Harry Houdini: The Man from Beyond

Continuing our exploration of silent films, a few days ago, Clementine and I went to the library and checked out Harry Houdini’s 1922 film The Man From Beyond. As someone who has always been fascinated by Houdini’s preoccupation with the after-world, I found it particularly interesting. In the film, which Houdini is credited with having written, he plays Howard Hillary, a man who, after being frozen in a block of arctic ice for 100 years, is discovered, thawed back to the living, and reintroduced to civilization. It’s a lovely little story about the strength of love and its ability to transcend time. (Hillary, when he comes back into the world, meets a woman identical in every way to his long lost love, Felice, whom he died trying to rescue.) At any rate, I found it interesting to catch a glimpse into Houdini’s mind, as his thoughts on life after death and the paranormal were crystalizing. It was the first of only two films that he made for the Houdini Motion Picture Corporation, and, I believe, the only one that he himself wrote. Here, for those of you who are interested, is a quick clip from the film. It wasn’t one of my favorite scenes, but it’s probably the most famous. In it, Houdini risks his life battling Niagra Falls in order to save the life of his reincarnated love.

If I’d chosen the life of an academic, I think this is something that I could have written about at length. As I chose to be a blogger, though, I’m off to read about Phil Collins and his love of the Alamo.

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  1. Posted February 23, 2010 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

    I love silent movies and I terribly miss the films that the Michigan Theater would show on Sundays. This years ago and the gentleman who screened them passed away but man, those were some good Sundays!

  2. Posted February 23, 2010 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    After watching this clip I would love to watch the whole. It’s funny, last night I was up quite late trying to find a copy of Napoleon (1927) – I was really interested in the director’s use of three 35mm cameras tipped on their side to create a stitched DIY version of what might look like early Panovision. If you ever get your hands on a copy ;) I’d love to watch it too. You could have a movie-night.

  3. Stella
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    I was so excited to see this post. I’ve been waiting for 7 years for a post about Whodini. And then, halfway through the video, I realized that you’d tricked me. I know it’s a mean thing to say, but I hope you choke on your cereal.


  4. Stella M
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Who’d have thought that a couple years ago when I complained that there where too many Marks around here and I couldn’t keep them straight that there could ever be an issue with Stella’s? But I see there’s a new Stella who is not the old Stella. So rather than in future call myself Old Stella, (though the cap fits), I’ll go ahead and be Stella M from here out, m’kay? And I’ve been wondering recently if there aren’t several Roberts now as well…

  5. Lacy
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    It looks as if Houdini is borrowing bits from the various tellings of the legend of the white canoe/maid of the mist and casting himself as Thundergod.

  6. Posted February 24, 2010 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    I have a question. Why does Phil Collins have American Historical artifacts (that should be in a museum) in his Swiss basement?

  7. Steve Swan
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    I too am gravely disappointed by this post. I thought that it was going to be about Harry Hugeweenie, and his film “Man from Behind.”

  8. dragon
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Why does Phil Collins have American Historical artifacts (that should be in a museum) in his Swiss basement?

    I think it’s possible that he just doesn’t care anymore.

  9. Ed
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Nice one, Dragon.

    It could have used a video link, though.


  10. Erich Auerbach
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Speaking of things disappearing:


    Profound journalism going on over there.

  11. Hot Knuckle Lover
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    I had a hairy hoodeenie until I got my electric ball shaver.

  12. Stella
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry Stella M for stealing your handle. If I post again it’ll be as Whodini.

  13. Posted February 24, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    Touche Dragon. Touche.

  14. Stella M
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    I just wouldn’t want anyone fresh here to be labeled with the social stigma of being thought of as me. There have been contretemps in the past.

  15. Gov Med
    Posted February 25, 2010 at 4:44 am | Permalink

    I had no idea until right now that Harry Huge-Weenie took his name from Harry Houdini. I love learning. Thank you.

  16. Paul
    Posted February 26, 2010 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    It’s horribly sad. Andrew Koenig, the actor from Growing Pains, was found dead yesterday from an apparent suicide. Depression is a mother fucker.

    My sympathy is with the Koenig family today.


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