Borys Kit‘s 3.26 story about Summit Entertainment buying film rights to William Kalush and Larry Sloman‘s “The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America’s First Superhero” invites mockery, as Summit intends to do the same thing with Harry Houdini that Joel Silver and Guy Ritchie are doing with Sherlock Holmes in their upcoming film, which is to turn him into a generic bullshit superhero with washboard abs.
The operative portion of Kit’s story says that “the studio is not looking to make a biopic but rather an action thriller featuring a character who is part Indiana Jones and part Sherlock Holmes. Summit hopes to cash in on worldwide recognition of Houdini’s name while potentially launching a franchise.”
Summit is into the idea because Kalush and Sloman’s book claims that Houdini “acted as a spy for Britain and was asked to be an adviser to Czar Nicholas II’s court in prerevolutionary Russia.”
Indications are that the spy angle is, at best, a nugget. Amazon reviewer John Cox acknowledges that in 1902/3 Houdini sent “reports” from Germany and Russia back to Superintendent William Melville of Scotland Yard (who was then head of what could be considered British Intelligence). Does this mean Houdini was a spy, or just a letter writer who felt compelled to report what he was seeing to his friend in London?
Kalush and Sloman “do make some interesting connections back to America and the shenanigans with Houdini’s passport application,” says Cox, “but it’s all very speculative.”
I studied Harry Houdini extensively during the preparation and writing of a 30-page report, written for producer Ray Stark in 1989, about the viability of several Houdini scripts that Stark had optioned or bought. The bottom line with Houdini was that he was always a romantic eager-beaver who saw himself as a dramatic figure, and his letters to Melville, I believed (and still believe), were more about Houdini’s love of being involved in the espionage hurly burly of the day…nothing more.