Book The Houdini Serial that was shown 99 years ago

In my last 2 posts (Nov 4 and Nov 11), I shared two color ads announcing different release dates for the Houdini Serial that premiered 99 years ago today:

What I didn’t share was the reverse side of these ads telling you to book the Houdini Serial (The Master Mystery):

I also didn’t share that 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.

Houdini Serial to be released on Armistice Day

The Houdini Serial, The Master Mystery, to be released on November 11th (Armistice Day) as opposed to November 4th, according to the following ad (Oct 26) from Motion Picture News:

As it turned out, the first showing of The Master Mystery was November 18th, 1918 in Boston.

That said, production plans have been shattered by the epidemic and the war.  Peace means profits according to the following ads (Nov 16, Nov 30) from Motion Picture News:

Armistice Day (which coincides with Remembrance Day and Veterans Day, public holidays) is commemorated every year on 11 November.  Please honor and remember those who have served in the Armed Forces.

Houdini Historic Film Footage on Two Tapes

If you don’t own the Miracle Factory and Kino DVDs on Houdini, you will definitely want to check out the Houdini Historical Film footage (taken from high quality 35MM nitrate originals which no longer exist) found on the following two tapes:

“The Master Mystery” Give-Away Booklet

While going through my closet the other day, I came across this remarkable 6 page give-away booklet to promote “The Master Mystery”:

Front and Back Cover

Pages 1 and 2

Pages 3 and 4

Pages 5 and 6

I picked this up for 50 cents when I visited the Houdini Historical Center in 1998.

While this is not an original, Mega Houdini collector Kevin Connolly does own an original which he shared last year with members of his Conjuring History Facebook group that made my jaw drop.

 

Catchy Novelty Used For Houdini Serial

 According to the Exhibitors Herald and Motography May 3, 1919:

An advertising novelty that has caught the fancy of the theatre-goer and has therefore been the means of gaining no little amount of attention in behalf of the production it exploits is the invisible ink herald manufactured as an accessory to advertise the appearance of Houdini, the handcuff king, in “The Master Mystery,” the super-serial produced by  B.A. Rolfe for Octagon Films, Inc.

A sheet of paper but four or five inches in size, this novelty herald contains no visible ink advertising copy beyond the question, “Can you solve the mystery?” printed at the top of the sheet, and a footnote printed at the bottom instructing the processor to hold the sheet over the heat for a short while.  When these instructions are carried out the heat brings to the surface a scene from “The Master Mystery”, picturing Houdini caught in the coils of the villians of the story, together with the following reading matter: “How does he escape? See Houdini in B. A. Rolfe’s super-serial, ‘The Master Mystery.’”

On August 12, 2016 Chuck Romano did an excellent blog, Houdini – Movie Marketing – Part 2, where he noted:

  • Motion Pictures News also mentioned this clever novelty
  • Collectors can only dream if one of these rare pieces of Houdini ephemera still exists

At the time, I commented that A Master Mystery Hold-to-Light Mystery sheet does exist.  One (Lot 131) sold at Potter & Potter Auction on April 9th 2016 Auction for $325.

131. Houdini, Harry. The Master Mystery Hold-to-Light Mystery Sheet. New York: B.A. Rolfe, [1919]. Promotional novelty advertisement (4 1/8″ x 5 1/4”) for the Houdini serial, revealing an illustration of Houdini held captive by two men, upside-down in chains, and captioned “How Does He Escape?” when held over a heat source. Creases, corner tear upper left.

Well, apparently another one of these rare pieces (seen at top of this post) has surfaced and was part of a lot of Houdini Memorabilia on eBay that sold for $45.  Congratulations to the winner.

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

boston_post_mon__nov_18__1918_-1

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.

the_public_ledger_wed__feb_2__1921_the_public_ledger_thu__mar_10__1921_-1the_public_ledger_wed__jan_19__1921_

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.

318-1 wmc318-20 wmc318-5 wmc

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

motionpictnew212unse_0418_0419

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

airplane-collision-in-the-cloudsfilmfun346356lesl_0374

Is 2017, the year of Terror Island?

amazing-under-water-scenesterror-island-motion-picture-news-5-2 (1)

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