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Rod Lott September 22nd, 2011

Originally aired on PBS’ long-running “American Experience” series, the hour-long “Houdini” documentary is a crash course on escape artist Harry Houdini, arguably pop culture’s “greatest showman.”


Narrated by Mandy Patinkin, the just-OK doc traces his meteoric rise from immigrant to death-defying superstar to spiritualist exposer.

Those who’ve never read a book on Houdini — I highly recommend William Kalush and Larry Sloman’s “The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero” — are sure to learn something, but for current fans, it will feel like well-worn territory. Seeing clips from his small handful of movies was the only revelation.

Newcomers, however, will learn that he often performed in the nude so he couldn’t be accused of hiding anything (which raises a whole other question), that he was "an immense egotist — none larger," and that he often was in such pain that he literally urinated blood for his art. —Rod Lott

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