Here’s what most people know about Harry Houdini: his name is synonymous with escape artistry and he was defeated by a strong punch to the stomach which seems oddly anti-climactic for a guy who escaped death so many times. It’s almost as if the Reaper was like “Wow, that’s all really impressive. Try this one.” It’s like one step above a brain aneurysm.
But William Kalush and Larry Sloman’s biography “The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America’s First Superhero” insinuates that Houdini was a spy for Britain and was asked to be an adviser to Czar Nicholas II’s court in pre-revolutionary Russia. The book also portrayed the master escape artist and magician as a debunker of con artists who pretended to be spiritualists, leading to the theory that his death was caused by the spiritual movement as payback. You know, I think that theory would be a lot stronger if he had died under mysterious circumstances rather than “I was sick and someone punched me in the stomach.”
According to THR, Jeff Nathanson is taking on Kalush and Sloman’s take on Houdini for Summit Entertainment and will do it in the style of an action-adventure like Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes (even though that film actually looks quite faithful to the books but not to the Basil Rathbone films which is why a lot of folks are confused). This all sounds great until you remember that Nathanson is the screenwriter behind two of the “Rush Hour” movies and “Speed 2: Cruise Control”. Looking at his filmography, it doesn’t seem like Nathanson is a bad screenwriter as much as he’s one that just kow-tows to the powerful director (except for the one film he directed, “The Last Shot” and even that was kind of forgettable). With Nathanson making this his next directorial feature, hopefully he’ll prove me wrong and deliver a great Houdini picture. Or a slow-moving boat crashing into a city. Either/or.