Stephen Forrester Lecture – Houdini in the Movies


Join Magician/Historian/Magic Collector Stephen Forrester as he explains in detail about Harry Houdini and his Motion Picture company. Steven will talk about Houdini’s Movies and what they were all about.


Stephen Forrester is a professional magician and locksmith as well as a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians. Mr.Forrester is also the author of 3 books on magic and has over 60 magazine articles in print.




Houdini promoted his films zealously with personal appearances. A subtitle in Terror Island assured audiences that Houdini “actually performed the amazing feats here pictured”.

Adventures Of Houdini In Paris (1908) – 6-9 minutes. Cinema Lux. Houdini escapes from a strait jacket in prison & then jumps into the Seine handcuffed.

The Master Mystery (1919) – 238 minutes. Octagon Film Corp. 15 part serial written by Arthur B. Reve & John Grey. The first screen portrayal of a robot. Justice department agent Quentin Locke must investigate a powerful cartel protected by a robot (“The Automaton”) using a gas weapon (“The Madagascar Madness”). In this film Houdini was hung upside down over a cauldron of bubbling acid.

The Grim Game (1919) – 50 min. Famous Players Lansky Corp. Two airplanes collide & become entangled in mid air then plummet 4,000 feet to the ground while a man is hanging from a rope from one of the airplanes. Houdini offered $1,000 to anyone who could prove the collision was not authentic. Director Irvin Willat edited the film to make it appear that Houdini had come away from the collision unscathed! Juggler Larry Weeks only surviving copy from the Houdini estate in 1947 was restored by Turner Classic Movies & premiered on Mar. 29 at Hollywoods Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

Deep Sea Loot – Listed on Houdini’s 1922 Boy’s Cinema card – but never made!

Terror Island (1920) – 5 to 7 Reels existing. Paramount Pictures. Written by Reeve & Grey. Inventor Harry Harper (Houdini) travels to the South Seas where there is buried treasure belonging to a girl whose father is being held captive by cannibals until she returns with a pearl that belongs to one of their idols. In this film Houdini freed himself from a torture rack devised by bloodthirsty natives – while hanging from his neck and rescued the heroine from a locked safe at the bottom of the sea. Houdini made $2,500 per week.

The Soul Of Bronze (1921) – picked up by Houdini for US distribution. Other than intertitles, Houdini didn’t star in or write or have any artistic involvement with this 1918 French film.

The Man From Beyond (1922) – 74 min. Houdini Picture Corp. Written & Directed by Houdini. Ship’s First Mate Howard Hillary (Houdini) was discovered frozen solid for a 100 years in a cake of ice in the Arctic. Survivors of an expedition miraculously reanimate him and bring him home to New York.  The father of their niece Felice (same name as Houdini’s fiancee) has gone missing and her husband to be has Hillary committed to an asylum because he thinks she is the reincarnation of his fiancee. Felice’s fiancee tries to acquire her inheritance & frame Hillary for murder. After a deadly clifftop battle, he saves Felice from the brink of Niagra Falls.

Haldane Of The Secret Service (1923) – 84 min. In 7 Reels. Houdini Picture Corp. Heath Haldane (Houdini) tracks down a vicious gang of counterfeiters who murdered his detective father. He looks for vengeance in the dark alleys of New York’s China Town. In this film gangsters threw him, tied and manacled, into a river, but he escaped and brought them to justice.

  In the last 2 movies, he invested his own funds; forming the Houdini Picture Corporation and ended up losing some half-million dollars. Houdini biographer Ken Silverman admitted: “…his ‘acting’ consist’s of 3 expressions: pucker-lipped flirtatiousness, open-eyed surprise, and brow-knitted distress.