DIRECTORS: Carl Dudley, Richard Goldstone, Francis D. Lyon, Walter Thompson & Basil Wrangell
May Contain Spoilers!
The Orson Welles narrated South Seas Adventure is the fifth and final entry of the three-strip Cinerama Travelogues, though Orson is the not the only voice to appear on this soundtrack, with his credit overshadowing the word of several others. Opening without the customary 1.37:1 segment, originally introduced by the face of Cinerama, adventurer Lowell Thomas, South Seas bursts onto the giant screen in glorious Cinerama (2.59:1), barely given the curtains time to open, which was of course intentional. But South Seas Adventure sets out its stall from the opening frame, all three of them.
Following the overture, Alex North’s score continues to impress with its vibrant and colourful tones, evoking both the feel of the South Seas, Hawaii, Tonga etc.. whilst still feeling western and grandiose in equal measure. This film takes the travelogue documentary concept on the early films, which had obvious staging here are there, and have now has created a sudo-documentary, with fiction characters and more narrative driven scenarios.
This makes for a much better and more engaging Cinerama experience which films such as Windjammer (1958) and Cinerama Holiday (1955), which are much simpler and po-faced documentaries than can drag on a little too long. But South Seas continues the charade of being a documentary though the pacing is miles better, with stories and segments inter-cut with a greater sense of theatrical flare and timing.
But this is still Cinerama and it appears that in the six years since the premier in September 1952, with This Is Cinerama (1952), that they were beginning to nail it. Combining stunning aerial photography with maritime themes and the island hoping vibrancy of the seemingly untouched paradise which the post War world was aching for, we are swept of our feet by the visual ferocity of the art form.
Combining a fantastic score by Alex North, by Cinerama’s standards, sharp editing and a tight narrative, this is almost a perfect showcase for the soon to be defunct three-panel format; the most theatrical to date. Four years later the final three-panel Cinerama films would be released, How The West Was Won (1962) and the missing in action, The Wonderful World Of The Brother’s Grimm (1962). But this is the first sign that Cinerama had prospects as a legitimate narrative driven film format, combing the visual spender and technical innovations with a plot structure which could keep us engaged.
It also, probably due to its setting being primarily in the Pacific, does not date as obviously as Cinerama Holiday (1955) or Windjammer (1958). This hits all the right notes and just keeps on going.
The BEST Cinerama film to date and the first three-strip travelogue which I believe I can recommend to a wider audience than just the fanatical Cinerama collectors.
Available primarily through Flicker Alley
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