Monday Movie: Harry Houdini in ‘The Master Mystery’, 1920

Continuing with ‘Houdini Week’, this dusty old 1920 silent-era film stars Harry Houdini as Quentin Locke, manager of the evil Brent Laboratories – but who is secretly working for the Justice Department investigating the violation of recent Anti-Trust laws (1890, 1914).

The opening frame, a “title”, in true silent film form, hovers shakily while piano music dribbles along. It reads:


“Brent International, Inc. is a firm whose vast fortune has been made by inducing inventors to trust the marketing of inventions to their care and after obtaining sole rights – they suppress the manufacture of these inventions – much to the financial gains of the owners of already existing patents.” 

The look of this old movie is rather smooth and sophisticated for its time- vaudevillian melodramatics are at times apparent, but briefly, and more sublte than one expects from vintage silent films. But even more surprising is the introduction of a robot foil with a human brain transplant lumbering about Brent Mansion 😀 Further pathos ensues when the fumes from poisoned candles cause an outbreak of the Madagascar ‘laughing’ fever. Then Houdini escapes from a straight jacket. (not such a surprise)

This picture is focused, clear and well preserved, offering a nolstalgic view of architecture, automobiles, fashion and interior decor of the late 1910’s and 1920’s. When viewing movies from these earliest days of cinema, one must keep in mind that this was the most forward technology of its time.

Imagine the excitement of going to the theatre to see the “moving pictures”, when prior all you could have seen or imagined of the broader world outside of your own life experience was based on book illustrations, newspaper etchings, and later, printed photographs. To see these merged together to represent movement in real time would have been as exciting then as for audiences today witnessing the special 3-D effects in films like Avatar. 

SO throw off your slippers, break open a box of Cracker Jacks, pop the cap on a Root Beer and enjoy the show 😀

*     *     *     *

This movie appears in 20 short, 8 minute parts; only the first is posted here. To continue watching, at the end of each part, just click the left, upper corner video frame. You will see the next part # appear (eg: The Master Mystery, part 5….part 6…etc) and if it is correct, click and watch. Also, to enjoy full screen, click the arrow-box icon in the lower right hand corner of the video frame.

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About misterdibbles

Mister Dibbles,Dabbling in Mid-Century memorabelia, reporting on the past, cherishing retro- everything, from the foods, entertainment, housewares, movies, clothes, hairstyles, lifestyles and old-fashioned manners.
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1 Response to Monday Movie: Harry Houdini in ‘The Master Mystery’, 1920

  1. Pingback: Weird Travels: Harry Houdini Museum in Scranton The Weird News Channel

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