Houdini films

'Handcuff King' back in action on Wilton screen

September 20. 2017 1:31PM

WILTON — He reigned for decades as the legendary “Handcuff King,” famous for daring and impossible escapes staged around the world.

But Harry Houdini also had a brief movie career, starring in a series of silent adventure films that showed off his athletic prowess and his talent for illusion, stunts and escape.

Two of his surviving films will be screened, with musical accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis, at 4:30 p.m. Sunday at the Town Hall Theatre, 40 Main St. A $5 donation is suggested at the door. For more information, visit www.wiltontownhalltheatre.com.

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 after being submerged for long periods of time. (Existing copies of the film are missing about 20 minutes of footage but the story is still easy to follow.)

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 he’s 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.

Houdini died in 1926, at 52, of peritonitis following a burst appendix. In a posthumous ceremony on Oct. 31, 1975, he was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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