How is that for a headline?! And it's TRUE, by the way. Yes, there suddenly is a lot of controversy surrounding the Houdini Miniseries by the HISTORY Channel, because the star of the movie, Adrien Brody has let it be known they reveal how Houdini did his tricks.
"I DO TRICKS NO ONE CAN EXPLAIN" -Houdini
That's from Houdini's own mouth. You might be able to figure out one thing or two, but he used multiple methods. So my issue with the idea they are going to reveal his tricks is, how exactly? You can't really do it. Harry Handcuff Houdini didn't have one
You see, unless Houdini had only ONE method for escaping, then I don't see how you can actually reveal anything. You can reveal one technique, maybe two, but that's about it. And a skilled escape artist like Houdini was known for revealing these techniques as the methods used by his imitators and then using different techniques himself. This is how he stayed one step ahead of his competitors.
Hollywood sadly, has tried again and again to reveal the secrets to Houdini's tricks thinking that this is what audiences want to see. But Hollywood, HELLO, you're wrong again. Houdini was more than his tricks. His life story is what is fascinating, and the magic and escapes are part of that, but the secrets to the tricks are irrelevant. In fact, what you do by exposing the methods is cheapen the mystery that surrounds the man. What you should focus on is the mind of the man who could come up with countless methods to present his unbelievable escapes. Competitors and imitators would try and expose Houdini in the press and yet Houdini would go out and fool people with the very same effects and generally make his competition look foolish. Why? Because the real secret to his tricks was HOUDINI the man. HE was what audiences clamored to see. His charisma, his magnetism, his unfathomable presentations. This is why he could present an effect as small as the East Indian Needle Trick on the largest stages and blow away audiences. This is why he could walk through a brick wall and leave people speechless. Because HE was the MAGIC, he surpassed the tricks and became larger than life regardless of what he was doing. Further proof of that can be found in the number of magicians who present his effects and yet have not come anywhere close to attaining the fame and fortune that Houdini did. Read what Houdini himself had to say on this exact topic...
"Mere novelty and mastery are not enough- the emphatic personal equation must be there- the audience must be impressed not only with the wonder of the illusion, but also with the charm or novelty of the performer's personality." Houdini from The Billboard, Oct 1, 1921*
In the big picture, I don't think it really hurts or helps to expose Houdini's methods. As a magician,
As long as the movie's story is compelling, I don't think lay audiences will retain the secrets to the methods because at the end of the day, they are only important to magicians. And we'll just keep creating new methods if older ones are revealed....this is the same thing HOUDINI did and would still do today! And now, I'll let Houdini have the final word on his secrets...
"Some Say I do it this way, others say I do it that way, but I say I do it the other way." HOUDINI The Pittsburgh Leader, March 1, 1908*
*Though both of these quotes are from different periodicals, I found them both referenced in the fantastic book HOUDINI-The Key by Patrick Culliton, and wanted to be sure to credit his book as the true source in my case.