Mystery Pictures Corporation

93 Years Ago Today, December 27, 1921, Houdini became the figurehead of The Mystery Pictures Corporation.  Note:  This is not the Houdini Picture Corporation (HPC), nor the Film Developing Corporation (FDC) which wishes you all A Merry Christmas and A Happy and Prosperous New Year

from Exhibitors Trade Review magazine

FDC: Houdini invested in the FDC in 1916.  It was founded upon a novel invention: a method of automated film processing, developed by Gustav Dietz. Offices were opened on Broadway, and a factory in Hoboken, New Jersey.  Houdini’s initial investment was $4,900 but the company was never able to turn a profit.  In April, 1918, Houdini fired Dietz and attempted to improve upon the mechanism himself, assigning his brother, Theodore W. Hardeen, to run the company, all to no avail.

HPC Stock Certificate dated June 1921

HPC: It seemed only natural that, owning a film processing company, he should make his own films, rather than relying on the resources and expertise of a motion picture studio. He formed the Houdini Picture Corporation (HPC) in early in 1921. By October of 1921, seven months after incorporating HPC, Houdini had wrapped up two full-length feature films, The Man From Beyond and Haldane.

Even though The Moving Picture World had announced that the HPC would produce “four feature productions a year, in which Houdini will be the star,” the filmmakers must have quickly realized how impossible it would be to live up to this ambition.  So Houdini sought other ways to keep the FDC busy, and to shore up his film-making empire.

The Mystery Pictures Corporation was formed.

During his tours through Europe, he had discovered that there were many high-quality films there that might never be exported to the U.S.  What they lacked in popular American stars, they made up for in production values.  Harry Houdini was the President.  Hardeen was vice president and Harry H. Poppe served as Secretary.

Soul of Bronze PosterFilms imported for distribution included: 1918 French Film L’Ame du bronze (Soul of Bronze), Les Contes de mille et une nuits (A Thousand and One Nights), and 1919 Italian Film II mistero di Osiris (The Mystery of the Jewel).  Note: The Mystery of the Jewel was renamed and released as Ashes of Passion.

The Mystery of the Jewel

Realizing that producing his own features (as the Houdini Picture Corporation) and acquiring foreign films for distribution (as the Mystery Pictures Corporation) were losing propositions, Houdini finally brought his commercial film career to a close.


  • Houdini The Movie Star Film Notes by Bret Wood
  • The Secret Life of Houdini by William Kalush and Larry Sloman

A Look back at 2014

2014 was an amazing year for Harry Houdini Circumstantial Evidence (HHCE) for a number of reasons:
William Bennet the MirrorRep and HHStarted the year off with a post revealing a name for the representative from the Mirror.

That led to the folks at Handcuffs.Org doing a full scale search for the man.  Click on the link below and type William Bennett [aka William A Bennet and William Gray] in the Search for box and hit Go!.

Campbell and Grey Cheapside Handcuff PhotosSpeaking of handcuffs, I did a number of blogs on handcuffs in 2014:

Attended a number of excellent Houdini events with fellow Houdini “Nuts”:

haunted houdini 1 (1)Malibu Playhouse Flim Flam

Discovered and revealed several rare photos of Houdini in Hollywood:TMPW June 14 1919 WH HHHH Human Chain

Discovered and shared some fascinating information on Whitehead:whitehead

Set the record straight on some fallacies WRT Houdini:houdini smoking

Shared some incredible Grim Game ads, photos, and not widely known info about Houdini and the movie:airplane-collision-in-the-clouds

Shared some incredible Master Mystery ads, images, and not widely known info about Houdini and the movie:filmfun346356lesl_0374

Shared some incredible Terror Island ads and not widely known info about Houdini and the movie:amazing-under-water-scenes

Uncovered a 1926 railroad time table that may show the details of Houdini’s overnight train ride from Montreal to Detroit on October 23-24:1926 TimeTable Montreal to Detroit

Help unfold the Double Fold Milk Can Mystery:HofF Milk June 1980

Mentioned numerous times by John Cox at his Wild About Harry (Houdini) blog and Facebook pages:

Last but not least, my son got married in 2014 to a beautiful girl.

I am truly blessed and look forward to 2015, when hopefully we all get to see the Grim Game:

298-27 Sphinx Sept 15, 1919 v18n7 (L302-27)


Enjoy the rest of 2014 and see you next year.

LINK: The Grim Game Review by Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz

Grim Game Lobby Card eBayOur friends, Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz of The Houdini Museum in Scranton, PA did a nice review of The Grim Game that they were fortunate enough to see several times in NYC, when they were living and performing in New York City, shown by collector Larry Weeks.

MUM New York, August 1919 page 20Check it out:

You will also find some other nice Grim Game links at their website:

Is 2015 the year of The Grim Game?

Related Posts:

Random Treasures Inaugural Auction was a Grim Game

Last Week, Random Treasures International had their inaugural auction that had approximately 25 Houdini items up for bid. Twelve of the items got passed on without a bid, including a Buried Alive Poster for $13,000. The starting bids were awfully high on most items IMHO.  The items that did sell were the photos and movie related items and they went between $200 and $410 w/o auction fees, despite many of them being cropped on the web-page.  I bid on one item and won, or at least I thought I did, but when I checked the site later, there was no confirmation.  I sent an email via LiveAuctioneers to Random Treasures International requesting status, but never heard anything one way or another. I guess it wasn’t meant to be.  That said, there were three Grim Game stills for sale, L302-54 (Lot 80), L302-14 (Lot 82) and L302-42 (Lot 84) which I would like to comment on:


To read about the events that led up to Houdini going over the wall in the movie, see the following post: Over the Edge With Death Below and Imprisonment Above!


L302-54To read about why Houdini is being visited at the jail cell in the movie, see the following post: THE GRIM GAME Cinema Trade Promotion (Stills 298-54 and 298-63)



And keep reading this blog to find out what the scene in still L302-42 is all about:

As Houdini creeps toward the door of the Lodge, the unknown assailant seizes a bolo from the wall and hides under the cot.  Houdini cautiously, closes the door behind him and strikes a match.  He throws the burning match on the floor, then turns and starts towards Ethel’s unconscious form.  He steps in his tracks as the burning match which he dropped near the cot is put out by a hand from under the cot.  Houdini is standing very close to the cot when he sees this.

We see Houdini’s boots standing near the cot. The bolo swings viciously toward them and they crumble.

We then see that Houdini, has swung himself to the rafter, leaving the boots on the floor.  He swings his legs over the rafter, reaches down and lifts the cot from over his man.  In the light we recognize Allison.

Houdini drops from the rafter and a terrific fight ensues between Allison armed with the bolo and Houdini.  [Paraphrased from Paramount Files at Margaret Herrick Library]