Larry Weeks and The Grim Game?

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Postby Guest » 04/20/07 12:36 PM

Years ago I heard a collector named Larry Weeks had a print of The Grim Game. Does anyone have any information on Weeks or his print? Does anyone know of any other print of The Grim Game? As it's the only Houdini movie I've never seen, I want to know there's still one out there...somewhere.

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Postby Kevin Connolly » 04/20/07 01:32 PM

Larry wanted $50K for his print. And yes, there is another copy out there.
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Postby Guest » 04/20/07 02:34 PM

Well let's get that sucker on DVD! :)

(Not the Weeks 50K print...the other.)

If you care to share the contact info, I do know someone who'd be interested.
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Postby Kevin Connolly » 04/20/07 02:36 PM

Sorry, no copies.
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Postby Guest » 04/20/07 02:47 PM

Oh well, at least I know there's a print out there. So many silents have been lost. My fear was Grim Game was one of them. Maybe someday I can get a private screening? ;)
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 04/20/07 03:58 PM

The Grim Game would be on nitrate film stock, and would be deteriorating unless it's in the hands of a serious preservationist who understands how to handle it. Additionally, a copy would need to be made immediately on stable film stock so there would be no further deterioration.

Is there any hint that the owner of either of these prints is taking these steps?

Film preservation is serious business, considering how many silent films have been lost. However, let's face it: Houdini's movies just plan suck. He's a [censored] actor and the movies themselves are brutal to sit through.
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Postby Guest » 04/20/07 04:13 PM

Agree on the nitrate issue. It's critical to strike a new non-nitrate copy ASAP.

I wouldn't say all of Houdini's movie "suck." My butt gets a little sore watching The Man From Beyond, but I really enjoy The Master Mystery. I also thought Haldane of the Secret Service was better than its reputation would have it.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 04/20/07 07:30 PM

Houdini was an abysmal actor. I've seen many silent movies and Houdini's are by far the worst.
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Postby Guest » 04/21/07 04:26 AM

Larry is a good friend of mine. Because I have spent twenty years in NY television post-production, and have restored videotape for the likes of Bowie, Warhol, Lennon, Barbara Walters, and Calvin Klein, Larry and I have moved several of his films over to DVD. We never really discussed The Grim Game, the restoration money would be in the hundreds of thousands. First of all, nobody in NY would even touch Nitrates, you would have to drive the thing cross country and hope that it doesn't explode en route...you had enough, or you want more? The best idea would be to get Copperfield to underwrite the project, or get some film preservationist group involved. I'm not too sure if you even want the original around anymore, I believe that his film was 1 off, so it may not be a nitrate. I will talk to him this week, and ask him a few questions, we never really discussed this project....We are working on putting out a collection of juggling DVD's, however that project it still just in talks.
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Postby Guest » 04/21/07 10:05 AM

Charles Carter, Carter the Great, did a film that was located when his old show was being set up in San Francisco in the basement of Earthquake McGoon's. I distinctly remember opening the large round film container and almost being knocked down by the smell of decomposing nitrate film.

Someone else there suggested getting rid of it immediately because it was likely unstable. As none of us wanted to see that portion of San Francisco burn down, or be at the flash point, someone quickly disposed of the film that had no possibility of being saved.
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Postby Ryan Matney » 04/21/07 10:11 AM

It's amazing any of these movies survived isn't it? 90% of all silents are lost.
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Postby Guest » 04/22/07 05:26 AM

Georges Melies lost 95% of the stuff he did, because he was asked to scrape all of his films, as the chemicals were needed for the war effort.
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Postby Guest » 04/22/07 12:43 PM

In my opinion I do not think that Houdini was a bad actor. I just watched him in the movie Terror Island. And his acting in this movie and others that I have seen is no better or worse than the acting that was done in many of the films during the silent screen days.

In my opinion he was fine as an actor because he was interesting to watch and could hold and draw an audience because he had a following.

Houdini wasn't doing a comedy like Chaplin or the Keystone cops he was doing action adventure films.

So he was not able to use comedy to fall back on as an entertainment feature of his films. These movies being silent remind me sort of like reading a book with live action moving pictures.

I did notice a gag or two in the text of the film and the film was written a played very well in my opinion.

Houdini did a lot of underwater swimming and the film did use a lot of his physical ability. At one point Houdini picks up a guy (a crook) and sets him on a file cabinet to get him out of the way of the door so he can go through it. He as the center of attention sort of reminds me of the physical stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger in a physical action roll, that in my opinion, Houdini was one of the first stars of this kind and was ahead of his time.

