1922 ~ 1962
May Contain Spoilers!
3-D Boxing matches; nuclear blasts; abstract, stop motion and mainstream animation and strip-teases all make up this fascinating compilation of 3-D shorts from the silent era up until Francis Ford Coppola’s segment from the 1962 movie “The Bell-Boy And The Play Girls”.
Flicker Alley, whose work I have admired for several years with their releases of the otherwise lost Cinerama movies, have released this set in association with The 3-D Film Archive who have compiled this set of 22 shorts, trailers, newsreels, documentaries and cartoons, charting the evolution of 3-D from just seven years after its initial public screenings in New York on June 10th 1915, footage that is now believed to have been lost.
But to commemorate this centenary, Flicker Alley and The 3D Film Archive have put together and remarkable, yet niche collection of films, which whilst demonstrating the lasting, historic uses of 3D, which has clearly being experimented with and used for decades longer than most of use ever knew, the footage contained here is for the time, stunning.
This is old school 3D, gimmicky, fun and designed to get the audience to jump from their seats as objects are thrown at them, guns and sharp objects are projected from the screen and we are treated to roller-coaster and car rides. The aim is to thrill and at times, it most defiantly does.
Obviously there are a lot on niggling issues regarding the quality of the material, most of which has been recovered rather than simply restored, from disintegrating negatives and the depth of the three-dimensional field can be deep, at times making it difficult to maintain focus. Also, the films themselves are sometimes blurry but when it works, it works and it works brilliantly.
Doom Town (1953), an anti-nuclear test documentary and the first documentary to be shot in 3D, is excellent. It is the second longest short in the programme, with only Rocky Marciano vs. Jersey Joe Walcott (1953) , also the first and only boxing match to be theatrically filmed in 3-D, trumping it at 17 minutes.
There is no doubt that the 3-D here was filmed to varying degrees of quality and one of most enjoyable segments was the least 3D of the lot, Stardust in Your Eyes, also released in 1953, was nothing more than comedian Slick Slavin warms up an audience prior to a 3D presentation of Robot Monster (1953) by doing some first-rate impressions of Hollywood stars of the day. But the restoration is excellent and the attention to detail, ditto, as these all but lost films have not only be reissued but returned to good health.
So, who is this for? The kids? For the most part, no, and to be honest it is really only going to find a home with purist cinephiles such as myself, or those with an interest either in 3D of the technical aspects of cinema. And of course cinema historians but it is a shame because here we have a macro-cosmic view of the evolution, not only of 3D from its initial inception almost a hundred years ago, to its 1950’s heyday, but a look at the growth in cinema itself.
A tour of Washington D.C. in 1922, a remarkably innovative and surprisingly entertaining stop motion short from Chrysler, New Dimensions (1940), one of many dawning shorts filmed and released at the outbreak of the second world war, leading back to the dawn of the cold war and Doom Town, chilling as it is poignant.
The weakest short for me was actually the Bolex Stereo promo. It was a very an Interesting addition to the set, not least for the aspect ratio, but the 3D itself was not particularly deep and I presume that is was filmed with the home cine camera which they were advertising. But I reckon that we can blame Bolex for that one!
This is also a MUST for animation aficionados as the mixture in styles is very interesting; with the Canadian abstract shorts, Around The World (1951) and the exquisite Twirling (1952), offering beautiful if not bizarre subjects. Personally, I really liked this compilation and the Flicker Alley presentation of the programme is first-rate and very professional. The 5.1 sound mix was crisp, clear and at times booming, a real treat for such old audio sources and a credit to restoration team.
My only gripe for want of a better word, is that as a completest/purist, I would have liked to have had the option to view the Anaglyph 3D shorts in just that, Anaglyph, but there was no choice but to see them Polarised. It is hardly a major issue but still something which occurred to me as I watched this. Maybe just as bonus feature…?
Still, 3-D Rarities is highly recommended even though it will clearly struggle to find and mainstream audience, due to no fault of its own, though it doesn’t really need too. This is a work of cinematic art, resurrected as a reminder that James Cameron and his Avatar was not the original pinnacle of 3D. Great and innovative though it was, he was 94 years too late.
This is the first real example of what 3D was to me as I grew up. Short and to the pointy!
3-D Rarities has and is still being shown publicly in the U.S. at The Museum Of Modern Art in New York but is primarily available on 3D and 2D Blu-ray from Flicker Alley.