The Miracle Factory Master Mystery Contents plus Escapes


As promised, I am going to review each incomplete version of the Mastery Mystery (i.e., The Miracle Factory, Kino, McIlhany and UCLA FTVA) that I have seen and go over what pieces they contain and don’t contain.  This post will focus on the Master Mystery Escapes and The Miracle Factory DVD released in 2015.

The back of the DVD case states:

Nearly three hours long, this compilation includes the surviving footage of The Master Mystery, although several gaps in the story remain.

Well, the 1918 original was slightly longer than 5.5 hours and the Kino DVD that was released in 2008 was almost 4 hours.  Let’s take a closer look at The Miracle Factory DVD and compare it to Kino and the 1918 original release.

The DVD starts with a special escapes feature:

“For the viewing convenience of magicians and magic historians, we have compiled all of Houdini’s escape segments from The Master Mystery here.”

It includes:

  • Lockpicking, “Call the police! Break down the door!”
  • Handcuff release, “As acting head of the Corporation, I demand this man’s arrest!”
  • Straitjacket escape – Bound in a straitjacket brought by an ambulance which came to remove Locke to the sanitarium
  • Underwater crate [with most of the underwater footage] – Locke goes to an old warehouse dock, where he is abducted by emissaries of the automation, shackled, put in a crate, and thrown off a dock.
  • Electric chair – Locke is strapped into the electric chair which means certain death.
  • Barbed wire and acid, “In the path of deadly acid.”
  • Elevator rope escape, Quentin Locke, at the command of the Automation, is overcome, bound, and thrown beneath a descending elevator, while Eva has been abducted.
  • Strangulation torture – Eva and Locke are led into a trap at the Chinese Curio Shop, and are attacked by the automation and its emissaries. Locke is strapped to a wall.
  • Fishing net – Quentin Locke while in pursuit of Paul is overpowered by the emissaries of the Automation and entangled in the meshes of a fishing net — while Eva is left helpless before the advance of the Automation.
  • Noose – Zita and Locke rush to the hypnotist to save Eva, and Locke finds himself trapped in a noose, suspended over a fire trap.

After the escapes feature, the movie is introduced with the following three Title Cards before it starts:

The Master Mystery

B.A. Rolfe Productions

Octagon Films



“Aside from his 1901 Pathe short filmed in Paris, the 1919 15-episode serial The Master Mystery truly introduced Harry Houdini as a prominent film star.  Portions of the series have been lost.  The following include the majority of the remaining footage.  We hope you will ignore the lapses in the storyline and still enjoy this historic series. “







Episode 1 matches Kino and is complete except for a couple of close-up shots (e.g., note written to Locke and a note written to Brent) that appear in the original; Episode 2 is missing footage from Kino including HH tied to wall with rope and shows Baker Dock scene with Packing Case as opposed to Baker Dock scene where he is thrown in the river with chains.  However the Packing Case scene does contain underwater footage which is missing on Kino. The Packing Case scene is not supposed to appear until the end of Episode 4 and the beginning of Episode 5.  So Episodes 3 thru 6 are missing with the exception of some of the packing case escape footage which is followed by some very brief footage of HH being put in electric chair. Episode 7 matches Kino and is complete except for a few missing original title cards throughout the episode. Episode 8 appears complete and matches Kino. Episode 9 is missing a lot of footage and spoken title cards that appears at the beginning of Kino. Episode 10 is almost complete except for the end and Episode 11 is completely missing just like on Kino. Episode 12 starts with the fishing net sequence, and appears to be complete and match Kino.  The DVD ends after episode 12 with the statement: “End of existing footage”.  Episodes 13, 14 and 15 are missing.

So the major contribution of the Miracle Factory was the Special Escapes-Only Feature that gathered the footage of Houdini’s Master Mystery escapes into an introductory section for the viewing convenience of magicians and historians.  However, it is missing two and half hours of the story which include the following escapes:

  • Tied to wall escape – While unconscious, emissaries lift his limp body and tie him to nails in the wall then they manacle his hands and ankles.
  • Baker’s Dock chain escape – Locke is thrown from the dock by henchmen while bound and shackled in chains.
  • Jail escape – Emissary caught and sent to jail. Per Locke’s plan to get to the automation at the acid mills, he occupies the next cell, stares at keyhole and you see an x-ray view of the lock as his mind causes the bolt to open and he switches places and clothes with the emissary who is about to be freed.
  • Vat of acid escape- Locke is 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.
  • Diving Suit escape – Locke decides that one of the patents, for a diving suit, must be tested. He knows that if anything happens to his airline, it would mean certain death.  The automation sends one of his emissaries underwater to cut Locke’s airline.
  • Water Tower Escape – Deluxe Dora and her henchmen take Locke to the roof, and tie him to the bottom of a water tower. When water begins pouring in, it looks like certain death.
  • Sofa escape – Locke bound and placed under the coverings of a sofa

Next week, we take a closer look at the Kino Master Mystery Contents


I have finally seen all of The Master Mystery


I have seen many different (incomplete) versions of The Master Mystery including:

  • The Miracle Factory version on DVD
  • Kino International version on DVD
  • William H. McIlhany Special Edition version on VHS
  • UCLA FTVA version on VHS

And I am happy to report that among these incomplete versions, we can now piece together a complete 15 episode Master Mystery serial as it first appeared in 1918.

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

Coming up in separate posts, I will review each version of the Master Mystery (i.e., The Miracle Factory, Kino, McIlhany and UCLA FTVA) and go over what pieces they contain and don’t contain.

How Many Times did Houdini Escape from a Giant Football?

Football 001Since today is Super Bowl Sunday, I thought I would share the two times that I am aware of that Houdini escaped from a Giant Football:

During an engagement at the Keith’s Theatre, a Boston sporting goods manufacturer had challenged Houdini to escape from a giant football.  The magician was stuffed inside and a chain was passed through the eyelets and padlocked.  After twelve minutes, Houdini reappeared, somewhat disheveled; but the ball appeared untouched, the stitching was intact.   Years later, he repeated the stunt in Pittsburgh and had the entire University of Pennsylvania football squad carry the huge pigskin up the aisle and onto the stage.

The University of Pennsylvania football team was matched against Houdini on the stage of Keith’s Chestnut Street Theater in Philadelphia on January 4, 1907.  The entire squad, in gridiron uniform, jogged down the aisle with a giant football (manufactured by the A.J. Reach Company) and lifted it up behind the footlights.  They then manacled Houdini, bent him double to fit inside the opening of the ball.  The handcuff king couldn’t turn around inside the football. The pigskin was laced with a brass chain and padlocked.  The ball and Houdini was rolled into his curtained cabinet. Harry was out in thirty-four minutes.


  • Houdini The Key by Culliton
  • Houdini The Untold Story by Christopher


The following cut sequence is from the blue pages of the 1st PRELIMINARY GREEN April 23, 1952 Philip Yordan script for the Tony Curtis Houdini movie:


On the stage at Keith’s theatre, eleven members of the Yale Football Team, wearing the football uniforms of the period, cart a giant leather football on to the stage.

H, clad only in bathing trunks and securely manacled, is put into the football through the opened lacing, then the players lace it up tightly.

A screen is put around the football.  The football players ring themselves around the screen to make sure no outside assistance can be given H in his escape.

The orchestra plays the Yale Alma Mater Song.  The audience is full of college students.

Suddenly H, wearing a Yale football uniform, comes running down the aisle from the back of the theatre, waving a pair of Yale pennants, to the amazement of the team and the audience.

On stage the football players pull away the screen revealing that the football is still tightly laced.

The audience goes wild.