Try comparing it to the Thief of Baghdad starring Douglas Fairbanks Sr. Then in my opinion the only thing that was missing in the Houdini films was more stunts.

Houdini was also very keen on science fiction using submarines and robots and electric periscopes and other inventions in his films.

I find them quite remarkable as I find most things about Houdini the man - quiet remarkable.

Just one more note and an opinion. Hollywood - the studios and the critics were never very kind to a lot of the vaudeville actors - According to the books I have read about Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor and others. They did not seem to like the stage performers moving into the movie business.

Just a few thoughts and opinion about Houdini in the movies.

Onward and upward!
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 04/22/07 02:19 PM

Well, here are a few differences between Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., and Houdini:

Fairbanks was one of the top movie stars of his day. He was hailed as a big star by critics and the public and his films made a lot of money. His films are still being rereleased on DVD today in fancy boxed sets with supplements and are still held in high esteem.

Houdini was never a top film star. His movies didn't make a lot of money aside from the first one or two. He got lousy reviews. Today, no one but a magician could give a rat's ass about seeing any of Houdini's films.
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Postby Kevin Connolly » 04/22/07 02:33 PM

Maybe not. If you wanted really want to see bad acting, take a look at the Thurston movie.

I think Fairbanks would have been a bad magician, pilot, author etc., if had the chance. Houdini took the chance.

Besides, movies and books are still being written about Houdini.
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Postby Guest » 04/22/07 03:17 PM

Today, no one but a magician could give a rat's ass about seeing any of Houdini's films.
Oh, I don't know about that. When I saw Haldane of the Secret Service in January the theater was packed. Seriously, just about every seat was filled. Most seemed to be in their 20s and early 30s. I didn't see anyone I recognized as a magician.

Same thing with a screening of The Man From Beyond a few years back. Totally packed. I sat behind two of the comedians from "Kids in the Hall."

I think everyone is curious to see at least one of Houdini's movies. And I don't think he was all that bad an actor. Besides, who cares about his acting or whether or not the movie got good reviews in 1919? You're seeing Houdini...the REAL Houdini! That's the real appeal.
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Postby Guest » 04/22/07 03:22 PM

Glenn wrote:
Just one more note and an opinion. Hollywood - the studios and the critics were never very kind to a lot of the vaudeville actors - According to the books I have read about Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor and others. They did not seem to like the stage performers moving into the movie business.
___________________________________________

The main reason for that is because those people, especially the ones you named, were BIG stars already. They had a strong sense of who and what they were and couldn't be bought cheap and exploited like as the film studios did to lesser knowns.

The studio system like to manufacture stars and then keep them under cheap contracts for as long as possible. I was once told that Walt Disney kept Annette Funicello under contract when all the other Mouseketeers were let go, paying her less than $1,000 a week, but happily loaning her out for the beach blanket films for $15,000 a week. The larger studios did that all the time, pocketing the difference. It was good business for them.
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Postby Tom Klem » 04/22/07 03:48 PM

I saw "The Grime Game" projected by Larry Weeks at an IBM Convention in Planfield. New Jersey in the 1960s. I remember it as an amazing experience. To actually see Houdini, although acting, do an escape was a pretty wonderful thing.

Certainly we can not judge this film by today's films. Films were still a new thing to the public. Thomas Edison's films today seem tame and boring. That is not how people reacted to them at first viewing.

Houdini is a legend and will remains so for in the hearts of the public he is "the magician".
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 04/22/07 03:54 PM

There are many many silent films extant with which to compare both Houdini's films as "films," and Houdini as an actor.

Houdini was never considered a major box office star and his films received generally poor reviews. There's a reason for that!
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Postby Kevin Connolly » 04/22/07 04:25 PM

You can compare films, yes. But you be hard pressed to find another person with all his diversities.

Houdini did get good reviews. I would guess that back then, as today, reviewers are people that just have opinions. Most times they could never do, let alone do it better, what they have an opinion on.
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Postby Guest » 04/22/07 04:42 PM

"Well, here are a few differences between Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., and Houdini:

Fairbanks was one of the top movie stars of his day. He was hailed as a big star by critics and the public and his films made a lot of money. His films are still being re-released on DVD today in fancy boxed sets with supplements and are still held in high esteem.

Houdini was never a top film star. His movies didn't make a lot of money aside from the first one or two. He got lousy reviews. Today, no one but a magician could give a rat's ass about seeing any of Houdini's films."

