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This Is Cinerama 60th Anniversary Blu-ray/DVD Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Timothy E, Sep 23, 2012.

  1. Timothy E

    Timothy E Supporting Actor
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    On September 30, 1952, This Is Cinerama premiered in special theatrical venues equipped with curved 146° screens. As the emerging medium of television seemed to threaten the livelihood of theater owners in the early 1950s, new processes like Cinerama, Cinemascope, and 3D were created to bring audiences back to the movie theaters. Cinerama was one of the initial efforts to recreate the full range of human vision on a big screen, and consisted of 3 projectors running 3 adjacent panels of film simultaneously that was intended to appear as one wide image when illuminated on the 146° wide screen. This Is Cinerama was the first theatrical film to be released in this widescreen process and, as its name suggests, was created as a showcase for the highlights of the Cinerama process. Almost 60 years to the day that This Is Cinerama premiered in movie theaters, Flicker Alley is releasing a 60th Anniversary Blu-ray/DVD Combo with a treasure trove of special features in what is essentially a recreation of the Roadshow version of This Is Cinerama, complete with overture and intermission. 


    cart


    THIS IS CINERAMA BLU-RAY/DVD Combo


    Studio: Flicker Alley

    Year: 1952

    Rated: Not Rated

    Film Length: 2 hours, 7 minutes

    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1(Smilebox)

    Audio: English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio

    Release Date: September 25, 2012


    The Movie


    This Is Cinerama opens with an image of dark velvet curtains covering a curved movie screen. As the overture concludes, the curtains draw slowly back to reveal a black and white introduction in Academy aspect ratio by Lowell Thomas, the avuncular host of This Is Cinerama. Following the host’s brief summary of the history of motion picture technology, the screen changes to color and triples in size as the curtains draw back fully and the viewer has a point of view from the front seat of the Atom Smasher roller coaster as it leaves the ticket collector at the gate and begins its climb in Rockaway’s Playland on Long Island.


    This Is Cinerama is a series of vignettes that begins on the roller coaster and transports the viewer around the world to venues like a bullfight in Madrid and an opera in the La Scala opera house in Milan, the gondolas and canals of Venice, the boats and waterskis in the everglades show at Cypress Gardens, Florida, and a flight across the sights of America as seen from the nose of a B-25 bomber plane.


    This Is Cinerama is not a traditional film with a full story and narrative. It is spectacle and eye candy in widescreen and multichannel sound, and later Cinerama films would carry the process further by creating feature-length narratives with characters and drama. This film premiered only a few months after DeMille’s The Greatest Show On Earth, which ultimately was awarded the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1952. It is apropos that both these films came out in the same year, since they have elements in common, and must have appealed to the desires of moviegoers at that time. Both films favor thrills and spectacle over drama and character, and may have given audiences sights and sounds that they could not have enjoyed staying at home to watch television. (VistaVision test footage apparently still exists from The Greatest Show On Earth, although it was released in 3-strip technicolor.) While the story aspects are virtually non-existent, This Is Cinerama is fascinating viewing now as it preserves images of many landmarks as they appeared in the not so distant past, and it is easy to see how audiences were wowed by its presentation in movie theaters.


    Video


    This Is Cinerama is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio in the Smilebox format, which recreates the appearance of a Cinerama presentation on a flat screen by having the far side panels of the screen elongated to simulate the curved appearance of the 2.59:1 aspect ration on a 146° screen.


    The producers of this 60th Anniversary edition have worked miracles through their labors of love and made this presentation look as great as it possibly can given their source materials and limited budget. The original negatives were unusable for this restoration due to substantial damage to the perforations. The original negatives do not appear to be beyond restoration at this point, but this type of restoration is usually affordable only by the larger film studios. The source of this restoration was a 65mm composite negative that was created in 1972. This negative was converted into the digital realm and then color corrected so that the 3 separate strips of panels would match and the join lines of the 3 strips could be blended and minimized.


    The result is much better than one might expect given the source materials. It might be possible for This Is Cinerama to look better than it does in high definition with a restoration budget in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. This presentation is never going to look as good as the Smilebox HD presentation of How The West Was Won on Blu-ray, which must be the gold standard for this type of film. How The West Was Won received a sublime restoration and presentation in Smilebox format by Warner Brothers. Join lines of panels were eliminated, colors were vibrant, and contrast was astonishing in How The West Was Won, which was restored from the original negatives rather than a composite.

    If the Smilebox HD version of How The West Was Won rates a 10 out of 10, then This Is Cinerama on Blu-ray rates about a 7 out of 10. The join lines in this presentation are certainly minimized, but not eliminated. Colors are good but not great. There is not as much in the way of fine detail as there might be if the original negative had been usable for this presentation.


