Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan



As is typical for biopics like this, they get the broad strokes more or less right, but fudge the details for dramatic reasons. Like … Bess was not a wide-eyed innocent, she was a fellow carny. Many of his escapes from jails were the result of simple bribery, or were set-ups of one sort or another. Though he may have begun visiting “mediums” in hopes of contacting his beloved mother, I don’t think he held to that hope after exposing everyone he visited as a fraud. He never sought the “dangerous” secret of dematerialization, nor was the Chinese Water Torture Chamber a jinx of any sort, nor was it particularly dangerous. He had done it frequently, and many people do it today. Most importantly, he didn’t die onstage in the water torture. But what the heck. You don’t go to the movies to learn history … or at least you shouldn’t. All that woo-woo spookiness makes for a pretty good drama. Tony Curtis, though a lot taller and much more handsome than Houdini, does a great job.