1915: The first known exhibition of a 3-D film was on June 10th of that year, 100 years ago today. Yes, that’s right, the “new” 3-D fad in just that, “new” as in the latest of many attempts to lift images off the screen and thrill audiences with what over 90 years later, Christopher Nolan would dub “the parallax illusion”. And that was not to flatter the medium.
The film? It wasn’t a film as such, merely a collection of 3-D demonstration footage by Edwin S. Porter and William E. Waddell. It included several 3D segments including “Jim the Penman” (teaser), Niagara Falls, oriental dance and some rural scenes. This was a 3-reel short and the first known exhibition of cinematic 3-D. This showing took place at the Astor Theater, New York in analyph 3D, that’s Red/Cyan. Strangely enough, the feature film “Jim the Penman” was released later that year and was only shot and exhibited in 2-D, despite the trailer being the first example of 3-D.
3-D is a great idea, but one which has yet to be realised in a way which fulfils the audiences expectations. But what is not always understood is that a convincing 3-D effect, that of adding depth and a tangible sense of dimension to an image is already widely in use, from the earliest days of cinema.
It’s 2-D and the method is known as DOF, or Depth Of Field, with a plain of the image in focus whilst the other plains, such as the foreground and the background would be out of focus, for example. But 3-D was filling auditoriums, at least for a while as the digital formats improved the reliability of the format from the analogue systems in use in the 1950’s and 1980’s revivals, where the projectionist has to physically sync the projectors and maintain the synchronisation of two projections, a similar problem to that experienced by Cinerama projectionists. True Imax still uses two 70mm projectors but even that is now tending towards digital.
On June 16th 2015, six days after a centenary screenings of this compilation, Flicker Alley, a favourite of mine for their releases of the otherwise lost Cinerama films, are releasing a 3D Blu-ray of 22 rarities, going back as far as 1922/23 up until 1962. 3-D Rarities is to me, one of the most interesting 3-D releases since the creation of 3D Blu-ray in 2009, with the likes of Avatar (3D), Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M For Murder (3D) and The Creature From The Black Lagoon (3D).
The Details for the Blu-ray…
3-D Rarities commemorates the centennial of 3-D motion pictures!
FormatBlu-ray (NTSC)RegionRegion FreeFeaturingRichard Carlson, Nat “King” Cole, Joanne Dru, Jose Ferrer, Stan Freberg, Rocky Marciano, Lloyd Nolan, Michael Pate, and many more!ComposersGeorge Steiner, Trustin Howard, Paul Dunlap, Clarence Wheeler, Winston Sharples, Billy Ward and his DominoesYear1922 -1962LanguageEnglishLength147 minutesUPC6-17311-67919-3
Bonus Materials Include:
– Introductions by Leonard Maltin and Trustin Howard.
– Essays by Julian Antos, Hillary Hess, Thad Komorowski, Donald McWilliams, Ted Okuda, Mary Ann Sell and Jack Theakston.
– 3-D photo galleries – Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), New York World’s Fair (1939), Sam Sawyer View-Master reels (1950) and 3-D Comic Books (1953)
– 3-D footage directed by Francis Ford Coppola from The Bellboy and the Playgirls (1962)
– Commentary tracks by Thad Komorowski and Jack Theakston.
3-D Rarities: Complete List of Films
Part One – THE DAWN OF STEREOSCOPIC CINEMATOGRAPHY:
- Kelley’s Plasticon Pictures (1922/1923)
- William T. Crespinel/Jacob Leventhal tests (1924-1927)
- John Norling/Jacob Leventhal tests (1935)
- Thrills for You (1940)
- New Dimensions (1940)
- Now is the Time (1951)
- Around is Around (1951)
- O Canada (1952)
- Twirligig (1952)
- Bolex Stereo (1952)
Part Two – HOLLYWOOD ENTERS THE THIRD DIMENSION:
- M.L. Gunzburg Presents Natural Vision 3-Dimension (1952)
- It Came from Outer Space trailer (1953)
- Rocky Marciano vs. Jersey Joe Walcott (1953)
- Hannah Lee trailer (1953)
- Stardust in Your Eyes (1953)
- The Maze trailer (1953)
- Doom Town (1953)
- The Adventures of Sam Space (1960)
- I’ll Sell My Shirt (1953)
- Miss Sadie Thompson trailer (1953)
- Boo Moon (1953)