See Houdini Escape while underwater on his Birthday!

H A P P Y  1 4 3 r d  B I R T H D A Y ! ! !

On Houdini’s Birthday in 1919, you could see him escape from shackles while under water in the Third Episode of “Master Mystery”.  Today, all you can see is Kino’s George Eastman House footage which is incomplete and suffers from severe nitrate damage.

That said, we know what Harry is wishing for on his birthday:

“Please release a complete version of “The Master Mystery” with all of its episodes complete” [Image:Missing scene from “Terror Island”]

We know Master Mystery is possible, not so sure about Terror Island:

May HH wish come true.  HBD HH!

Related:

Ottawa Manager Uses Horse Race to Boost “The Master Mystery”

According to the Exhibitors Herald and Motography Canadian Film News:

Manager Archie Laurie of the Strand Theatre, Ottawa, put over a neat stunt on the occasion of the presentation of the first episode of “The Master Mystery.”  Laurie seized the opportunity to secure considerable publicity by reason of the fact that a horse named “Houdini” won a race at New Orleans on the first day of the run, Monday, March 10 [1919].  The horse was a 10 to 1 shot, which fact made the boost more interesting.  He got in touch with the sporting editor of The Ottawa Journal, who readily consented to feature the winning of this horse in the report of the races.  The newspaperman also referred to the horse as “The Master Mystery” and then used a portion of his comment column to tell how a local race track devotee had cleaned up a pile of money by noting that Houdini was being featured at the local theatre on the same date as the horse was scheduled to run at Jefferson Park track down South.  As a result of this publicity, all the sport followers around town were talking about the hunch which the Strand Theatre had provided.

Laurie clipped the race report and the sport comment from the paper and placed them in a large frame in the theatre lobby.

Related:

The Master Mystery Book Display Aids Serial Exploitation

Book Display Aids Serial Exploitation

A source of advertising which is creating a great volume of public interest in “The Master Mystery,” B.A. Rolfe’s super-serial starring Houdini, produced for Octagon Films, Inc., is the method employed in exploiting the novelization of the story published by Grosset & Dunlap.  The book was written by Arthur B. Reeve and John W. Grey after the scenario created by Arthur B. Reeve and Chas. A. Logue.

Through its distributing agencies, Grosset & Dunlap is placing the novelization of “The Master Mystery” in the book stores of every city where the picture is being shown.  Each shipment of books made by Grosset & Dunlap is accompanied by a suggestion for window display consisting of an attractively arranged lay-out of the books, embellished by the use of a quantity of 11×14 and 22×28 lobby photos.

So that booksellers will co-operate with the exhibitor and make the display at a time mutually beneficial, Grossman & Dunlap does not furnish the lobby photograph embellishments, but advises each of their customers to apply to the nearest theatre showing the Houdini serial for them.  As a consequence, the exhibitor is brought into actual contact with the book dealer with the result that both co-operate to the benefit of all concerned.

[Exhibitors Herald and Motography March 29, 1919]

A Look Back at 2016, Part 1 – The Year of The Master Mystery

2016 was an amazing year for Harry Houdini Circumstantial Evidence (HHCE) because it was the year of the Master Mystery (MM).

master mystery episodes 1 to 9master mystery episodes 10 to 15

Part I will cover movie highlights from HHCE and Part II will cover the other highlights from HHCE.

The year started out with a post about the Master Mystery opening in the State of New York the week of January 6, 1919 and that today footage is missing

TMM Kino

Well, it became my mission to find the missing footage and as much information as I could about the movie. 

So what did HHCE find?

Found out that the Master Mystery, opened in other states (e.g., Massachusetts, Pennsylvania) before New York, although it was shown at a special trade show on November 7, 1918 at the Strand Theatre in New York City, before it officially premiered in Boston on November 18, 1918

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Found a DVD that contained a movie short from the Master Mystery.

HH Seances Sonoma Documentary Special Features DVD back

Found evidence of four films based on The Master Mystery.  Reviewed them all and launched a series of posts that took a close look at each one and end with a post that summed up the mystery of all of these movies.

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Found that several versions of the 1918 serial exist on DVD, VHS, and in film archives. Reviewed them all and launched a series of posts that took a close look at each version, clarifying exactly what is missing and what is included.

TheMiracleFactoryMasterMysteryDVDTMM Kino imageMaster Mystery 1918 VHS McIlhany 1998 001

Although all versions by themselves are incomplete, we can now piece together a complete 15-episode Master Mystery serial as it first appeared in 1918, and I can now say that I have seen all of the Master Mystery.

In addition to the Master Mystery, HHCE undertook the task of sharing/restoring what is missing from Houdini’s Terror Island.

terror card disclaimer

While Terror Island is missing two full reels (3 & 4), HHCE (in 2016) just tackled restoring the missing Reel 3 scenes by using photos and script excerpts.

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Hopefully one day, we will get to see the complete Terror Island

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2015 was the year of The Grim Game and 2016 the year of The Master Mystery.

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Is 2017, the year of Terror Island?

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OTHER 2016 HHCE MOVIE RELATED POSTS:

Terror Island:

TI Lobby Card of 318-24 StillTI Posters 001Catalina Rescue from Tao p153 Top

Terror Island/Grim Game:

GG FDCTI FDC

The Grim Game:

GG 24 sheet Moving Picture World p 1327 June 5 1920Lot 120 PP June 25

Master Mystery:

MotionPictureNewsJul-Aug1918Reversemm-e3-postermotionpicturenew18moti_7_0678

You now have the oppportunity to play him in your house

In my last post, I shared a color ad for The Master Mystery, breaking all house records at the St. James Theatre in Boston where it premiered:

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I thought, I would share the flip-side of the ad that gives theatres the opportunity to play him in their house:

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These are just a couple of a large collection of color ads that were used to try get theatres to book The Master Mystery.

Premiere of The Master Mystery in Boston

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The Master Mystery was released on the open market plan in November of 1918 and made its premier 98 years ago today [November 18th, 1918] in the Saint James Theatre in Boston.

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On November 17th, the Boston Post reported that:

“Houdini,” the famous handcuff king, will appear in person on the stage of the St. James Theatre tomorrow afternoon and evening for the purpose of introducing his new serial, “The Master Mystery,” which will be shown for the first time.  Mr. Houdini will be accompanied by his leading lady, Marguerite Marsh.

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On, November 18th, the Boston Post reported that:

Harry Houdini is a visitor to town. The famous handcuff king, who for a number of years appeared as headliner on the vaudeville stage, arrived in Boston late last night. He was accompanied by his manager.  Houdini who has escaped from many of the most noted prisons of the world and has baffled the cleverest police officials in this and other countries, made the visit for the purpose of seeing the opening installment of “The Master Mystery,” at the St. James Theatre.

According to a Motion Picture News ad, all house records were broken at the St. James Theatre:

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Stone Lithograph and Missing Scene from Episode Three of The Master Mystery

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The beautiful Otis Litho-one sheet poster (Lot 95) above just sold at the November 2016 Haversat & Ewing Auction for $28,080. It came from the collection of Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz, which I was fortunate enough to see in person. Congratulations to the winner!

The Episode 3 scene depicted in the poster is missing from the current Kino DVD release of the film.  Below is a description from my personal notes that may help put the scene in context:

Zita Dane tells Herbert Balcom “Before Brent went mad he made a list of inventions which we have suppressed.”  Herbert says “That list would put me behind bars.”

Locke [Houdini] has combo to safe that Eva is about to open when Herbert and Zita walk in.

32935_medEva opens safe and Herbert oversees numbers and writes them down.  Eva hands Herbert a Letter:

Board of Directors

Internantional Patents, Inc

New York City.

 

Gentlemen:

In view of the Government’s anti-trust investigation I have prepared this list of inventions we have suppressed.  I think we should discuss at our annual meeting the advisability of surrendering our rights to these inventions, no matter what may happen to the corporations we have been protecting.

 

Very truly yours,

Peter Brent

President

Herbert says “Should that letter reach the Department of Justice we are ruined.”

Eva puts letter and money back in safe and everyone leaves except Locke and Eva.

Locke [Houdini] tells Eva, “This electrical device will notify me, as well as hold anyone who attempts to open the safe.  In this way I hope to discover who is in the automation.”

