To kick off September, thought I would share a Pharmaceutical Calendar Ad from 1977, I recently acquired about The Perilous Escape From the “Spanish Maiden”:
Imagine a man stepping into an upright casket lined with sharp steel spikes and having it firmly shut and padlocked. Houdini escaped from such a device without the slightest injury and without leaving a clue as to how he did it.
The casket, painted with a resemblance of a Spanish maiden, was modeled after an instrument of torture used during the Spanish Inquisition. Spikes lined the interior in such a way that the body was trapped, but not pierced. It was hinged on one side, and on the other there were padlocks.
[it then goes on to explain in detail how he escaped]
You gotta love the image of Houdini they used from “The Grim Game”.
These clips come from History’s Lost and Found (episode #22) which showcased Houdini’s Water Torture Cell and first aired in 2000. In the introductory montage we see a collection of Houdini footage. Much of it is familiar — but then pops up three (two) distinct fragments from, yes, The Grim Game!
So where did these fragments come from, and how much footage was trimmed away? Is it possible these full sequences exist somewhere outside the infamous Larry Weeks print?
The show credits still and stock footage from all the segments together, but within the list we see a handful of suspects who could have supplied the clips: Houdini Historical Society, Sidney H. Radner Collection, Houdini Tribute.com, John Gaughan, Morris Young Collection, Archive Film and Photos, Budget Films/eFootage, Hot Shots Cool Cuts, Steamline Stock Footage, and WPA Film Library.
Okay, fess up! Who (else) is squatting on footage from The Grim Game?
Photos & Footage on the 1998 documentary are credited as follows:
So based on the documentary credits, that narrows these Grim Game footage fragments to:
Sidney H. Radner Collection Houdini Historical Center, Appleton WI Outgamie County Historical Society
Hot Shots/Cool Cuts
That said, as far as I can tell these fragments still exist (as flipped or reversed images) on the Larry Weeks (now TCM) print.
Anyhow, enjoy the documentary that includes some interesting comments from the late great Ken Silverman:
One of the stunts he done was stand on top of Bi-plane and jump into Lake Michigan handcuffed. (18:04-18:08)
Ruptured appendix caused peritonitis to set in. Peritonitis comes from bacterium and appendicitis comes from the bacterium and he couldn’t have got that from a punch in the stomach so he must have had it before. (20:17- 20:24)
In 2015, TCM aired the restoration of The Grim Game on October 18th.
The first airing at 8:00 PM (ET) was the new Brane Zivkovic musical ensemble score.
The second airing at 11:45 PM (ET) was the new Steve Sterner piano score (which included a Main theme, Love theme, Villain theme and Servant theme).
Steve Sterner The Grim Game Main theme Copyright 2015 Steve Sterner All Rights Reserved
Well what was the music like in 1919? Below is the Musical Synopsis from the 1919 Press Book for “The Grim Game”.
Unfortunately, a recording of this music played on the piano does not currently exist. That said, I was able to track down the original 1911 sheet music, Premier Amour, by Andre Benoist that was used as the theme for The Grim Game in 1919:
The following is a snippet from an article by B.G. Henne that appeared on January 23, 2015
“It’s probably a good thing that Weeks waited so long to part with the film, if he handed over the reels in the ‘80s when TCM was bonkers for colorizing everything, it could have wound up looking like this:”
Click link below to read full article and see full still in color
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
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.
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.
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.
Below are two great vintage 1944 motion picture First Day Covers with add-on cachets for Houdini’s movies, The Grim Game and Terror Island. These items recently sold individually on eBay for $15.50 and $15.55 respectively. Congratulations to the winners!
Grim Game FDC:
MAGICIAN HARRY KELLAR VISITING HARRY HOUDINI AND DIRECTOR IRVIN WILLAT ON THE SET OF “THE GRIM GAME.” [Note: Arthur Moses owns the original photograph which I was lucky enough to see.]
FREEMASONS: Harry Houdini was a member of St. Cecile Lodge, New York.
He became a Shriner in New York’s Mecca Shrine in October 1926.
Harry Kellar was made a Mason May 1875 in Lodge Fraternidad y Homa at Peltas, Brazil.
Received the Royal Arch Degree on the Isle of Mauritius.
1850 received the Scottish Rite Degrees in Triple Esperance Lodge, Port Luis, Mauritius, and the 33 AASR in New York City.
FIRST DAY OF ISSUE, FIRST DAY COVER, FDOI
PENCIL ADDRESS ERASED, SEALED
POSTMARKED: NEW YORK, NY, OCTOBER 31, 1944
Terror Island FDC:
Harry starred in TERROR ISLAND (1920) and several other films produced by others and himself.
He has a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame and a place in motion picture history.
Hollywood Flashback: In 1919, Houdini Was Seduced by Movie Magic – Hollywood Reporter
The famed magician, whose life was the inspiration behind 2013’s ‘Now You See Me’ and its sequel (out June 10), made his Hollywood debut in silent action films such as ‘The Grim Game’ and ‘Terror Island.’
Click the Hollywood reporter link below to read the rest of the story:
On June 25th, Potter&Potter will be having a Golden Age of Magic Posters the Nielsen Collection auction that will include a beautiful one sheet Grim Game Poster (See Lot 120 Description below). For more details on other items being offered and a downloadable catalog, you can go to Potter and Potter website: http://www.potterauctions.com/.
The estimate for the Grim Game poster is $40,000/60,000.
Lot 120 Description:
Houdini, Harry (Ehrich Weisz). Houdini In The Grim Game. Cleveland: Morgan Litho., 1919. Iconic one-sheet poster for this silent film presented by Jesse Lasky, and featuring the world’s most famous magician and escape artist, pictured at the center of the image in a straight jacket and being held back by a group of eight men, including police and hospital attendants. 28 x 41″. Minor restoration at old folds and a few tiny chips. A-. Scarce. Houdini starred in this stunt and escape-filled film opposite Ann Forrest, who played his fiancée. As Harvey Hanford, Houdini is framed for murder and falsely imprisoned, but escapes his jail cell and pursues the men who framed him and also kidnapped his fiancée. The film concludes with a mid-air collision of two airplanes, which was unplanned at the time of the filming, but was later worked in to the script to utilize footage of the crash, an event that had, until that time, never been captured on film. The movie was directed by Irvin Willat and featured a story by John Grey and Arthur Reeve. Produced by Famous Players-Lasky, it was distributed by Paramount Artcraft Pictures. All posters advertising this film are scarce and desireable, as they combine the allure of the silent film era with the unforgettable and iconic escapes that made Houdini the most famous magician of the century.
The one-sheet for Houdini’s The Grim Game sold for $24,000 (including buyer’s premium) with just one bid! It fell well below the estimate.