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Adrien Brody stars as ‘Houdini’ on History Channel

A number of feature films and TV movies have been made about the Great Houdini over the years. The History Channel’s “Houdiniminiseries of the extraordinary escape artist premiered Monday night with its first installment. The second and final part will air on Tuesday.

Harry Houdini (1874–1926), Stone walls and chains do not make a prison --- for Houdini.
Stanmar via Wikimedia Commons

If you have seen films or documentaries on Houdini, be prepared to learn more. There’s a pivotal scene in “Houdini” when it flashes back to his childhood as Erik Weisz, the young apprentice. His mentor tells the young boy magicians are great liars. The miniseries is based on fact and fiction. The viewer must discern what is true.

Oscar-winning actor Adrien Brody is brilliant as Harry Houdini in every way. It opens with his outdoor stunt, a la David Blaine style by today’s standards, where he’s about to jump off a bridge in the dead of winter. Houdini jumps and lands perfectly into a small opening in the icy waters. He makes his escape underwater and then swims to the surface.

In this first installment you learn about his childhood in Appleton, Wisconsin, and how he got started first as a magician, then later evolving to the legendary escape artist. Many of the feats performed have you on the edge of your seat. Many, if not all, of the Houdini biopics make you wonder how did he escape. As mentioned earlier, be prepared to get enlightened.

This miniseries effortlessly flows from one storyline to the next without confusion. Jim, Houdini’s assistant, gives viewers comic relief moments. The actress portraying Bess, Houdini’s wife and onstage assistant, takes her acting a bit over the top with those crazy-looking eyes. She looks a lot like Jennifer Lawrence.

Tuesday night will feature Houdini’s latter years while exposing spiritual mediums. In part one it ends with his bridge jumping stunt from a different perspective. This time as Houdini is swimming to the surface he cannot find the small opening.