In my review of part one of this mini-series I expressed the concern that my knowledge could impair my enjoyment as the programme moved into periods with which I was familiar. I regret to say that it was indeed the case.
The cast continues to perform well and Adrien Brody gives us a consistent Houdini but then things start to go awry.
To begin with Bess Houdini is portrayed as taking to drugs. Now I'd never heard of this before and I concede that it could be true (Houdini experts?) but, regardless, it seemed a little contrived when used.
|Kristen Connolly as Bess Houdini|
|The Conan Doyle / Houdini seance|
By the way, was it too difficult to find a Scottish actor or someone who could do the accent? David Calder, who plays Doyle, was a fair physical fit but, for all his years in England, Conan Doyle retained his accent and the accent Calder deploys only adds to the Nigel Bruce-esque appearance.
The Doyle element aside the portrayal of Houdini's closing years appears well done. His ruthless exposure of mediums is well done and the programme makers make clear that Houdini desperately wanted to be proved wrong. They also do a good job of showing Houdini's struggles to remain top of the bill when faced with the competition of other escape artists and the emergence of film.
One of the scenes I liked best was when an exposed female medium attempted to seduce Houdini in an attempt to keep him quiet and, when rebuffed, stated that when he was dead mediums would make him say whatever they wanted him to. The fear Houdini displays at this was very well done.
It's therefore a pity that the close is ruined. In reality the punch that killed Houdini was delivered with his agreement although he was not ready for it when it came. In this programme it is depicted as being delivered without warning or agreement by a pro-Spiritualist who is angered at Houdini's statement that Lady Doyle was a fraud. He is effectively depicted as being assassinated by pro-Spiritualists which further underscores the anti-spiritualist agenda of the screenwriter.
On balance I found this an entertaining programme that was let down by the clear agenda of the screenwriter and the unfair depiction of Conan Doyle and his wife.
Written by Alistair DuncanBuy my books here