Terror Island – Not a Serial! (Ad 1 of 7)

Last week we looked at full color advertising inserts that were published in the magic magazine M-U-M to accompany the release of The Grim Game.

This week, I thought we look at the full color advertising inserts that were published in Motion Picture News to accompany the release of Terror Island in April 1920.

Each Day this week (Sunday to Saturday), I will post a different color advertisement for Terror Island – Not a Serial!


Motion Picture News April 3, 1920

Tomorrow, we will see the flip side of this insert.

The Grim Game, Magicians and the Magic of Hollywood Cinema


GG Ad Page 1

Magicians interest in the movies was spurred by special promotion of The Grim Game for the magic community.  Full-color four-page advertising inserts were published in the magic magazine M-U-M to accompany the release of The Grim Game [August 1919 pages 17-20 and September 1919 pages 29-32].  A special screening of the film was arranged for the Society of American Magicians (SAM), which gave The Grim Game its official endorsement and pledged that its members would help promote the film around the country [Sphinx September 1919 page 162].

GG Ad Page 2 and 3

At the 1919 SAM screening of The Grim Game, Thurston gave a speech in which he pronounced the film “one of the most wonderful things I have ever seen” and called it Houdini’s “greatest work” [quoted in Sphinx September 1919 page 162].

GG Ad Page 4

Houdini followed up The Grim Game with a second feature for Famous Players-Lasky entitled Terror Island. There was also some spectacular ads that accompanied the release of Terror Island in April 1920, that we will take a look at next week.


  • Magicians and the Magic of Hollywood Cinema during the 1920s by Matthew Solomon

Drifting Away From Vaudeville


amazing-under-water-scenesBefore relocating to Hollywood to fulfill a contract with Famous Players-Lasky, Houdini wrote: “I am drifting away from vaudeville, and with the exception of my European dates have no plans re[garding] a return

Scenes-From-Photoplays-30Scenes-From-Photoplays-31Once he had filled these European dates [Sailed Dec 30, 1919 from New York City to Britain] and returned to the United States [July 12, 1920], Houdini stopped performing in theatres for more than a year-and-a-half while attempting to launch his own independent film production company, the Houdini Picture Corporation


  • Magicians and the Magic of Hollywood Cinema during the 1920s by Matthew Solomon
  • The Career of Ehrich Weiss by Kenneth Silverman pages 243, 262-263

Houdini Goes Over The Edge

This is positively a photographic reproduction of a genuine frame cut-out from the film, The Man From Beyond. MFB_exhibitorstrad00newy_1138 [Exhibitor’s Trade Review Volume 11 Number 17]

These are stunt dummies going over the falls, possibly shot as part of an alternative ending in case of disaster.

In the actual ending of the movie, the shots of the canoe going over the falls are dummy-free.

The Man From Beyond is a great heart-throb, mystery, love story in which Houdini is shown going to the edge of Niagara Falls to rescue the girl.

Related Posts with some amazing photos from the John C. Hinson Collection and Kevin Connolly Collection:

First Biopic to Acknowledge Film Career

Was Tony Curtis’ 1953 Houdini or Adrien Brody’s 2014 Houdini miniseries the first biopic to acknowledge Houdini’s film career? Let’s look at the evidence: GG6

The Tony Curtis film originally was going to feature a recreation of Houdini’s death defying plane to plane mid-air transfer and wing walk from his 1919 film, The Grim Game. This is significant in that all the movies so far made about Houdini’s life and career have ignored his stint as a silent movie star in Hollywood. But here is evidence that the 1953 film did not ignore this aspect of Houdini’s life. It just wound up on the cutting room floor.  My question is, where is this footage today?  [John Cox]

