Showing posts with label The Grim Game. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Grim Game. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Grim Game - Review

I've now officially seen The Grim Game. Actually now I've watched it three times. What an interesting movie. It's always exciting seeing Houdini in action. And it's even better seeing so many of the iconic photos of him come to life. For example, I never realized that the image of him in a straitjacket on the ledge of a building was actually from this movie. It's always been an incredible photo but now I've watched the whole scene.

As a silent film, I really enjoyed The Grim Game. Some of the story descriptions however seem a bit off to me. The IMDb website says "Jailed unjustly for a murder he did not commit, a young man uses his amazing powers of escape to free himself and pursue the actual killers, who hold his fiancée captive." While this is somewhat true, the facts of how he was jailed are quite different.

Houdini plays a character called Harvey Hanford who is the star reporter for The Daily Call Newspaper. The newspaper is struggling financially, and Hanford concocts a fake story idea to drum up some interest in the paper. But along the way, his plot goes horribly wrong and the three fellows who are in co-hoots with him, basically double cross him. Part of Hanford's plan was to end up in jail and later be exhonerated. But his three accomplices realize it's a great opportunity for each of them to take advantage of the situation and pin the blame on Hanford.

There is a lot of action in this movie. Houdini does a lot of escapes in the movie too. Early in the film, some of his fellow reporters handcuff him while he is napping in the newsroom. He wakes suddenly to find himself confined, but he frees himself to their astonishment. Later in the movie he does another multi-handcuff escape and in addition frees himself from a jail cell by scaling down the wall. No safety line for ole Houdini, he's doing all his own stunts and they're quite amazing.

The one stunt he does not do is the mid-air exchange between the two airplanes. But having watched the scene and realizing that these are propeller driven planes, whoever that stuntman was, sure was brave (or crazy). The mid-air collision of the two planes was an accident that was captured on film and later incorporated into the story.

There were a few moments in the movie I especially liked. There is a scene where the  security guard for the Cameron Estate shows up with a shotgun and corner's Houdini. Then Houdini with his hands up, has a pistol pop out of his sleeve and he overtakes the guard. Pretty cool bit of sleight of gun there.

Another scene that I got a kick out of is later in the film where Houdini takes a sword away from a fellow while they're fighting and Houdini throws the sword across the room which impales itself into a wall, right next to the face of a woman. Pretty startling little effect there.

Seeing Houdini though do his escapes is the best part of the film, and these include: handcuffs, jails, straitjackets and ropes. I also enjoyed the playful quality Houdini shows on film which is quite different from the often super serious images of him in photographs. It helps to make Houdini more human. I frankly thought Houdini was a fine actor, in fact, better than the other males in the film who were prone to a lot of over-acting. Houdini came across quite natural and believable.

If you've not seen The Grim Game, you should watch for a reply by TCM. I enjoyed the second showing of the movie with the alternative soundtrack. The music fit the action much better whereas in the other score the soundtrack became repetitive and at some points worked against the movie.

The Grim Game, two thumbs up from me!

By the way, it was very cool seeing John Cox-Wild About Houdini mentioned in the Special Thanks column. Also, was glad to Dick Brookz and Dorothy Dietrich were mentioned during both showings on TCM and they also make it into the Special Thanks credits as The Houdini Museum!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Houdini the Movie Star Debuts on TCM Tonight!

How ironic is it that almost 100 years later, Houdini would be making a movie debut on television. His recently rescued and restored movie The Grim Game airs tonight on Turner Classic Movies(TCM). The story of how it was recovered and restored has been covered many times and on many websites. And, it has been shown to probably thousands of people now. It first made it's debut at the TCM Movie Festival earlier in the year. Then it was shown in various locations across the country.

A lot of magicians have seen the movie at this point, because it was shown at a major magic
convention. I however, being the recluse that I am, have not seen it. Actually, I haven't seen it mainly because my performing schedule this year has not allowed me the free time to venture out and see it. I came really close a few months ago when Dick Brooks and Dorothy Dietrich had a showing in Pennsylvania, but even that I was unable to swing. So, for me, the Magic Detective, I'll be seeing The Grim Game for the first time ever! It's pretty wild too considering one of my all time favorite Houdini posters, was actually a poster for this movie. Years ago there was a book called The World's Greatest Magicians by Hyla Clark, and within the chapter on Houdini, was this incredible full color poster of Houdini in a straitjacket, hanging upside down from a building. The colors and imagery were captivating and still are. (see image below)

Now, tonight, everyone who has access to TCM has the opportunity to see Houdini at his best. Many reviews that I've read point out that this was by far Houdini's best movie. And others make a point of saying that Houdini was actually a very good actor, contrary to what some have said about his other movies. To me, it doesn't really matter. All that matters is this chance to see Houdini in action. The mind conjures up so many images of what a person could be like when you read books about them, but to see them captured on film it adds another dimension. Yes, I have seen the other Houdini movies, and I enjoyed them all. But THIS movie, The Grim Game was the one I always wanted to see and precious little remained of it, until now.

