeccable performance of Adrien Brody, the metamorphose of a great illusionist in a symbol of his time, the science as tool of magic, the force of details, the personal life of a pure showman who is more than piece of entertainment but a kind of revolutionary are good points of a series who propose a new and convincing perspective about the history more than portrait of an artist. and this is the source of seduction of "Houdini". the courage, and the art to transform well known information in a dramatic and impressive show about the grow up of a modern hero. so, in great measure, a series for the inner child.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Quick Cuts Too Flashy.. but...
bcastgrl10 September 2014
Warning: Spoilers
HOUDINI, The latest biopic from History Channel is engaging, insightful, and filled with commendable acting (how could it not be with Oscar Winner Brody at the helm?) However, the attempt to update a centuries-old story with trendy quick cuts, and CSI/NCIS/SVU-like sound effects is just plain annoying, and may make you want this mini-series' to disappear forever.

Adrien Brody turns in a fine performance as the famed magician, playing him as a complicated figure, as charming with audiences as he is jealous, and egotistical behind the curtain. You know... human.

Kristen Connolly is great as Bess Houdini, illustrating how frustrating it must have been to always be in the wings, both on stage and around Houdini's ever-present mother. However, I'd have liked to see more of the suffragette struggle since Bess' inequality personified what the 19th Amendment, THE hot topic at the time, was all about in the first place.

The many "how'd they do that?" trick reveals were entertaining, if not a buzz kill. And while they may take the pizazz out of magic as we know it, they also serve to show Houdini as a clever man willing to push his body to the limit for entertainment value.

Leave it to History Channel for blowing the lid off of myths that have surrounded Houdini's story for years. Previous biopics have played with the facts far too long for dramatic effect.

HOUDINI is entertaining enough, and the two night length was just right. Sadly, the production effects and other digital wizardry will date this mini-series long before the Great Houdini's legend escapes our cultural legacy.
3 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Was great entertainment
dovesrun11 September 2014
This movie may not have been exactly historically correct, but I really don't care. I enjoyed finding out how Houdini did his illusions. That was very interesting. Also, while I know the real Houdini was not nearly as good looking as Adrien Brody, I thought Brody did an excellent job. The fact that he is very handsome and somewhat sexy didn't hurt. The show was extremely entertaining and I look forward to a DVD. I would watch it again. It was not touted to be an accurate documentary. The History channel had another show that did that. This was a "movie" portraying Houdini's life. I enjoyed every minute of it. I was not interested in learning all about the real Houdini, I could get books if I wanted to do that. The movie did a good enough job.
4 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed