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3-D Rarities – 22 rare restored 3-D Films [FilmList follows], Blu-ray (1922-2015)

3-D Rarities – 22 rare restored 3-D Films [FilmList follows], Blu-ray (1922-2015) 

Cast: Macdonald Carey, Richard Carlson, Nat King Colge, Charlie Crafts
Various directors
Studio: various/ 3-D Film Archive/ Greenbriar Picture Shows/ Flicker Alley FA0040 [6/23/15]
3D Restorations: Greg Kintz
Producer: Bob Furmanek
Video: 4:3 & 16:9 black & white and color, polarized 3D
Audio: PCM mono & stereo, three channel & DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround
Extras: Intros by Leonard Maltin and Trustin Howard; Commentary tracks by Tad Komorowski and Jack Theakston; Essays (in printed color booklet) by Julian Antos, Hillary Hess & others; 3D photo galleries: Hunchback of Notre Dame, New York World’s Fair, Sam Sawyer (two View-Master reels), 3D comic books;  Short 3D footage from The Bellboy and the Playgirls – Francis Ford Coppola
Length: 147 min.
Rating: ****1/2

The first documented exhibition of a 3D film occurred in NYC in 1915, so this is 3D’s 100th anniversary; unfortunately that 3D silent film is long gone. The earliest 3D film in this wonderful collection is from 1922, and the variety of material presented is truly amazing. (I didn’t know that someone is trying to spell it 3-D when I thought it was 3D and will continue to use that, without the hyphen. It’s like Sony’s attempt to get us {before they gave up on the format} to all use SA-CD instead of SACD.)

All 22 films [see list below] here have been stunningly restored and mastered directly from archival materials, while being meticulously aligned shot by shot for precise registration of the original left and right image elements.  The early anaglyph (red/green glasses) films and I’ll Sell My Shirt have been converted to polarized 3D. Polarized glasses (which don’t mess up color films) were actually introduced in 1936.  In fact, some of these 3D films have a three-front-channel soundtrack, which is preserved in the DTS 5.1 audio mix.

The people at 3-D Film Archive have done a magnificent job, performing sometimes miracles on the original faded, damaged and mis-aligned 3D footage. Some of the highlights include the Pennsylvania Railroad promotional film on their passenger service of the time, and an almost too-long stop-motion Motor Rhythm, which shows the gradual construction of a current Plymouth car from the basic frame onward, animated in 3D and without the wires moving the parts into place. There are four animated shorts – with the 3D images drawn directly on the film – from the Film Board of Canada, and my favorite, a clip from a 3D version of Cecil & 3D-beany-cecil-680Beany, with Stan Freberg doing the voice of the little boy Cecil. (I missed Cecil & Beany but I’m sure I would have loved them, even in b&w 2D on a small-screen TV.) I didn’t know the McCarthy era mess had extended to Canada, and Norman McLaren’s assistant made an animated 3D film but her name was stricken from it and thereapon McLaren and others also took off their names and the film disappeared until now. There is a fine complete 3D cartoon with Casper the Friendly Ghost, and a strange standup impressionist comedy bit by Slick Slavin (shot outdoors!). Doom Town is a short documentary in 3D on an actual atom bomb test near Las Vegas in the 1950s. It understandably was made “to disappear” after its first showings. There are also some terrific 3D scenes of Washington D.C. and NYC in the 1920s, and a bit from one of the first movies done by Francis Cord Coppolla, who got his start in nudie movies. The Bolex 16mm 3D system cut the frame in half (resulting in a vertical ratio) and cost over $1000, so only the wealthy got into the Swiss company’s 3D offering.

The extras are most interesting also: As a special promotion for the silent film The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 3D stills from the production were sold and distributed, but the actual film was not in 3D. I wish the trailer for The Maze had been longer, becuase that 3D potboiler had quite an effect on me as a kid. It failed to show the giant frog leaping out at you, which I recall really did me in. Generally there are a number of in-your-face 3D effects in some of these shorts that most filmmakers would never put into their current 3D films. There are also several View-Master reels of 3D stills shown. That once-popular and still available 3D format of square little still color transparencies was invented and founded here in Beaverton OR, and introduced millions of people to 3D for the first time. The short bit on 3D comics is also interesting, pointing out that that format lasted an even shorter time than the early 3D movie fad of the 1950s. If you’re a real fan of 3D, such as those people who put this effort together, you’ll want to see this over and over. For the rest of us, once will probably be enough, but the quality of the restorations is so good that some feel it’s even better than the 3D showings that have gone on at some film festivals. Is it worth $36? For 3D fans, absolutely!

But don’t forget 3D has had a second rebirth today, and there are now over 100 3D titles available, mostly on Blu-ray but some on DVD. Trouble is only several are really good, whereas many of the earlier ones stand up very well today whe properly restored. Perhaps when TV makers figure out how to make successful 3D sets without needing glasses, it will have a third period of mass acceptance.

TrackList:

Part 1: THE DAWN OF STEREOSCOPIC CINEMATOGRAPHY =

Kelley’s Plasticon Pictures (1922/23)

Crespinel/Leventhal tests (1924-27)

Norling/Leventhal tests (1935)

New Dimensions (1940)

Canadian Film Board: Now is the Time (1951); Around Is Around (1951); O Canada (1952); Twirligig (1952)

Bolex Stereo promotional 3D (1952)

INTERMISSION SNIPE (1953 original 3D intermission bit)

Part 2: HOLLYWOOD ENTERS THE THIRD DIMENSION =

Gunzburg Presents Natural Vision Three-Dimension (1952)

Trailer for It Came From Outer Space (1953)

Rocky Marciano vs. Jersey Joe Walcott Fight (1953)

Trailer for Hannah Lee (1953)

Stardust in Your Eyes – Slick Savin (1953)

Trailer for The Maze (1953)

Doom Town short (1953)

The Adventures of Sam Space (1960)

I’ll Sell My Shirt (1953)

Trailer for Miss Sadie Thompson, with Rita Hayworth (1953)

Boo Moon – Caspar the Friendly Ghost (1953)

—John Sunier

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