Who do we have to thank for all this? Larry Weeks for holding on to the only surviving copy of the movie all these many years. Dick and Dorothy of the Houdini Museum for their tireless work in getting this movie back out to the public. Without their efforts, it's possible we would never see the movie. Rick Schmidlin, the restoration producer, and TCM for all their efforts behind the scenes and for bringing the movie to national prominence. There are others to thank as well, like ALL the Houdini blog writers who wrote stories of this movie and have continued to promote Houdini so many years after he passed on. And all the Houdini fans that continue to keep his spirit alive!
Thank you all!

Oct 18th, 8pm and 11:45 pm on TCM, Turner Classic Movies.

UPDATE: I can now officially say I've seen The Grim Game. Wow! What an enjoyable flicker. And the music score that some have said is repetitive, is SO REPETITIVE! Whoa! Now the next showing at 11:45pm will have a different score, so I'm going to set the DVR to record that one and watch it tomorrow. I'll put up my review of the movie once I watch the other version.
#HoudiniEffect #Houdini #TheGrimGame

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Some Grim News, But It's All Good

Sunday Night, TCM will be airing for the first time EVER, Houdini's greatest movie The Grim Game. You will be witnessing history in more ways than one. Of course, the first showing on TV is history making in itself. From what I understand the first showing at 8pm will have the same score used in the previous viewings of the movie this year. That score was done by Brane Zivkovic under the supervision of Rick Schmidlin, the restoration producer. However, the second viewing at 11:45pm, will contain a new score done by Steve Sterner. Mr. Sterner is known as The Piano Man of the Silent Screen. Why? Read on.

Apparently, the one complaint with the early viewings, was that the score of the movie was a bit repetitive. This was first brought up by Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brooks during an early version of the restoration. They made suggestions but apparently were ignored.

During the original showing in Hollywood, the praise for the movie was universal, and the one negative point was the repetitive score, which most agreed was very good at times, but needed more to it. So now, on October 18th, you get a chance to hear the first score at 8pm and then the newer score at 11:45pm. Set your DVRs it's going to be one great night for HOUDINI!

There was a lot more drama that went on behind the scenes while trying to get this movie restored. To read more about what went on, check out what Dick Brooks and Dorothy Dietrich had to say. They were instrumental in getting this movie out to the public and frankly, we would likely not be watching it at all if it were not for their efforts. They have done an incredible amount of fantastic work keeping HOUDINI's name alive and thriving into the 21st Century!

Friday, April 10, 2015

S.A.M. President HOUDINI Returns to the S.A.M.

I just saw this over at the SAM website. HOUDINI via his movie The Grim Game will be making an appearance at this years (2015) SAM National Convention in Philadelphia. They will be showing the movie during the convention and Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz will be on hand at the convention to answer questions regarding the movie.

The SAM Press Release notes that Houdini was President of the SAM when The Grim Game was made. In fact, Houdini was President of the Society right up until the time of his death. His grave even has the emblem of the Society of American Magicians as part of it's decoration.

It should be noted that this viewing is for registrants of the convention only, no outside tickets will be sold. To read the entire press release, go here...

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A Special TCM Thanks For Dorothy and Dick

I was not present at the special screening of The Grim Game last Sunday at the TCM Classic Film Festival. I was surely there in spirit however. Much has been made about how this 'lost' movie found it's way to the light of day. Frankly, it was Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz who took the initiative to get the ball rolling and thankfully helped in bringing this film to the light of day again.

In addition to all Dorothy and Dick did for The Grim Game, they were also special guests at the TCM Classic Film Festival and they gave an introduction to Houdini. Before the screening of The Grim Game, Dorothy presented a straightjacket escape and did a card routine using one of Houdini's actual vests. It set the mood for what was about to happen and the folks at the TCM Classic Film Festival were thrilled. They sent Dorothy and Dick a very glowing letter of thanks, and D&D shared it with me to share with you all.