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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.

3-D-Motor-Rhythm-332Bob 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 Dimensions 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 Fair.)

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.

3-D-The-Maze.-485

Richard Carlson in a scene from “The Maze.”

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.3-D-Penn-RR-Magic-Movies-680

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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