1962 (Cinerama Re-Release)
DIRECTOR: Bill Colleran & Louis De Rochemont III
May Contain Spoilers!
This is the third and final, to date, Cinerama (Smilebox) film which I have watched and I expected this to be one of the best. I must admit that I was a little disappointed. Windjammer was the first major restoration by David Strohmaier since How The West Was Won (1962) to be announced back in 2009, with This Is Cinerama (1952) following. But How The West Was Won was a multi-million dollar restoration whilst the latter two and I would expect the future prints, will not have the same resources and it shows.
One problem that I had with this film was the fact that the direction and cinematography were both excellent, with framing and set-ups which where more conventional than most Cinerama movies, but that softened the impact of the wide, curved screen experience. The scale was reduced and the intimacy was restored in a way similar to the better 3D movies of today, refusing to play to the gimmick, whilst losing the appeal of being in 3D at all. Toy Story 3 3D (2010) for example.
The documentary/narrative follow the Norwegian School Ship, Christian Radich on its 17,000 mile, 239 day round trip across the Atlantic, stopping off in the Caribbean and New York. Shot in the defunct Cinemiracle format, clearly better and more effective than Cinerama, it was adopted by the American corporation and this stands as the only example of a Cinemiricle feature. Restored by David Strohmaier, the restoration isn’t perfect by any stretch but it’s a significant improvement from the disintegrating negative and is a fascinating watch.
But, the narrative and subject are little boring. The film, if it had been made today would have been a much shorter IMAX feature, charting the voyage in magnificent style, with a huge screen and booming sound but this is over 50 years old, as confirmed by an excerpt from a radio broadcast which referred to Prince Charles starting school! It’s credibility as documentary is fine and would have been much more interesting in 1958, but since the focus is on the values of making young boys in to men via the Windjammers, in seems to be more than a little dated.
The problem was that the ideals of the film seemed to be appealing, with the character of a young man being built on a nine month tour of service on a sailing ship, as well as the melancholy of the industries diminishing appeal, but it’s all but gone now. The Windjammer is effectively a thing of the past and so are the politics of the film. Then there was the U.S. Naval sequence in which cadets are transferred to United States vessels of a North Atlantic Task Force, in order to advertise the post WWII fleet, presumably at the behest of the film’s U.S. Producers and distributors.
The principles are good, promoting decent family values and showing the world of the late 50’s in the true travelogue way, with strange and fascinating cultures being treated respectfully but also like zoo specimens. The interesting fact to remember when watching as Travelogue like this, is that people didn’t travel as they do today and this was one of the only chances that some people had to see the rest of the world. And they work well but as a result, it can get a little dull, as were the various musical interludes.
This is defiantly the best shot Cinerama films which I have seen to date, with a real effort to make a real film and the sound design and quality was noting short of excellent, but the subject was just a little too dry and dated for me. The restoration on Blu-ray was as good as could be expected and the 7-channel sound track was near perfect. The pomp and pageantry of the score wasn’t bad either.