Death Defying Acts

Death Defying Acts

Director: Gillian Armstrong Cast: Guy Pearce, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Timothy Spall

DVD (Wide Screen)

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My Brilliant Career and Oscar and Lucinda director Gillian Armstrong explores the final feat of the greatest illusionist ever to deceive a live audience in this docudrama concerning Harry Houdini's obsessive quest to find proof of an afterlife. The year is 1926, and Houdini (Guy Pearce) is an international superstar. Not only does the illusionist's otherworldly ability to bend reality hold audiences completely enthralled, but his easy charm finds him winning the hearts of his growing legion of fans as well. Yet behind Houdini's winning smile resides the restless heart of a tortured soul. Isolated by fame and drowning in regret over having not been present to hear his mother's last words, Houdini sets out in tour of Scotland and announces that he will pay 10,000 dollars to anyone who can prove spiritual contact with his deceased mother. But in his determination to prove that there is life after death, Houdini also becomes the target of countless charlatans, scam artists, and self-proclaimed spiritualists. Of course, stunning psychic Mary McGregor (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and her daughter/sidekick, Benji (Saoirse Ronan), seem remarkably sincere in their supernatural talents, yet that doesn't mean that the pair doesn't have their own ulterior motives for making a connection with the world-famous magic man.

Product Details

Release Date: 10/28/2008
UPC: 0796019815512
Original Release: 2007
Source: Weinstein Company
Region Code: 1
Presentation: [Wide Screen]
Time: 1:37:00
Sales rank: 45,445

Special Features

Commentary by director Gillian Armstrong and producer Marian MacGowan; The making of Death Defying Acts; Trailer

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Guy Pearce Harry Houdini
Catherine Zeta-Jones Mary McGarvie
Timothy Spall Mr. Sugarman
Saoirse Ronan Benji
Malcolm Shields Leith Romeo
Leni Harper Leith Romeo's Wife
Ralph Riach Mr. Robertson
Olivia Darnley Flower Stall Seller
Anthony O'Donnell Oily Librarian
Billy McColl McTavish
James Holmes Ugly Mug
Frankey Martyn Rose
Aileen O'Gorman Seamstress
Raymond Griffiths Music hall Dwarf
Shaun Mason Heckler
Tom Cotcher Boxer's Manager
Joanne Cummins Houdini Fan 1
Carol Robb Houdini Fan 2
Mark Carter Reporter 1
Mackay Crawford Psychic Reporter
Paul Grunert Hotel Manager
Graeme McKnight Bellboy
Aaron Brown Sugaman's assistant
Martin Fisher Concierge
Emma Humprhies Chambermaid
Miles Jupp Ventriloquist
Tim Frost Tap Dancer
Chloe Mackie Psychic Twin
Holly Mackie Psychic Twin
David McKail Matre d
Maev Alexander Autograph Hound
Richard Dean Angel with Red Hair
Rod Arthur Police Chief
Alan David Professor
Lorraine Hilton Professor's Assisstant
Dodger Phillips Reporter 2
Campbell Graham Reporter 3
Jack Bailey Red-Haired Pilot
Justin Flagg Montreal Student

Technical Credits
Gillian Armstrong Director
Nicholas Beauman Editor
Susannah Buxton Costumes/Costume Designer
Chris Curling Producer
Kirk D'Amico Executive Producer
Lucas Foster Executive Producer
Tony Grisoni Co-producer,Screenwriter
Guy Heeley Asst. Director
Toby Hosking Art Director
Paul Inglis Art Director
Gemma Jackson Production Designer
Dan Lupovitz Executive Producer
Marian MacGowan Producer
Daryl McKenzie Score Composer
Anja Müller Art Director
Marcia Nasatir Executive Producer
Andrew Plain Sound/Sound Designer
Phil Robertson Co-producer
Anna Lynch Robinson Set Decoration/Design
Cezary Skubiszewski Score Composer
Gail Stevens Casting
David M. Thompson Executive Producer
Brian Ward Co-producer,Screenwriter
Haris Zambarloukos Cinematographer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Death Defying Acts: Houdini's Secret
1. Main Titles [4:31]
2. Work to Do [3:13]
3. Princess Kali [5:50]
4. Welcome Houdini [6:30]
5. Probing the Details [2:50]
6. Mistress of Disguise [2:29]
7. Meeting the Master [2:27]
8. Dark Visions [3:21]
9. The One [6:15]
10. Plain & Simple [7:43]
11. Game of Chance [6:36]
12. Magic [3:17]
13. Nightmare [4:46]
14. Night of Dancing [5:13]
15. The Words [4:11]
16. Channeling [6:16]
17. Opening His Heart [7:14]
18. Goodbye [3:27]
19. The Great Magician [4:26]
20. End Credits [5:56]

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Death Defying Acts 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Grady1GH More than 1 year ago
Gillian Armstrong makes fine movies: she is a director who knows how to tell stories and enhance what appears on the surface to be reality with a healthy dose of fantasy. Her sense of pacing and image creation adds substance to her tales that sometimes border on bizarre.

DEATH DEFYING ACTS uses the character of Harry Houdini as the stimulus of to tell a story about the folk of Edinburgh, Scotland at a time when stage shows were embraced much the way America was using vaudeville - an escape from the rather dreary state of living to a world of entertainment and love of magic. Mary McGarvie (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and her daughter Benji (Saoirse Ronan) survive in Edinburgh by picking pockets not merely for cash but for information to use in their act in the little theaters. Mary does exotic dances then uses her 'gifts' to see into the 'other world' of people in the audience ( Benji does the investigative work and is the prompter for the séance like acts Mary performs). Their idol is Harry Houdini (Guy Pearce) and when they learn Houdini is coming to Edinburgh to 'perform', they discover Houdini is promising $10,000 to anyone who can prove they have the ability to look into the future (or past). Houdini's manager Sugarman (Timothy Spall) arranges Houdini's water tank escape acts and other acts of 'magic', and when Mary and Benji arrange to meet Houdini, Sugarman is aware they are charlatans. How Mary and Benji work their way into Houdini's belief system and love life with their con game forms the meat of the sparing.

The atmosphere of the film is well captured by cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos who understands who to balance the mire of the streets of 1926 Edinburgh with the gorgeous fantasies used during Houdini's escape acts. The musical score by Cezary Skubiszewski is a terrific mixture of Scottish tunes and instruments with solid melodramatic mood music. Pearce, Zeta-Jones, Spall and Ronan turn in excellent performances. This is an unjustly overlooked film that, while not being a masterpiece, serves up a fine story well told. Grady Harp