Review of The Man From Beyond for the UK

It is not widely known that The Man From Beyond (TMFB) was released in the UK shortly after Houdini’s untimely death in 1926.

In a 2015 post, our friend, John Cox asked the question:

So who released the film in the UK in ’26, I wonder?

I shared with John that TMFB (5,700 feet) was reviewed and picked up by a London-based company (i.e., Unity Film Company) at a Trade Show on May 20, 1926 for release on Dec. 27, 1926.

[1927 The Kinematograph Year Book]

What I didn’t share was the actual review (page 64 below) from the May 20th, 1926 Kinematograph Weekly No. 986 that I obtained in 2015 from the British Film Institute:

There is another mention on page 62 in the same 1926 Kinematograph issue:

“Films at a Glance – Continued.”

Title and Renter:  MAN FROM BEYOND, THE  (Unity)

Running Time and Certificate: 60 min ()

Stars: Houdini

Type: Sensational drama

Remarks: Poorly constructed return-from-the dead story with rescue from waterfall climax.

Box-Office Angle: Mediocre popular book-ing.

Do you agree with the review?

“The Man From Beyond” and a Personal Appearance of another Escape Artist

Harry Houdini was known to make personal appearances at his movies.

While visiting Fred Pittella in NYC, he shared evidence of another Escape Artist making a personal appearance at one of his movies.  Fred graciously allowed me to share this evidence below:

In 1922 on Friday, Saturday & Sunday, December 15th, 16th, & 17th,  The Man From Beyond”was playing at the Stadium Theatre located at Third Ave & 119th street, New York.  As an added attraction in conjunction with Harry Houdini’s master production “The Man From Beyond”, the escape artist Genesta was to make a personal appearance and escape from a barrel of water:

Genesta and TMFB Pittella Collection A

Credit: Fred Pittella Collection

Wizard of wonders in his sensational and death-defying escape from a barrel of water. After being securely handcuffed by a committee selected from our audience and locked in a barrel.  This is positively the most sensational death-defying stunt ever attempted.  Bring your own padlock.  Inspect barrel in front of theatre. This barrel is the exact duplicate of the infamous torture barrel used in Russia by the Bolshevicks which many of the royalty were tortured and put to death.  To see it is to believe it.

Genesta Pittella Collection A

Credit: Fred Pittella Collection

Special Thanks to Fred Pittella!

FP_LOGO_0009_small_bannerPlease check out Fred Pittella’s excellent website, Houdini and Escapes Museum to see lots of photos of Fred’s magnificent Houdini and restraints collection.

UPDATE:

Nevertheless, to get his picture talked about he made personal appearances with it for about three weeks…

He also created four touring companies, hoping to gain a national audience for The Man From Beyond by presenting it in connection with “The Houdini Wonder Show of 1922.” One or two well-known magicians or escape artists headed each unit, notably Frederick Eugene Powell…

Houdini appeared at the opening show of each unit, and made it clear that these were his shows, combined with his movie. [Silverman]

 

Happy Valentine’s Day to all the Ladies

Below are five romantic photos of Houdini with his leading ladies from his movies. Can you guess which movie each is from and who the lady is?

HVD Leading Lady Image 1a

Image 1 – courtesy of Harry Ransom Center

HVD Leading Lady Image 2

Image 2 – courtesy of Wild About Houdini

 

HVD Leading Lady Image 3

Image 3 – courtesy of Wild About Houdini

 

HVD Leading Lady Image 4

Image 4 – courtesy of Random Treasures

 

HVD Leady Lady Image 5

Image 5 – courtesy of Harry Ransom Center

Each correct movie is worth one point and each correct lady is worth another point.

Click here for the answers.

How many did you get correct?

Hopefully you got lucky and scored a perfect 10.

And enjoyed the images and had a Great Valentine’s Day!

