Adrien Brody in “Houdini”; photo courtesy of the History Channel
“Houdini” (History Channel)
Adrien Brody is in the spotlight for two nights when the History Channel presents “Houdini,” a mini-series presented September 1 and 2 at 9PM. This is an in depth look at the life and times of Harry Houdini, the renowned escape artist who stunned the world in the early 1920’s. This television production gives us more details about Houdini’s life and helps audiences to understand the drive within him to be the best in his field.
The movie shows through flashbacks Houdini’s early life when he was known as Eric Weiss and was the son of a local Rabbi in Wisconsin. He adored his mother (Eszler Onodi) but feared his father. To stay away from home he and his brother Dash practiced sleight of hand tricks and made a few coins from their performances before the general population. Later Eric became a magician’s apprentice and became even more adept at “magic”.
Along the way Eric, who adopted the name of Harry Houdini, met a young woman named Bess Kristen Connolly). He was immediately drawn to her and they married with a week of their meeting. Bess helped Harry with his act and they later hired a man named Jim Collins (Evan Jones) to also be Harry’s assistant. Jones was brilliant in creating ways for Harry to astonish his audiences.
As the movie progresses the focus turns to the secrets behind Houdini’s tricks. Although Houdini was praised as a wizard by many notable people, such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, he always said everything he did was just a trick. Still people brushed this off and accredited him with being “magical”.
Brody is totally believable as Houdini. He has the movements and the pizazz to make him a believable stage performer. Plus he has the acting chops to propel him through the dramatic and comical elements of the role. The weight of the entire production is on his shoulders and he manages to keep everything afloat for the two night period.
Connolly is also good as Bess. She is a very pretty woman but manages to let a bit of Bess’ coarseness peek through from time to time. Houdini is a bit of a prude in some ways but good old Bess is always true to herself especially when she has had a few drinks or some of her “funny” cigarettes.
The script by Nicholas Meyer holds up throughout the two evenings. It gives a depth to Houdini’s story that makes the length worthwhile. He also incorporates some little known facts of Houdini’s life and includes a possible incestuous relationship between him and his mother. This is only hinted at in a very broad sense but it is there.
Along with the particular charm of the story you get the excitement of some of Houdini’s most death defying escapes. If you are not already familiar with how the story is going to end these daredevil escapes give real suspense to the show.
Adrien Brody is not the most charismatic actor but he has found a role that displays his talents to their fullest. That means you should enjoy watching “Houdini” from beginning to end.