(Glenn Bishop)
I was comparing "content" of action, stunt work and acting in the movies of the day not "stardom" of the actor!

One of the features that made the Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. movies popular in their day was the "stunts" that he did. His moves had him as the good guy being chased by bad guys - and the stunts of him swinging on ropes and jumping off hidden mini tramps. Leaving the bad guys chasing him falling all over themselves trying to catch him was one of the features that made the films popular with audiences.

If the Houdini movies had more of this kind of action going on - through the whole movie - more often in his films I would imagine they would have been a lot more popular for the audiences of today and yesterday.

Instead Houdini tried to work in real escapes (or make the audience believe - or make the escapes appear real) into the plots. In my opinion this was the reason that they were not as popular as other silent films of the time. Not enough "action, cliff hanging stunts" going on for an action adventure film.

The movies in my opinion were used as a form of advertising by Houdini even if they did not make as much as other movies of the day.

I do not think Houdini was making that much off the movies and made more doing a live show at the time. The movie business was still very young and he did not make that many movies.

Jack Gwynne did movie shorts and made only $75.00 per appearance as a base scale salary. On the DVD I have of the original King Kong the commentary said they were filming two movies with Fay Ray "The most dangerous game" by day with Joel McCrea and King Kong at night using the same sets and some of the same actors in both films.

In the commentary it said Joel McCrea was only getting $75.00 a week.

I think Houdini made more doing a live show.

Thanks very much for the interesting points and added info - David Alexander, Tom Klem, zencat and
Richard Kaufman.

Just a few more thoughts and my opinion.

Onward and upward!
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Postby Kevin Connolly » 04/22/07 05:20 PM

That's one way of looking at it. I know the Houdini story is very complex. Just his movie work could fill a couple of chapters. Next lifetime, I'll write about it. ;)
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Postby Guest » 04/23/07 05:13 AM

I agree Kevin Connolly.

Just a few more thoughts if anyone is interested in reading them.

I think "content" is a very important point to the popularity of the film. It is the "content" and a films ability to "hold up" as an entertainment by itself without a "star" that made many an actor a "star."

It happened to Errol Flynn in "Captain Blood."

Yes, Flynn had "star" quality and the X factor a plenty but it was a gamble that paid off for the studio putting an unknown into that movie in the leading "star" part.

In my opinion entertainment as a finished product should have -

1, Content (action, stunts, adventure in a compelling thought provoking story)

2, A personality (a likeable leading player or actor or actors).

3, It must all come together in the right entertainment medium in order to present the entertainment. (Movie, Television, Theater etc.)

4, And have the right promotional tools or promotional team behind it so it will break through the advertising clutter that is out there.

To wrap up all these thoughts if anyone is interested it is my opinion that Houdini had all this in his movies except the "content" in the films - wasn't enough action and stunts going on.

Or the "thrills" and "Chills" that may have been expected by his audience because that was what he gave his audience in his stage show when he did his escapes like the milk can and the water torture cell.

By the way zencat I liked what you wrote about Houdini and I think it is in a way is a very nice tribute to say that his movies or Houdini can still draw an audience after he has passed on, in this day and age after all these years. In my opinion that is sort of a nice tribute to a remarkable magician known as the Great Houdini!

Onward and upward!
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Postby Guest » 04/23/07 12:34 PM

Thank you, Glenn Bishop. :)
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Postby Guest » 04/23/07 06:38 PM

Thank You - zencat.

I got to watch Terror Island - it was a video tape from my local Library. It was a treat to watch as it was said above - Because it had Houdini in it.

But it wasn't a bad movie - there was some good stuff in it. Houdini worked hard at it and as they say "showed up for work."

Had he stayed in films (longer in the medium) I am sure he would have worked out the "content" problems and would have become a big movie star - perhaps as big as anyone else of that time in the medium of movies.

Just a few more thoughts and opinion, Thanks again zencat.

Onward and upward!
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Postby Guest » 04/25/07 04:35 PM

I want to clarify something Glenn mentioned. When actors are reported to have been making what appear to be small amounts, the money must be looked at in historical context. At www.measuringworth.com, a site run by economists that purports to give modern day values for historical money, $75 in 1933 is equal to the following:

In 2005, $75.00 from 1932 (when King Kong was shot) is worth:

$1,072.29 using the Consumer Price Index
$927.14 using the GDP deflator
$2,773.45 using the value of consumer bundle
$3,321.13 using the unskilled wage
$6,711.98 using the nominal GDP per capita
$15,914.57 using the relative share of GDP

So, for their time, an actor pulling in $75 a week was doing alright.
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Postby Guest » 04/25/07 10:12 PM

If Weeks still has, only the nitrate copy of "The Grim Game"(?!)....I can remember an article he wrote in a magic magazine, decades ago, asking for advice/funds to convert his nitrate films.
I talked to him over 30 years ago, asking about the article he wrote years earlier, and apparently, he has either let it go, or has not had the support he needs.

