Saturday, October 5, 2013

House of 3-D

It was great to see so many people in attendance at last month’s World 3-D Expo III at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. Kudos to show producers Jeff Joseph and Dennis Bartok for taking on the herculean task of presenting 10 days of classic 3-D movies, most shown in their original dual-35mm format. The Expo provided a rare opportunity to see some remarkably good stereo motion pictures. I’ve stated many times that I think modern 3-D filmmakers could learn a thing or two about 3-D storytelling if given the chance to see such films as Kiss Me Kate, The Glass Web, Inferno, Hondo and the rest of the 50’s oeuvre of stereoscopic cinema.

I’m so pleased that I was able to assist the Expo in the presentation of the 3-D Rarities show. Some of the extremely rare clips that were shown only exist now as digital files, and the club provided the projection and playback equipment which allowed these files to be seen. We also had a lot of people stop by the LA 3-D Club table at the theater with questions and conversations about 3-D, and hopefully we’ll see some new members joining our club. I was also quite thrilled to personally participate in the Expo, displaying my restored 1953 Natural Vision camera rig (rescued from the estate sale of the late Dan Symmes) in the theater lobby. Big thanks to Perry Hoberman, Tom Koester, Jeff Amaral, Phil “Captain 3-D” McNally, Shyam Kannapurakkaran, Jeremy McGee, Scott Ressler,  Andy Parke, Jodi Kurland, and Lawrence Kaufman for all of the assistance they provided to me and to the club during the Expo.

As exciting as it was to see so many 3-D pictures in a movie theater, each screening was also somewhat bittersweet, with the realization that for many of these 35mm film prints, this Expo was most likely the last time they will ever be run through projectors. Many of the films are so fragile that they can’t be shown again (and several of the films shown at previous 3-D Expos were unable to be screened this time due to their deteriorated condition). When asked if there will ever be a 3-D Expo IV, Jeff Joseph replied “Only if these films get digitized.” Unfortunately, the copyright holders to the majority of these movies, both the studios and the independents, are reluctant to spend the money required to scan the elements and do the restoration work needed to create new digital prints for theaters, and Blu-Rays for the home market.

It is still my hope that these films will someday be saved so that future generations will be able to enjoy them in all of their stereoscopic glory. Last year, Warner Bros. released a restored Blu-Ray of Hitchcock’s Dial M For Murder, and Universal put out a restored (and sadly, flawed) version of The Creature From The Black Lagoon, and both were also digitally screened in theaters. Sony has created a new DCP of Man In The Dark for theaters, made The Mad Magician available in 3-D on the Playstation3, and has hinted at some upcoming home video releases of other titles. And this month, I’m very excited that Warner Bros. has finally released a 3-D Blu-Ray of House Of Wax, considered by many to be the best 3-D picture from 3-D’s silver age. The new digital transfer is stunning, and the deep 3-D looks great, both on a 3DTV and in the theater. (The disc includes a new documentary about the making of the movie, and if you look closely, you may see a familiar face!) Warner Bros. has said that the sales of this Blu-Ray will determine whether they proceed to restore any additional archive titles, so I would encourage everyone to buy a copy and help keep these pictures from being lost forever.