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Celebrating 3-D On Its 75th Birthday

Celebrating 3-D On Its 75th Birthday

Inventors experimented with 3-D in the earliest days of
motion pictures, but experts agree that the medium came of age at the 1939 New
York World’s Fair. That’s where Polarized 3-D made its public debut at the
Chrysler Pavilion. A short subject called In Tune With Tomorrow was shown every
day in dual-system 35mm. No print is known to have survived, but Chrysler
presented a follow-up for the Fair’s 1940 season called New Dimensions (later released theatrically as Motor Rhythm)…and it’s going to make its home video debut this fall.

Bob Furmanek, of the 3-D Film Archive has produced a
collection called 3-D Rarities which
Flicker Alley will be releasing on Blu-ray this fall, and it promises to be
exciting for 3-D aficionados and newcomers alike.

Furmanek has been busy restoring films for this Blu-ray from
original elements wherever possible. New
has been mastered from a pair of 35mm Technicolor prints (one
for the right eye, one for the left). As a bonus, the disc will include 3-D
color images taken at the Fair. (Incidentally, If I could step into a time
machine, that’s where I’d want to go. I love Lance Bird and Tom Johnson’s
documentary The World of Tomorrow,
which includes wonderful home-movie footage of the Fair, and David Gelertner’s
evocative novel The Lost World of the

The 3-D Rarities disc has much more to offer: the
1952 prologue to Arch Oboler’s Bwana Devil featuring Bob Clampett’s
popular TV puppets Beany and Cecil… the earliest surviving 3-D demonstration
film from 1922, Kelly’s Plasticon Pictures: Thru
the Trees, Washington, D.C
. …a promotional film for the Pennsylvania
Railroad called Thrills for You,
first shown at San Francisco’s Golden Gate International Exposition in 1940…
the original trailer for William Cameron Menzies’ black & white feature The Maze, starring Richard Carlson…a
color stop-motion animated short called The
Adventures of Sam Space
…and more.

All of these shorts
have been mastered in high definition, and Furmanek reports, “All films in the 3-D Rarities release have been restored
from original left/right 35mm elements and meticulously aligned shot by shot
for precise registration. These historic 3-D films have never looked this good
before.” Bob is not one to exaggerate, and I look forward to seeing this
collection on Blu-ray.

By the way, Bob has recently posted a comprehensive and
fascinating article on his website about the first year of widescreen movies,
1953—the same year as the 3-D boom. I can’t imagine how studios, filmmakers, or
theater owners made crucial and costly decisions during that year of constant
change. It’s easy to understand why studios shot two separate versions of early
Scope films like The Robe and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers—one in
widescreen, and one “flat,” to accommodate theaters that hadn’t yet invested in
new lenses and screens. As the Criterion Collection showed us last year,
director Elia Kazan and cinematographer Boris Kaufman prepared three separate
versions of On the Waterfront in
1954—in 1:33, 1:66, and 1:85—to cover themselves! Bob Furmanek’s article draws
heavily on movie trade articles and ads from the period. It’s “must” reading at
3-D Film Archive.

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