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In fact most of Episode 3 is missing from the Kino DVD release, but is available on the print at the UCLA Film Archives:

Balcom and Brent, owners of International Patents, a firm that has made a fortune by keeping patented inventions off the market, quarrel, the outcome of which leaves Brent stricken by the “Madagascar (or laughing) madness.” A giant automaton whose secret retreat is under the Brent house is responsible for the crimes committed and Quentin Locke, the newly engaged head of the laboratories endeavors to aid Eva, daughter of Brent, in solving the mystery. In attempting to find an antidote to restore Eva’s father to sanity, Locke has been thrown from a dock by the emissaries of the automaton. Miraculously he escapes. One of the emissaries is captured and put in jail, and Locke impersonates him in order to get to the automaton at the acid mills. Eva is coerced into going to the acid mills to meet Locke, but instead is abducted by the automaton. Locke is left suspended over a seething vat of acid, with Eva unwittingly the key to his demise should she open the door to where Locke has been shackled.

Related:

Lost Houdini Film(s) Based on The Master Mystery – Mystery Solved

As promised, here is a post that sums up the mystery of all of the movies, we discussed in the previous four posts:

Well, it is pretty obvious, that The Master Mystery was re-cut into these four new attractions, which according to John Cox at Wild About Houdini was a practice that went on in the days of silent films.

With that said, I believe the following ad that appeared in the Moving Picture World on January 8, 1921 and January 15, 1921 pretty much sums up the mystery of the four movies:

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Now, we just need to find prints of these pirated movies.

Possibly Depicting a Scene From The Master Mystery?

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The very nice publicity illustration above just sold ($1600) at the Potter & Potter Auction for the Magic Collection of David Baldwin.  Congratulations to the winner!

Below is the auction description:

LOT 0288 DETAILS

[Houdini, Harry (Ehrich Weiss)] Ogle, R.B. Original Publicity Illustration of Houdini. Circa 1920s. Pen and ink on paper, possibly depicting a scene from The Master Mystery (1920), in which Houdini is shown climbing through an open window into a bedroom at night and bearing down on a man wielding a dagger. “Kinema Comic” annotated in pencil in lower margin, with scattered printer’s annotations and stamps. Artist’s name identified on verso. 10 x 13″. Old central vertical fold.

The description mentions that it is “Possibly Depicting a Scene from The Master Mystery”.

Well, we know the artist R.B. Ogle has created Aeroplane sketches for Kinema Comic that depict scenes from The Grim Game.  The originals (seen below) are now in the Arthur Moses Collection which I was fortunate enough to see in person.

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Since I have finally seen all of The Master Mystery, plus studied the script, synopsis, and book, I feel that I am qualified to answer the question if the publicity illustration sold by Potter & Potter auction depicts a scene from The Master Mystery.  The short answer is, No.

That said, Episode 11 of The Master Mystery has an incredible scene in a deserted shack,where the Madagascan Strangler attempts to stab Houdini that I would like to describe.

The following are two title cards from Episode 11:

FOREWORD

At Paul’s instigation, Eva has

been abducted; and one of his

followers disguised as a minister,

attempts to perform a false mar-

riage ceremony.

 

—while Quentin Locke has been

bound and placed under the

coverings of a sofa, where he

is left to the tender mercies

of the Madagascan.

While Eva is being married to Paul against her will, the Madagascan Strangler thrusts a knife into the form of Locke (Houdini) laying on the sofa.  To his surprise, the Madagascan is caught at his ankles and thrown to the floor.  Houdini had shifted his position to meet the expected attack and ironically “strangles” the Madagascan Strangler.

A little later in Episode 11, they flashback and reveal exactly how Houdini caught the Madagascan off guard:

  • Houdini all tied up is seen rolling out from the sheet in the back of the sofa where he escapes his bonds.  He then rolls underneath the sofa as the Strangler approaches with the knife.

Note: This scene only appears in the movie, it does not appear in The Master Mystery Novel.

Lost Houdini Film(s) Based on The Master Mystery – The Doctor’s Vengeance

As promised in my last post, here is evidence of another one of the four films based on The Master Mystery – The Doctor’s Vengeance.

The first ads that I could find are from January, 1921:

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[The Public Ledger (Maysville, Kentucky)]

I also found some ads from March 1921:

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[Witchita Daily Times (Wichita Falls, Texas)]

May 1921 is the last time I could find an ad for the picture.

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[The Houston Post (Houston, Texas)]

Next week:

  • Lost Houdini Film(s) Based on The Master Mystery – Mystery Solved