Houdini is one of those Hollywood Technicolor classics that is not a classic because of its accuracy, but rather because of its chutzpah and its ability to sensationalize as well as, or better than, the showman Harry Houdini himself.
Harry Houdini – born Ehrich Weiss on March 24, 1874 in Budapest, Hungary – was a magician/escapologist and stunt performer, as well as a skeptic, investigator of spiritualists, film producer, and actor. He forever changed the world of magic and escape performance. He began his career at the age of 10 as a trapeze artist and soon moved to magic.
As the movie Houdini begins, we find Harry (Tony Curtis) working in dime museums and sideshows and even doubling as a "Wild Man" at a circus. It is here that he meets his future wife Bess (Janet Leigh) who is not impressed with him at all. Soon, through persistence, he wins her heart and they are married.
Because of his lack of success early on, Bess persuades Harry to take a job in a safe factory where he learns about making safes and working with locks. He eventually gets fired for locking himself in a safe and trying to escape. While participating in an escape contest, he wins a round trip ticket to Europe, which he and Bess exchange for two one-way tickets. It is here that he really learns his showmanship.
Houdini takes Harry and Bess from their meeting through Houdini's fictional death scene; it never happened like they show in the movie, but hey, this is Hollywood. But he did die and it is suspected from physical abuses to his body that caused the problems and a lack of medical attention when the problems surfaced probably expedited his demise.
This is a movie that always fascinated me since I first saw on TV it as a kid. There is something about the Technicolor look that made this kind of movie brighter and more exciting to watch. Tony Curtis plays Houdini to the hilt. It is his over the top performance that makes this movie work. Janet Leigh is very good as well, but she seems a bit complain-y at times.
The biggest downer to this is that there are no extras other than the original movie trailer. Also the Technicolor is not the best rendition as it was when Gone With The Wind went through its restoration, but it still brings back fond memories from childhood.
That said, I still have to recommend this movie for the whole family.