So you’ve watched Houdini, the two-part TV mini-series that was a hit for The History Channel earlier this week, and now the image of Adrian Brody as Houdini shackled in chains and jumping off of a bridge is burned into your brain.
The bridge jump escape is one if the History Channel film’s most breathtaking and important scenes. In fact, the whole two-part movie starts with that scene, then flashes back to earlier events in the legendary illusionist’s life, revealing how he got to the point of his seemingly most death-defying escape.
We think Adrian Brody did a great job acting the Houdini role. But now, let us show you the real Harry Houdini pulling off an amazing bridge jump escape — in 1907.
You can see the incredible vintage footage of Houdini — some of the earliest known footage of Harry Houdini performing one of his escapes — by clicking on this link.
Houdini would have been 33 years old at the time this silent film was shot. Now, granted, this bridge jump isn’t quite as spectacular as the scene in the History Channel film, but that’s Hollywood for you.
Besides, unlike in the mini-series which shows Houdini attempting the bridge jump only one time before his distraught wife forces him to stop risking his life, the real Harry Houdini performed the bridge jump stunt many times at bridges all over the country.
Not every one could be as visually stunning as the CGI effects in a 2014 Hollywood production would make it look.
Houdini was born Erich Weiss on March 24, 1847. He took the name “Houdini” as a tribute to the magician he would overtake as the world’s greatest, Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin.
The bridge jump escapes, and other public stunts such as his upside-down hanging straitjacket escape, were Houdini’s way of advertising. Back before the days of multi-million dollar promotional departments and sophisticated marketing campaigns, entertainers had to do anything they could to grab the public’s attention.
But Houdini outdid them all, with his spectacular escape stunts, performed outdoors for free, that then drew crowds to his theatrical performances — for which the public had to buy tickets.
If this clip of Houdini escaping from shackles after jumping off a bridge isn’t enough for you, check the page at this link for several more clips of the real Houdini, including films of a hanging straitjacket escape and a rope-tie escape.