Before we came to learn that the words “amazing” and “genius” were born to be applied to internet videos of cats wielding lightsabers, there was Harry Houdini, the world’s greatest showman, illusionist and escape artist. Born in 1874, Houdini (who was born Ehrich Weiss) captivated audiences all over the world with his act, daring death to take a swipe at him while he performed escapes like the Giant Milk Can Escape and the Upside Down Water Torture Cell.
Off the stage, Houdini nurtured a fascination with aviation, dabbled in the early days of film and proved himself to be both a media darling and an enemy to spiritualists until his death in 1926. All of this adds up to an incredibly interesting life that has been brought to the screen on numerous occasions over the years, most recently in the 1997 TV movie and the 2007 film Death Defying Acts starring Guy Pearce.
And now The History Channel is going to air a two-part miniseries in September simply titled Houdini. As you can probably see from the above trailer, it looks like the kind of awards-bait movie that is usually reserved for the big screen or pay cable.
Starring Oscar winner Adrien Brody as Houdini and Kristen Connolly (Cabin in the Woods, House of Cards) as his wife Bess, Houdini seems to tap into into Harry Houdini’s passion (thanks in large part to Brody, who looks like he’s in top-form), the man’s extensive crusade against those who said that they could talk to the dead and, what looks like, an obsession with topping himself while growing his legend and testing his limitations.
It also seems like the story may peer beyond Houdini’s life, which makes me wonder if director Uli Edel and writer Nicholas Meyer will delve extensively into the story of the seances that Harry asked Bess to hold after his death (perhaps in an effort to prove that if the world’s greatest escape artist couldn’t break free from the chains of the afterlife, then it’s no possible).
Here’s the synopsis for Houdini:
Before David Blaine and David Copperfield, there was one man whose name was synonymous with being the master of illusion and escape – Harry Houdini. ‘Houdini’ follows the man behind the magic as he finds fame, engages in espionage, battles spiritualists and encounters the greatest names of the era, from U.S. presidents to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Grigori Rasputin. The drama will chronicle the life of a man who can defy death through his stunts, his visions and his mastery of illusion.
With all that in mind, it makes one wonder if two nights will be enough to delve as deeply into Houdini’s life as might be required to be considered a definitive look back at the man.
Then again, The History Channel has worked hard to grow its original programming reputation and they clearly put a lot of resources and care into getting this right, so hopefully Houdini will shock and amaze.
Houdini will air in two parts on September 1st and 2nd @9pm on The History Channel.