I’d like to watch Houdini do one or two of his stunts in this serial you’re making, I remarked to the representative of the B.A. Rolfe Company. Maybe I could convince the fans that it’s all on the level, as you say, and not trick photography – if you can convince me. Seeing is believing, you know.
You’re on! was the reply.
A few days later I was summoned to New Rochelle, where “The Master Mystery” was being produced, and was taken into the yard, where the big tank, shown below had been built.
This said my guide, is where we’re doing the under-water stuff. Houdini is to go down into this tank in a diving suit. Another diver, who plays the villain, will also descend. Under water, the two will meet. The villain, with a knife which he carries, will cut Houdini’s life line and air pipe. No other diver ever escaped death under such conditions. Yet Houdini ——————- Here he comes!
We clankered up onto the platform which had been built around the tank.
Before the large pate glass in the front of the tank, the cameras had been placed, while at the smaller windows, like the one marked “5” in the picture, powerful lights were turned on, illuminating the entire interior of the tank.
At last all was ready. The two actors descended by means of ladders. All we could see on top were the seething bubbles which rose from the exhaust valves of the diving suits. Suddenly the director, watching through the glass, fired a revolver. One tug, and up came Houdini’s air pipe and life line — completely severed!
A few seconds of anxious waiting followed. Then up popped Houdini, clad only in a bathing suit. How he got out from that cumbersome suit I do not know. Perhaps the picture will show, as it was all recorded. It was from the film itself that the two small cuts showing Houdini under water and the struggle were taken.
Want to go this afternoon and see him thrown into the river, bound hand and foot? My guide asked.
I’ll take your word for it this time, and use a picture of it, if you’ll send me one. He did so, and here it is.
Source: Picture Play Magazine March 1919