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Rare Harry Houdini Film to Screen at TCM Classic Film Festival

A rare 1919 silent film starring illusionist Harry Houdini will screen for the very first time at the TCM Classic Film Festival in March.

“The Grim Game,” which had been lost for decades, has now been restored and will also make its world TV debut on TCM later in the year.

Aside from being one of a handful of films in which the legendary escape artist appeared, it’s also infamous for using footage of an actual airplane collision that took place during filming.

Houdini plays a young man framed for murder in “The Grim Game.” He died of peritonitis in 1926 soon after leaving the movie business.

“The Grim Game” was discovered, produced and restored by preservationist Rick Schmidlin, whose credits include restorations of “The Dickson Experimental Sound Film” (1894-95), “Greed” (1924) and “London After Midnight” (1927).

Retired juggler Larry Weeks had been unwilling to part with the film’s only known print since buying it from the Houdini estate in 1947. Weeks agreed to sell the film to Schmidlin for an undisclosed sum. He died soon after the deal was made.

“Nothing was missing,” Schmidlin said in a statement. “The film was a complete joy to see. ‘The Grim Game’ is not just a long lost film from the silent era, but a really great and fun film that will surprise and entertain all.”

Brane Zivkovic, who teaches film and music composition at NYU and whose on-site vault provided storage for the film, will conduct a live performance of his score for film at the fest — to be held March 26-29 in Hollywood.

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