A Braveheart Sequel

While the condemnation of Mel Gibson's Braveheart continued in Internet argument, an agent announced in one of the discussion groups that he sought a screenplay on the life of Houdini, the famous escape artist. This prompted one of Gibson's critics to provide the following as "helpful background" on the Houdini story for Gibson to make the film.

Henrietta Weiss was born 1874 as the illegitimate daughter of Alexander II, Emperor and Autocrat (truly) of all the Russias, by Sophie Weiss, a lady-in-waiting of his Empress, the German-born Maria Alexandrovna, from whose wrath it was necessary to flee, with little Henrietta ingeniously disguised as a baby boy. This traumatic episode in her early life, the miraculous escape in a water-filled mattress and her infantile memories of cross-dressing, subsequently persuaded Henrietta, after a break for the opening credits, to reappear in the guise of a small blue-eyed man with big ideas and a bizarre understanding of history.

To support her mother (a role scheduled for Sophie Marceau, a pretty girl with kind eyes) Henrietta begins an exciting career as a three-card trickster at the Berlin races, winning a lot of money from the Nazis, but is forced to flee when a filthy, bearded spy in a black hat, working for Napoleon, throws poor Sophie out of the door of the aeroplane she is using to search for oil in the North Sea (which she calls the German Sea, for obvious reasons that some reluctant hireling will be required to explain in a voice-over).

To escape Napoleon and his filthy agents, Henrietta changes her name from Harry Weiss to Harry Houdini and emigrates to North America on a submarine named the Titanic. This has a minor accident which gives the special effects boffins a splendid opportunity to go over the top, a cover for the new Houdini to dispose of all 35 of Napoleons's filthy agents who are on board, and a unique opportunity to become famous for saving hundreds of innocent passengers, all identified by white hats, from a watery grave. This theme of escaping drowning then inspires Houdini to invent the famous "look-how-I-get-out-of-this-glass-water-tank-while-manacled" trick.

To maintain audience interest until the Russian Revolution can start, Houdini begins a covert campaign to seduce all the most beautiful women in Boston society, usually in a Texas log cabin from which they have to walk home (float home, really, with their heads full of the new feminism Houdini has inspired). When the war comes, and America invades Italy to rescue England from the Nazis, Houdini joins the Special Forces special rescue division as a specialist in special escape techniques and is assigned to the Russian front. Here she joins the Bolsheviks, teaches the Red Army to brush machinegun bullets aside with plywood shields, founds the Spetznaz, wins a great naval battle against Japan, and attempts to rescue her cousin, Nikolai II, Emperor and Autocrat (yes, honestly) of all the Russias. When she fails, she changes places with his daughter Anastasia, and then dies a heroine's death to the music of Shostakovitch.

Anastasia, to whom Houdini has taught all her tricks while sharing captivity with her, escapes to America in the guise of Houdini and continues the famous act, but in 1926, dreaming of even greater success (she intends to marry an English Prince who will one day abdicate his throne for her), she escapes from the theatre in which she is performing, just as it collapses in a fire started by Marshal Ney, and reappears to the sound of the 1812 overture as Anastasia, heiress to all the Russias (alias Wallace Psimpson).

This synopsis did not meet universal approval. One reader, who claimed to be a conjuror and escape artist himself, wrote that he had read a couple of biographies on Houdini, and that they had mentioned none of this. He later wrote again to protest that none of the above details was true. However, other readers wrote to emphasise that obviously every detail had been rigorously researched (although one did point out unkindly that Houdini's reincarnation as Princess Stephanie of Monaco had been carelessly omitted). But despite the criticism, we confidently await a call from Gibson's agent.

The editorial staff of The Baronage Press believe that neither serious criticism nor ridicule has any chance of influencing Hollywood's approach to the honest portrayal of history. These views on Braveheart have been published here only to illustrate how the Internet may be used to encourage a wider interest in honest history.

The Ancestry of the House of Wallace (in preparation)

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