Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Entertainment Defying Acts

This week the BBC broadcast the film Death Defying Acts starring Guy Pearce and Catherine Zeta Jones. The basic gist of the film is that a fake psychic tries to swindle Harry Houdini out of a $10,000 prize for evidence of contacting his late mother. There were two main areas of disappointment regarding this film.

The first was that the writers did not appear to know very much about Houdini. It was almost as if the story was about another magician entirely. As it turns out, the original writers had a story that did not involve Houdini at all but, as usually happens with the many handed interference - sorry, contribution - of a production team, one of the main characters became Houdini. After which there was very little obvious consultation of any authoritative biography, of which there are many. They instead used the popular urban myths about Houdini that have been bandied about since his death.

Would the film have been more palatable if a fictitious magician was used? Not really and that was the second area of disappointment. My wife Jill, who knows nothing about Houdini and therefore could not be put off by any form of representation of him in a film, was quickly made so bored by the film that even the dreaded washing of the dishes had a greater allure for her. Followed by any other activity she could think of to do. The pace and plot did not particularly grip our attention and the actors had little room in either to have the opportunity to make us feel any empathy for the characters they portrayed.

[The above image is copyright by the film-makers]

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