At UCLA, there is a ongoing preservation of films, funded I believe, by Scorcese and Spielburg and others.
IF Larry would actually cooperate with someone, maybe the Academy of Motion Pictures, or _________would be interested in getting involved...NOT just because of Houdini, but it is a Famous Players/Paramount Production.
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Postby Guest » 04/26/07 05:12 AM

Thanks very much David Alexander. From that point of view I would think that the money made from the box office of the Houdini movies was worth more and perhaps not a flop as some magicians think.

But I still think that Houdini was making more doing live stage shows at the time.

Jack Gwynne was doing movie shorts and he was making more per week in the night clubs.

Just a few thoughts.

Onward and upward.
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Postby Guest » 05/14/07 04:00 PM

I was surprised and pleased, to see Larry Weeks at The Collectors Weekend in Schamburg, (he hasn't been to one lately) and he confirmed that he does have "The Grim Game" on 16mm safety film.
Nice to know he DID have it transfered over from the nitrate film he had.
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Postby Guest » 05/14/07 04:22 PM

Good news.

If Larry is ever interested in releasing The Grim Game on DVD, I would be happy to put him in touch with Bruce Cardozo, a restoration expert and silent movie enthusiast who just did a bang up job on The Man From Beyond. Read my review of his restored DVD HERE .

Having The Grim Game on DVD would be a wonderful thing.

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Postby JohnCox » 02/22/11 02:51 PM

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Postby houdini's ghost » 02/22/11 03:04 PM

It sounds as if you are describing a cutting continuity script.
And John, you know more now about the Grim Game than anybody in the world.
But unless you've pulled strings, you haven't seen the Grim Game any more than I have.
Kevin says there is a print or two out there.
Doesn't matter. The Grim Game could still wind up a lost film.
Stanley Palm, who saw it many years ago when Weeks screened it, told me he thinks it's Houdini's best film.
The Grim Game could still wind up a lost film and it's inexcusable.
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Postby JohnCox » 02/22/11 03:11 PM

What I read were two original story treatments by Reeve and Grey and the actual screenplay by Woods. I also browsed the cutting continuity script, which was in the file as well.

No, I haven't really "seen" it, of course. I'm just teasing with my title. But after 5 hours immersion in those files, including seeing all those unpublished pics, I really feel like I know that film and, yes, I suspect it's his best film. As I say at the end of my article, it really plays like a Hitchcock movie.

We MUST get a copy of this movie!
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Postby houdini's ghost » 02/22/11 05:38 PM

I met the director, Irvin Willat.
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Postby JohnCox » 02/22/11 05:44 PM

houdini's ghost wrote:I met the director, Irvin Willat.

That is awesome. :) (You will want to look at my blog tomorrow for a GG set pic from Arthur Moses that has Willat in it.)

BTW, is it true they shot the stationary airplane scenes on top of Lookout Mtn? Somehow I have this info., but I don't know where I got it. Maybe I got it from you.
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Postby JohnCox » 02/23/11 01:14 PM

A little follow up today. Pic of Harry Kellar visiting the set of The Grim Game from the mighty Arthur Moses Collection. Not sure this pic has ever been published.

http://www.wildabouthoudini.com/2011/02 ... e-set.html
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Postby houdini's ghost » 02/23/11 04:13 PM

Is there a negative or is the print that someone besides Larry Weeks has only a contact print?
Anybody know where the nitrate print is now?
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Postby JohnCox » 02/23/11 04:54 PM

I'm wondering if the Academy Library has a nitrate print in their massive Paramount archive that might have never been cataloged.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 02/23/11 08:21 PM

What's the back story on this item?
Was it released? Well reviewed? Who owns it?
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Postby JohnCox » 02/23/11 09:09 PM

Are you asking about the movie itself?

Yes, The Grim Game was released by Paramount-Artcraft in 1919. It was actually pretty well reviewed. Who owns it today? Well, one known print is in the possession of Larry Weeks who, apparently, will not share it. I've also heard repeated references to a second print, but I don't know anything about it.

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