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The Grim Game 1919 Houdini

The Grim Game
(1919) American b&w : five+ reels
The Grim Game Directed by Irvin Willat

Starring Harry Houdini [Harvey Hanford],

Thomas Jefferson [Dudley Cameron],
Ann Forrest [Mary Cameron],
Augustus Phillips [Clifton Allison],
Tully Marshall [Richard Raver],
Arthur Hoyt [Doctor Harvey Tyson],
Mae Busch [Ethel Delmead],
Ed Martin [Police reporter],
Jane Wolf [?] (Jane Wolfe)? [Hannah]
Famous Players-Lasky Corporation production; distributed by Famous Players-Lasky Corporation [Paramount-Artcraft Pictures].
The Grim Game Produced by Jesse L. Lasky.
The Grim Game Scenario by Walter Woods, from a screen story by Arthur B. Reeve and John W. Gray.
The Grim Game Art Direction by Harold G. Oliver.
The Grim Game Assistant Director, Roy H. Marshall.
The Grim Game Cinematography by J.O. Taylor and Frank M. Blount.
The Grim Game Presented by Jesse L. Lasky.
The Grim Game Copyright 16 September 1919 by Famous Players-Lasky Corporation [lp14193]. premiered [?] 25 August 1919? at the Broadway Theatre, New York, new york.
The Grim Game Released 12 october 1919.
The Grim Game Standard 35mm spherical 1.37:1 format.

The Grim Game listed as a 50 minute film, when we saw it several times in NYC, when were living and perfroming in New York City, shown by collector Larry Weeks, it was about 70 minutes, plus. We had seen the film a couple of times at the invitation of Larry Weeks, who we have been in contact with all these many years. First by attending his wonderful one day magic conventions in New York City, mostly at the YMCA on West 34th Street. In those days Larry Weeks would sometimes sell off minor pieces of Houdini memorabilia in his collection. We bought from him an old vest of Houdini's, that was being eaten by moths, that had a stainless steel holdout type device controled from up the sleeve, that made a chosen card rise out of the pocket of the vest. It is on display at The Houdini Museum in Scranton, PA. (without the moths) We had seen The grim Game at least twice. Once in a church on Central Park West, when we were living just across the way at 61st Street and Third Avenue at the Magic Towne House. It may have been the Christian Science one there, not sure. The second time, as we recall was somewhere in New Jersey. We saw and have spoken to Larry on a regular basis, over the years.
(RECENT ADDITION) Right until before his death October 13, 2014, when he entered the hospital for the last time.

The Grim Game is a professionally produced and directed feature. This is clearly shown, for example, by the comedy byplay of the cook, maid, and the handyman, butler, who have to change costumes every time their duties change, for comedy relief. Harvey Hanford, played by Harry Houdini is a special writer on the Call Newspaper, noted for his nerve and daring in gathering news. In Houdini's films he would have his lead character named with two H's as in Harry Houdini. His eccentric skinflint millionaire uncle, who lives, as guardian, with his ward under his protection and care, Mary (Ann Forrest), would not let Harvey Hanford come near him or her. The old man knows that Harvey Hanford (Harry Houdini) and his ward are in love with each other, and he is opposed to the match.

The millionaire uncle is surrounded by three men, any one of whom would profit by his death. The first is his lawyer, Richard Raver, who has misappropriated some of the millionaire uncles funds via forged checks that the millionaire uncle has in his possession. The second is Dr. Tyson, his physician, who expects to marry Mary, heiress to the millionaire uncles millions, when the uncle dies, a marriage the millionaire uncle wants. Third is Clifton Allison, owner and publisher of the Call Newspaper, who is heavily in debt to the millionaire uncle, who is looking to bankrupt the newspaper by calling in the debt.

A plan is thought up by Harvey Hanford help save the Call Newspaper and his boss by working up a big sensational story by getting the old millionaire uncle out of town and making it look as if he, Harvey Hanford, had murdered the rich uncle. After he has been convicted of the crime, the millionaire uncle will be brought back, the paper will have sold thousands of copies, and Harvey Hanford will be freed from prison. The other three men agree to this plan, but each one seems determined that the old millionaire shall never return home alive. The scheme is set in motion and Harvey Hanford is arrested for the murder of his uncle. The three men frame Harvey Hanford for the actual murder, and also decide to kidnap his fiancee. Hanford is apprehended by the police and falsely imprisoned for the crime. Shortly afterward, Harvey Hanford escapes and pursues the men who framed him. The film unfolds as a series of Houdini's trademark set-piece stunts and escapes - his tormentors chaining him up and imprisoning him on numerous occasions, only for Harvey Hanford to escape. Then commences a series of houdini escapes, from handcuffs, the prison itself, chains and shackles, a strait jacked suspended stories above the ground, freeing himself and climbing down the building to the bottom, etc. There is a great scene where Houdini rolls under a passing vehicle in what appears to be real time, and grabs onto the bottom of the frame as it rolls by. The last one being a genuine thrill and the most exciting of movie scenes of the handcuff king's career. While trying to change in midair from one flying machine to another, the two airplanes crash into each other. This is an actual accident, but the camera caught it and also the dive to earth of the machines which followed. None of the actors in the accident were seriously hurt, and The Grim Game is able to show on the screen an "escape" that is a thriller of thrillers. The film concludes with the climactic mid-air collision following the bi-plane pursuit. the aeroplane chase in the grand climax, when Houdini, as the reporter hero, pursues the fleeing murderer. The two machines crash together at an altitude of 5,000 feet, and go whirling to earth and apparently certain destruction. Following the exciting mid air plane collision, Harvey Hanford is reunited with his fiancee.

The The Grim Game is brought to a happy ending with the pair side by side holding up the headline story of his release in the Call Newspaper. It all ends happly, but sadly without a kiss at the end. There are more spectacular thrills in this five+ -reeler than are usually found in the average death-defying, hair-raising film, except for the three or so in each of the 15 episodes of Houdini first Hollywood film venture The Master Master Mystery. All the sceens in The Master Mystery were intact, until some of the key escapes were cut out by a British company doing a documentary on Houdini several years ago, that they never had the decency to return. At present, those sceens are missing from any known copies of The Master Mystery.

The famous mid-air plane collision was not scripted. It was a real accident caught on film over the skies of Santa Monica, California. stuntman Robert E. Kennedy (no relation to the presidential Kennedy's) was doubling for Houdini at the time. miraculously, no one was killed, and the story was rewritten to incorporate the accident. Publicity was geared heavily toward promoting this dramatic "caught on film" moment, claiming it was Houdini himself dangling from the plane.

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