As pertaining to motion pictures, describes any film that exploits, in its marketing or promotion, the use of stereoscopic (3-dimensional) filmmaking techniques.

This blog is my notepad as I research a nonfiction book spotlighting 3-D genre films of the last century. While the book will focus primarily on films from the 60's, 70's and 80's this blog has no restrictions.

All articles on this blog are copyright 2010-13 of its author,
Jason Pichonsky, unless otherwise stated.

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Classic 3-D Film Festival update

When I stumbled upon the Film Forum’s Classic 3-D Film Festival the other week, I had no intention of attending.  After all, I’m up here in Toronto and they’re way down there in New York. Somehow, I managed to get myself down there for three days and see five films, a very rare chance to see some early 50's 3-D the way they were originally shown, in dual projection.

My wife and I made it down to the Wednesday screenings of The Nebraskan and Gun Fury, the Thursday screenings of Drums of Tahiti and The Stranger Wore a Gun and Friday's Dial M for Murder (which had sold out for the evening presentations). Much to my wife’s chagrin three of the five films were westerns.

What followed was a good representation of what 3-D screenings must have been like back in 1953. During this first boom of 3-D from Hollywood in the 50’s films where projected in a dual projection system, two projectors played a pair prints of the film simultaneously, one print had the right eye view, the other the left eye view. The information was decoded for each eye via polarized filters and glasses.  These are the grey glasses we’re familiar with wearing at most of today’s 3-D presentations, not the red-blue anaglyph glasses.

Although great care was taken with the projection, the synchronization of the eyes was often out if only by a frame or two. Of the screenings I attended this usually occurred in the first reels of the films and was usually fixed after the intermission.

All the films except for Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder were Colombia Pitcture releases and it was particularly interesting the amount of stock footage that was reused in their 3-D films from previous releases to add production value. Also interesting was the effort taken to adapt it for 3-D. In the Polynesian William Castle directed Drums of Tahiti climaxed with an explosive volcanic eruption. The volcano was stock footage, obviously shot flat. To bring this footage into a dimensional presentation, many of the shots include foreground fire and rocks shot in stereoscopically in front of the projected volcanic stock footage.

The westerns reused a number of Cowboy and Indian battle sequences and stagecoach robberies sequences from earlier flat films. To spice it up they include three dimension rocks in the foreground of this footage. No small feat when the camera is panning with the horse and riders.  When the technicians were able to move the rocks in synch with the action on the process screen behind them the effect was quite satisfying, when the rocks were moved a little to slow of behind the action on the screen the effects became laughable. It just proves the fine line between what makes convincing movie magic and what doesn’t.  One-eyed filmmaker Andre de Toth’s The Stranger Wore a Gun seemed to blend this technique with the projected footage very well. Not surprising that in his later years de Toth would give an uncredited hand to Richard Donnor with the flying sequences in Superman (1978).

That’s it for now. I’ll be getting to some reviews of these films at a later date. If you are lucky enough to attend any of the screenings this week, please post a comment and lets hear your thoughts.

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