Houdini Silent Film—Plus Music

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Arts / Sep. 7, 2017 9:06am EDT


Harry Houdini in ‘Terror Island’ (1920), part of a double feature to be shown with live music on Saturday, Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. at Brandon Town Hall and Community Center on Route 7 in Brandon. (Provided) Harry Houdini in ‘Terror Island’ (1920), part of a double feature to be shown with live music on Saturday, Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. at Brandon Town Hall and Community Center on Route 7 in Brandon. (Provided) He reigned for decades as the legendary “Handcuff King,” famous for his daring and impossible escapes staged around the world. But Harry Houdini also had a brief career in the movies, starring in a series of silent adventure films that showed off his athletic prowess as his talent for illusion, stunts, and escape.

Houdini, born Erik Weisz, was a Hungarian-born, American-Jewish illusionist and stunt performer noted for his sensational escape acts. He made only a handful of movies in the 1910s and 1920s, and much of his film work is lost. But enough of it escaped oblivion to provide a glimpse of the world-renowned escape artist at the peak of his worldwide fame. Although Houdini’s films were well-received, he eventually abandoned his movie career, preferring to concentrate on live performance.

See Houdini back on the big screen with a double feature of two of his surviving films on Saturday, Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. at Brandon Town Hall and Community Center, Route 7 in Brandon.

In “Terror Island” (1920), Houdini stars as a swashbuckling inventor who steers his high-tech submarine to a forbidden tropical isle to rescue the woman he loves. The film includes underwater sequences designed to show off Houdini’s ability to survive being submerged for long periods of time.

In “The Man From Beyond” (1922), Houdini plays a man frozen 100 years in the Arctic who returns to civilization to reclaim his reincarnated love. Once thawed out, Houdini tries to straighten out the lives of the descendants of his old friends and lost loves. The film includes a daring climax filmed at Niagara Falls.

The rarely screened Houdini films will be shown with live musical accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis of New Hampshire, regarded as one of the nation’s leading silent film musicians.

The screening is sponsored by an anonymous donor. Admission is free, with donations welcome. All proceeds support ongoing restoration of the Town Hall, which dates from 1860 and is being brought up to modern standards as funds allow.

Film Series

Other upcoming shows in this year’s Brandon silent film series include:

•Saturday, Oct. 21: Chiller Theatre, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (1920). John Barrymore plays both title roles in the original silent film adaptation of the classic novella by Robert Louis Stevenson.

For more information, visit www.brandontownhall.org. For more information on the music, visit www.jeffrapsis.com.

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