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.

Images are used for information purposes and remain the rights of their respective owners.

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The Queen in 3-D

The Queen prepares to watch her Coronation on CBC Television

This week I have to dub the “week of the 3-D documentary”. After watching Warner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams in 3-D at the Toronto International Film Festival last Saturday, tonight Canada’s public broadcaster the CBC aired a one hour documentary on Queen Elisabeth II with partial segments in 3-D.

This is the new millennium of 3DTV Canadian style. Our national broadcaster is not offering the documentary to the elite owners of the new fangled television sets, but in the true nature of public broadcasting is presenting the documentary’s dimensional assets in that age-old anaglyph format. The glasses (utilizing an amber and blue set of lens patented as ColorCode 3-D) are available to the public at Canada Post outlets for free.

Queen Elisabeth in 3-D is not so much a documentary as an excuse to broadcast 3-D footage from Elisabeth’s coronation in 1953. This 1-hour special fuses the archival footage and new 3-D footage of Queen Elisabeth’s recent visit to Canada with factoids about 3-D technologies then (the fifties) and now, all wrapped up in horrible narration delivered by award winning novelist and actor Ann-Marie MacDonald (though we can excuse her since she didn’t write the script).

However, the 3-D worked very well particularly the recently discovered coronation footage and I’m a sucker for old 3-D footage. The usual misinformation about fifties 3-D films was tossed around and the Creature from the Black Lagoon was referred to as a blob of latex (you’re on thin ice CBC with that description) but it was nice to see some British short subject clips included. In this case A Solid Explanation that was a 3-D demonstration film produced for something like the 1951 Festival of Britain, though I haven’t checked that.
from "A Solid Explaination" in ColorCode 3-D
The biggest disappointment with the special was discovering that much of this footage has been broadcast during Channel 4’s 3-D Week in Britain last year and repurposed for the CBC. The Paul Morrissey film Flesh For Frankenstein (1973) was also broadcast that week, a true depthsploitation film.  Come on CBC lets follow-up with that!

The documentary will be rebroadcast on CBC News Network September 22 & Saturday September 25 at 10 pm ET/PT, so head out to the post office and grab some glasses.

My Herzog review is coming, with an additional 3 TIFF screenings on Sunday and a touch of the cold I’ve been a bit shy of time.


Apparently Monday's inaugural screening of Werner Herzog's 3-D film Cave of Forgotten Dreams ran with a small hiccup. The air conditioners were turned on in the new TIFF Bell Lightbox screening facilities and shutdown the power. Luckily the power was quickly restored and the audience was able to enjoy the rest of the film.

Coincidently last year's TIFF premiere screening of Joe Dante's 3-D film The Hole experienced a similar setback. The fire alarm sounded as the film entered it's 3rd act. But that audience was not as lucky as Monday's as the entire auditorium was shortly evacuated. As a testament to either the power of Dante's story telling or the loyalty of a Festival patron, many of the audience had to be herded out of the theatre, watching the film from the isles while the alarm blared over the soundtrack. I have to admit, I was one of those patrons.

I promise reviews of both films. The review for Cave of Forgotten Dreams will come shortly after I see it on Saturday. I'd like to try a view The Hole in it's entirety before I review it. Still hoping to get to it this week. After all what is a Cave really but a big Hole?

If you're interested in Herzog and his film, here's a link to a CBC interview with the man about Monday screening.



It’s September and in Toronto that means it’s time for the Toronto International Film Festival. In eleven days TIFF will present around 300 films from around the world. Last year marked the first time a 3 dimensional film screened at the festival, Joe Dante’s The Hole. I was there last year and I’ll give you my biased first person review of the screening later this week.

This year TIFF is presenting another 3-D feature documentary, this time by the enigma that is Werner Herzog. In The Cave of Forgotten Dreams takes us to the Chauvet caves of southern France, which contain the oldest known cave paintings to modern man, over 30,000 years.
I sure hope we won't be watching Herzog's new film through glasses red and blue. Though I did hear that I'll be treated to a mostly french language Goddard Filme Socialism with minimal english subtitles.

Long time 3-D detractor and film critic Roger Ebert (who until recently continued to insist that Hollywood’s 50’s films were viewed through red and blue anaglyph glasses –they weren’t, the glasses had polarized glasses, much like many of our current 3-D spectacles do) had this to say about the film in his otherwise 3-D damning article in Newsweek.

“And my hero, Werner Herzog, is using 3-D to film prehistoric cave paintings in France, to better show off the concavities of the ancient caves. He told me that nothing will “approach” the audience, and his film will stay behind the plane of the screen. In other words, nothing will hurtle at the audience, and 3-D will allow us the illusion of being able to occupy the space with the paintings and look into them, experiencing them as a prehistoric artist standing in the cavern might have.”
-“Why I Hate 3-D (And You Should Too)”
Roger Ebert
Newsweek May 10, 2010

While I think there is a place for hurling objects into the audience, I’m looking forward to the film. Although the use of stereoscopic space in a film is often utilized to show the audience depth and space, it’s ability to also recreate the effect of the confinement in small spaces is equally as compelling and often overlooked by 3-D filmmakers. Here’s hoping that The Cave Of Forgotten Dreams makes ample use its subject’s lack of space in three dimensions.

I’ll give you a report next week sometime after I’ve seen the film, but in the mean time I’ll leave you with this interview clip of Herzog explaining his intention for the film.

The Stranger in Earnest

While I continue to promise reviews and insight into 3-D films of yesteryear, I also continue to make you readers wait. It is after all festival season here in Toronto. There was the excursion to New York, Fan Expo here at home and the Toronto International Film Festival is about to start (Werner Herzog has another documentary premiering this year—in 3-D no less). With a family and a day job, there is only so much time to write.

So while the reviews will have to wait, and I’ve got an ever-growing list, I do have a little tidbit of audio that relates to a film I saw at the Classic 3-D festival in New York.

The Stranger Wore A Gun was Andre de Toth’s second dimensional feature of the 50’s, a western follow up to the classic House of Wax. While not as fondly remembered as House of Wax, The Stranger Wore A Gun is a solid B-western featuring Randolph Scott as a crooked cowboy of fortune who draws the line at murder, yet the gangs he runs with almost always end up crossing that line.  Scott’s clean looks remind me of that classic cowboy from the silent era, the ones that are always a little too clean cut.  He’s a far cry from the rugged anti-heroes that would later populate the Spaghetti westerns of the 60s and 70’s, though his portrayal of Jeff Travis fits in nicely with the gunslinger of the later Italian westerns, ultimately good at heart, but willing to break a few laws if he can improve his fortune.
Randolph Scott
The film also has in its cast Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine as the villain’s henchmen. This was only Borgnine’s second film for Columbia in a career that has spanned sixty years.  At 93 years of age Borgnine is still as spry as ever, the same man I remember from films and TV in my youth (over 20 years ago).

Ernest Borgnine in his early years.
And now we come to the true focus of today’s post. At this year’s Fan Expo I decided I’d ask him about this early encounter with 3-D, back when the gimmick was truly something new. My earliest plan was to ambush him at his signature booth, but fearing a 40-dollar signing fee and no guarantee that I would be able to preserve our conversation on my ipod’s voice memo I instead waited to pose the question at his Question and Answer session later in the day.

While his response was more antidotal than informative it is presented here as an early recollection of an actor’s interaction with the stereoscopic film camera.

"Throw it into the camera, Ernie!"