The only two remaining members of an Arctic expedition are Gregory Sinclair (Erwin Connelly) and Francois Duval (Frank Montgomery). Sinclair is at the end of his strength. Duval is about to leave him and go on by himself when he sees an old ship frozen in the ice. Believing it may provide shelter and food he gathers Sinclair and heads for the wreck. On board the ship they find a man frozen solid in a block of ice.
The ship’s log reports that it was wrecked a hundred years ago during a violent storm. Sinclair reads while Duval, not finding any food, is looking elsewhere for nourishment. Down to only two dogs he begins chipping away the ice from the frozen man. Once he gets the body from the ice he shows it to Sinclair. Sinclair tells Duval that the frozen man is a great find. Duval mentions something about discovering that it was a great find just in time. Probably since Duval had visions of lunch on his mind and meat is meat. The man suffered from a blow to the head before he froze. Sinclair thinks they can thaw him out. They start a fire and massage the body. The man returns to life and opens his eyes.
Once he is thawed out he tells them his name is Howard Hillary (Harry Houdini). He explains that he was in love with a passenger on the ship, Felice (Jane Connelly). Not wanting to upset Howard too soon, Sinclair doesn’t tell him that he was frozen for a hundred years. He brings him back to civilization to observe his reactions as he slowly gets accustom to his surroundings.
Back at home Sinclair finds out that his brother-in-law Dr. Crawford Strange (Albert Tavernier) is missing. His niece is being married to Dr. Gilbert Trent (Arthur Maude). When Howard sees Sinclair’s niece he thinks she is his lost love Felice. He, of course, interrupts the wedding. Something about Howard attracts her to him. Her name is also Felice. Eventually Howard finds out that he has been frozen for a hundred years. Felice finds out that she is the great grand niece of the Felice that Howard was in love with.
Felice’s spurned fiancé Trent is a wormy grifter after Felice’s estate. He has Howard committed to an asylum. Howard escapes and returns to Felice. she asks Howard to find her missing father that she believes is still alive. Trent, not one to give up easily concocts a plan to have Howard arrested for Crawford Strange’s murder and marry Felice, whether she wants to or not.
“The Man From Beyond” was released in 1922 and was directed by Burton L. King. It is a silent mystery film written by and starring Harry Houdini. The film was produced by Houdini Picture Corporation. Houdini did several silent films. The updated music for this was composed and copyrighted by Edward Rolf Boensnes.
As in all his films, Houdini performed all of his own stunts. Reportedly an alternate ending was filmed in case he was killed performing any of his stunts for the film. Whether or not this is true or just a publicity stunt is in question.
Houdini met Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1920. They were friends until 1922 when they attended a séance in which Houdini’s mother supposedly communicated. From my understanding Doyle’s wife Jean was the medium. She supposedly used automatic writing and wrote down a note from his mother. Houdini claimed the note was a fraud since it was in English and his mother only spoke and understood German. Doyle was a devout believer in the supernatural and communicating with spirits. Houdini wanted to believe but spent most of his time proving otherwise.
Some believe that “The Man from Beyond” was Houdini’s way of trying to reconcile with Doyle since it refers heavily to reincarnation and the spirit world. The film ends with the words “You must believe”, and it not only had the 1820 spirit of Felice entering the body of the 1922 Felice but the spirit of Howard returning to his body when he is thawed out. Houdini is also shown reading a copy of Doyle’s 1918 essay “The New Revelation”.
Reportedly Doyle praised the film and wrote: “From the opening scene showing the actual chopping of a frozen man from the center of a mass of ice and restoring him to life, to the closing scenes of the sensational rescue of the girl from the very brink of Niagara Falls, it holds one breathless. I consider ‘The Man from Beyond’ one of the really great contributions to the screen.” The film's publicity campaign subsequently used Doyle's quote in advertisements.
The film only has one escape but there are lots of stunts that put Houdini’s life in danger, including a Niagara Falls stunt. The movie appears to be a testament to spiritualism rather than a spooky mystery with a man thrown a hundred years in the future. Hillary doesn’t seem to be surprised by any of the advances during the time of his frozen entombment. Everything in the film is about reincarnation and spirits. If that is the case than the film could possibly be a note to Doyle.