In 2012, I went in search of the lost plane to plane transfer and discovered some interesting things about the Tony Curtis movie. Click on the link above.GG5 Well in the Houdini miniseries, the footage did not end up on the cutting room floor.  We see Houdini (Adrien Brody) and Bess (Kristen Connolly) sitting in a theater watching actual clips from the 1919 movie, The Grim Game, along with some shots of Adrien Brody hanging from a rope of one of the planes. Brody as HH in Grim Game Brody makes the following comment: “I’m on the ground the whole time; it’s fake.  It’s all Hollywood”.   Connolly says: “Look at the bright side Harry, it’s good publicity for the real thing”. Brody as HH in Hollywood As it turns out, Houdini was on the ground the whole time, while his stunt double, Lieutenant Robert E. Kennedy, hung from a rope and attempted to perform the plane-to plane descent before the planes collided in mid-air and came crashing down to the ground. 1920 03 20 The Picture Show Image 1The 1953 Houdini movie did not ignore this aspect of Houdini’s career, but the 2014 History’s Houdini miniseries is the first to actually portray it on the final product.

Burton King to be Houdini’s Director

First Production Which Will Be Made Is From An Original Story

HH Burton King exhibitorsherald12exhi_0_0281

The choice of director for Houdini in his first picture for his own producing company, Houdini Picture Corporation, has fallen to Burton King, a director with a noteworthy record.

Mr. King began directing ten years ago when, for Thomas H. Ince, he produced, “The Battle of Gettysburg,” “A Southern Cinderella,” “The Pride of the South” and a number of other Ince pictures. Since then he has directed for Famous Players, Metro, World Film Corporation, Vitagraph, Universal, Lubin, Selig, B.A. Rolfe and for his own company, Burton King Production.

Among his better known later day pictures are “The Spell of the Yukon,” “The Last Battalion,” “The Master Mystery,” in which Houdini made his film debut; “The Soul of a Magdalene” and “Silence Sellers”

His first picture for the Houdini Picture Corporation will be made from an original story by Houdini bearing the working title of “The Far North.” [AKA The Man From Beyond]

Source: April 16, 1921 Exhibitor’s Herald

Atlantic City Miracle Fallacy


Conan Doyle (Far Left) and Family, Houdini (Center) and Lady Doyle (Far Right)

Conan Doyle (Far Left) and Family, Houdini Center and Lady Doyle (Far Right)

On June 17, 1922, Houdini and Bess joined Conan Doyle and his family for a weekend break at the Ambassador Hotel in Atlantic City, a then popular family resort some 125 miles down the coast from New York.

During the weekend, Lady Doyle gave Houdini a private sitting, where she endeavored to obtain for him a message from his beloved mother, by means of automatic writing.

According to Sir Arthur’s account, Houdini himself requested this sitting; according to Houdini’s, it was volunteered by Lady Doyle. Whatever may be the truth concerning this, the fact remains that Lady Doyle gave Houdini a sitting, in which “messages” were obtained, claiming to come from his deceased, or, as he would say, “sainted” mother.

What mistake(s) did Lady Doyle make when she supposedly contacted Houdini’s mother during their Atlantic City séance in 1922?

A. Lady Doyle made the sign of the Cross

B. Lady Doyle wrote in English

C. Lady Doyle failed to mention the fact that it was Houdini’s mother’s birthday

D. A and B

E. A, B and C

Let’s look at the evidence for the answer.

Below is a reproduction of the first two pages of the “automatic message written by Lady Doyle at the sitting which she gave for Houdini in an effort to communicate with his mother that clearly shows the sign of the Cross and that she wrote in English.

Lady Doyle Automatic Message First two pages cropped

When, he saw the Cross on the top of the paper, and the lengthy message in English which followed, he at once became convinced, in his own mind, that it certainly did not emanate from his mother, but rather from the subconsciousness of Lady Doyle herself.

That’s two mistakes in Houdini’s mind, but what about not mentioning mama’s birthday. Describing the Atlantic City “miracle” in A Magician among the Spirits (1924), Houdini said:

“I especially wanted to speak to my Mother, because that day, June 17, 1922 was her birthday.  If it had been my Dear Mother’s Spirit communicating a message, she knowing her birthday was my most holy holiday, surely would have commented on it.”

Sounds reasonable, except for the fact that the séance took place on the eighteenth of the month and her birthday was really on June 16th, so the answer is D (Lady Doyle made the sign of the Cross and wrote in English).

grave marker cecilia weiss


  • A Magician Among The Spirits (1924)
  • Houdini and Conan Doyle (1932)