 

Drifting Away From Vaudeville

airplane-collision-in-the-clouds

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

Source:

  • 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:

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

What is the Story of this Martinka Magic Token

Martinka Token (Front)

Martinka Token (Back)My son wanted to surprise me with something Houdini related for Christmas.  He was intrigued by a listing for a magic token from a shop, that Houdini was once president and owner [1919].  He did some more research, found 3 other Martinka magic tokens for sale and got the best looking one which turned out to be quite unique:

Martinka issued the first palming tokens in the late 19 century.  Not gimmick’d or gaffed in any way, it was designed simply to be easier to palm and show up well when performing.  Over the years they issued multiple designs (LT, AH L/LT, D/D, V/V, Dash 1/Dash 2) and sizes in various materials (Gold, Brass, Copper, White Metal, Aluminum).  You can determine the design by what letter the right hand is below. In the D design, the hand is below the D of DECIPI, but a little to the left.

This half dollar D/D design shows a conjurer (Hermann?) standing astride the top of the world, producing a profusion of objects from the end of the wand in his right hand and from a top hat in his left hand, while around the edge of the field is the legend “MUNDUS VULT DECIPI: DECIPIATUR”.  The reverse bears the same design. The Latin phrase translates as: “The world wants to be deceived: let it be deceived”.

This brass coin covered with a thin gold wash was issued by Martinka. It is quite scarce and has a story attached to it:

The gold washed tokens appear to have been produced for, or at least used by a professional magician, Frederick Eugene Powell. Since they were the D/D type they were made later than the others.  One of the tricks in which Powell used them employed a picture frame suspended in the air by cords.  The frame had glass front and back and nothing between.  Five gold tokens held in his hands vanished one at a time, immediately reappearing visibly between the sheets of glass. FWK, Jr. acquired this frame and it still had three of the gold pieces in it.  Edgar Heyl acquired his example from the late Dr. Eugene L. Bulson of Fort Wayne.  Many years ago Dr. Bulson bought three of them in mint condition from the Martinkas, so it is obvious this issue could also be considered a commercial production. [The Martinka Magic Tokens by Edgar Heyl and F. William Kuethe, Jr.]

Houdini performed Robert Houdin’s Crystal Casket, in which five coins disappeared from Houdini’s hands and reappeared one at a time, with loud “clinks”, in a small glass casket which was hanging above the stage. [Culliton]

What was Houdini’s relationship to Frederick Eugene Powell:

  • Frederick Eugene Powell was a good friend of Houdini [Kalush]
  • In 1922, Powell headed one of the four touring companies for “The Houdini Wonder Show of 1922” which was presented in connection with Houdini’s film “The Man From Beyond” [Silverman]
  • After Houdini’s death, the Houdini Fraudulent Spirit Medium Lecture was continued by Frederick Eugene Powell. [Sparks]

I hope you liked the story of this Martinka Magic Token; I know I enjoyed receiving it and researching it.

Update:  Another F. E. Powell gold-plated Martinka token in similar condition just sold February 8th 2014 at Potter & Potter Auctions for $360.00 (includes 20% premium).

 

What’s Wrong with these Pictures?

 

GG DVD ARTWORKLet’s start with the obvious.  The DVD artwork for both pictures is from a poster from “The Grim Game”.

GG Posters

Now, let’s briefly discuss the two films that Houdini wrote and produced.

The film (“The Man From Beyond”) had its faults, but critics agreed that one scene alone was worth the price of admission.  “It has a whale of a punch,” Variety said. “Houdini does a sensational rescue of the heroine in the Niagara Falls rapids, and it has a kick that would carry any audience”.

Regrettably there was nothing in “Haldane of the Secret Service” to match the Niagara Falls rescue in “The Man From Beyond” or the fantastic escapes of his earliest films (e.g. “The Grim Game”).  He (Houdini) read his reviews with dismay. He compared his cost sheets with his income statements. Sadly, he removed his pending productions from the active file and brought his career as a picture producer to an abrupt finish. [Houdini, The Untold Story by Milbourne Christopher]