Here’s some good news for film buffs and Harry Houdini fans—Turner Classic Movies has restored a print of Houdini’s 1919 silent film, The Grim Game, and will be presenting it at the TCM Classic Film Festival in March. Besides displaying Houdini’s escape skills, the movie is notable for using footage of a real airplane collision that accidentally happened during production. Today, that kind of move isn’t so popular, but The Grim Game’s promoters went so far as to claim it was Houdini dangling from the plane. (It was actually a stuntman.)
As Deadline reports, the film is particularly rare. Houdini only starred in a handful of films, and The Grim Game has been locked away for decades. Larry Weeks, a retired juggler, purchased the film in 1947 and had been unwilling to part with the only known print. Film preservationist Rick Schmidlin recently visited Weeks to assess the condition of the reels, which led to Schmidlin negotiating its sale to TCM. Details of the sale haven’t been announced, but it’s safe to assume 95-year-old Weeks won’t need to return to the cutthroat world of professional juggling any time soon.
The restoration will have a Hollywood premiere screening, with a live performance of a new score, and TCM will air the restoration later this year. It’s probably a good thing that Weeks waited so long to part with the film; if he had handed over the reels in the ’80s when TCM was bonkers for colorizing everything, it could have wound up looking like this: