Thursday, March 18, 2010


A small, boutique outfit, Restored Serials, is putting out an interesting selection of vintage films, in new, digitally-cleaned up and remastered editions. As their name would suggest, most of these are classic cinema serials, but the one I'm looking at today is THE MAN FROM BEYOND (1922), a silent film starring the legendary magician and escape artist, Harry Houdini.

The body of a man, Howard Hillary (Houdini), frozen for a century, is found in the Arctic ice by explorers. Thawed out alive and returned to civilization, Hillary insists that a girl named Felice (Nita Naldi) is his fiancée. Understandably, the defrosted gentleman is committed to a mental hospital but, being Houdini, he escapes. Soon, faced with the evidence of his own eyes, he accepts the truth about where and when he is and realizes that Felice is really the descendant of his long dead love. Despite this, he joins her search for her kidnapped father, who may have been abducted by someone he already knows.

Harry Houdini was not only a master magician and escapist, he was a master self-promoter. As motion pictures started to catch on with the public, he saw both a great opportunity for profit, and a great way to advertise his stage act. So he formed his own production company, and THE MAN FROM BEYOND was his first self-produced feature vehicle. Perhaps not surprisingly, Houdini's actually a decent silent screen actor - being naturally charismatic and an experienced stage showman, he's a fairly effective mime, too. Unfortunately, BEYOND's not the most exciting movie, and Houdini doesn't much exhibit his legendary skills as a prestidgitator - but it's a fascinating cinematic and historical artifact, nonetheless.

Long a staple of public domain video, Restored Serials has gone through the film frame-by-frame and digitally cleaned up the image, corrected the contrast, and repaired print damage. The image has also been stabilized, eliminating the "shake" often present in old film materials. The B&W, windowboxed, hi-def 1080p transfer on this Blu-Ray disc is the best-looking, most complete version of this movie available. Restored Serials have provided an appropriate and unobtrusive musical score in Dolby Digital and new, sharp title/dialogue interstitial cards. The disc also contains newsreel footage (also stabilized) of Houdini escaping from a straitjacket suspended above a packed crowd of observers during a performance in Dayton, Ohio.

A second, CD-ROM disc is included in the package, and this contains several fascinating supplemental features that can be read on your computer or printed out, including a 20 page Pressbook for THE MAN FROM BEYOND, and 300 pages of script and other materials pertaining to another Houdini film, MASTER MYSTERY SERIAL.

Overall, Restored Serials has done a fantastic job, remastering and preserving this historically-important piece of early cinema on Blu-Ray and DVD. If you're a serious film historian or Houdini enthusiast, you should check this out. It's available in both Blu-Ray and DVD formats. Recommended.

BUY: The Man From Beyond