Houdini (1953)

Houdini (1953), directed by George Marshall.

A much fictionalized biography of the magician, emphasizing his escape routines and romance with his wife, who is also his part-time assistant.

It's not a great film, but gets better toward the end, with Houdini's obsession for contacting the afterlife and his tragic drive to keep doing more extreme stunts. There are some good scenes, as in the tense moments when he is trapped under the ice of a frozen river.

The more important attraction is the combination of Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, newly married when this was made. When he puts in her in a box and saws her in half, she says: "I expected something different on my wedding night."

Curtis is pretty for a man, and quite fit, but Leigh, with that face, figure and voice: I'm always staggered by her beauty. She's also remarkable for the directors she worked with: Fred Zinnemann, Anthony Mann, Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, John Frankenheimer.

I'd like to say Curtis and Leigh have great chemistry, but they're not Bogart & Bacall, just a good fit as a couple.

Technicolor, needs restoration. Edith Head costumes.

The DVD has closed caption subtitles, inaccessible to most in the HDMI age.