Houdini's Movie Career
A Scene From Haldane and the Secret Service
Houdini made his first movie for the French movie company, Pathé in 1901. Titled Merveilleux Exploits du Célébre Houdini à Paris, it was used to showcase Houdini's famous escapes, including his straitjacket escape. Houdini returned to film in 1916 when he served as a special-effects consultant on the Pathé thriller, The Mysteries of Myra. While his magic career soared, Houdini signed a contract with B.F. Rolfe of Octagon Films, in 1918, to star in a movie serial called The Master Mystery. Harry signed on to portray Quentin Locke, an undercover artist for the Justice Department, who uses his expertise as an escape artist to solve crimes. During this serial, Houdini’s character would be buried alive, tied to the bottom of an elevator shaft, suspended over boiling acid and strapped to an electric chair. The film was a success and Harry made his first Hollywood feature film, The Grim Game, in 1919. While filming an aerial stunt for The Grim Game, two biplanes collided in mid-air with a stuntman doubling as Houdini dangling by a rope from one of the planes. Publicity promoted this "caught on film" moment, claiming it was Houdini himself dangling from the plane.