    In spite of the limitations of the video, the presentation is excellent. Martin Scorsese has been a vocal proponent of the Smilebox process, but it is not to everyone’s taste. The Smilebox presentation is very immersive in this presentation and does much to make one forget the join lines when they are visible. The documentary "Remastering A Widescreen Classic" included on these discs is recommended viewing to gain an appreciation of the miracle wrought by the producers in maximizing the quality and impact of this presentation.


    Audio


    The English DTS-HD 5.1 audio is almost perfect. There is some audible hiss during the introduction by Lowell Thomas, but that is the only perceptible flaw. The orchestral music in the soundtrack has a rich and full quality that rivals and matches anything in a modern film.  There is some nice directional audio used following the intermission and in the latter half of the film.


    Special Features


    The special features are in 1080p except where noted and include all of the following:


    Audio Commentary: Restoration director Dave Strohmaier, John Sittig from Cinerama, Inc., producer Randy Gitsch, and original crew member Jim Morrison provide an informative commentary regarding the sights and sounds seen in the film and the restoration process.


    Remastering A Widescreen Classic(19:01): Restoration director Dave Strohmaier and others discuss the source materials and demonstrate the re-mastering process for the film.


    This Is Cinerama Breakdown reel(9:52): This is the original interstitial footage that was projected in the theater anytime there was a breakdown of any one of the three projectors.


    Alternate Act 2 Opening Titles(1:46): This feature shows the alternate opening titles to Act 2 shown in Europe to introduce the panoramic view of the United States from the nose of a B-25 bomber plane.


    Fred Waller Radio Interviews(15:30): These are radio interviews given by Cinerama creator Fred Waller at the time of the original release of This Is Cinerama, with still photos projected during the audio.


    This Is Cinerama trailer(3:17): Recreation of the original trailer in HD.


    TV Spots(1:44)(SD): These are 2 separate TV commercials promoting This Is Cinerama and Seven Wonders of the World.


    Tribute to New Neon Movies(15:57)(SD): This interesting documentary covers the revival of interest in Cinerama at the Neon Theater in Dayton, Ohio.


    Tribute To New Cooper Theater(2:58)(SD): This featurette is an appreciation of the futuristically-styled Super Cinerama theater built in the 1960s in Denver, Colorado.


    This Is Cinerama Behind the Scenes Slideshow(5:57): This is a montage of still images of production photos and publicity materials.


    Promotion and Publicity Image Gallery: These may be viewed using the left and right selection arrows on your remote control.


    Also included is a flipper DVD with the feature on one side and the special features on the other.


    Also included in the case is a very nice 28 page reproduction of the program guide for This Is Cinerama.


    Conclusion


    The 60th Anniversary Edition of This Is Cinerama on Blu-ray/DVD Combo is a fascinating travelogue and time capsule of the world of 1952, and recommended to anyone who is a fan of Cinerama. The Smilebox presentation helps in the immersive quality of the film. The video presentation could not be better given the source materials available at this time, and the audio is excellent. The special features are not the usual filler but also recommended viewing to anyone who enjoys the film. The feature "Remastering A Widescreen Classic" is especially recommended. Anyone who enjoyed or was intrigued by the Smilebox presentation of How The West Was Won will appreciate this film, even if This Is Cinerama does not have the narrative power of that other film. No offense intended to Mr. DeMille, but given the choice, I will always recommend This Is Cinerama over the Academy Award winner for Best Picture of 1952.

     
  2. Strohmaier

    Strohmaier Stunt Coordinator

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    Here is another in the series of Cinerama films we are remastering:

    Dave Strohmaier
     
    xRighteous likes this.
  3. Charles Smith

    Charles Smith Extremely Talented Member
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    Fantastic!
     
  4. Timothy E

    Timothy E Supporting Actor
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    This is great news about South Seas Adventure!

    Thank you for providing this link on the Home Theater Forum.
     
  5. Rob W

    Rob W Supporting Actor

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    I'm not sure any true Cinerama fan would ever want the join lines to completely disappear- that was part of the charm and uniqueness of the format.
     
  6. Douglas Monce

    Douglas Monce Producer

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    I love classic travelogs from this era, and no one did it better than Cinerama. These are must buys for me.
    Oh and any documentary with Welles narrating is tops in my book.
    Doug
     
  7. Brian McP

    Brian McP Second Unit

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    Thanks also for including a dvd version of the picture.
    The place I go once a week for a drink, a working man's club with a pool table and a 42'' Panasonic flat screen, is usually filled with people in their late 50s/early 60s who remember the 60s and 70s very well -- I usually take command of the dvd player and the flat screen and play iconic scenes from the history of cinema to show off the big tv, as 'eye candy' of sorts -- the parting of the Red Sea from "The Ten Commandments", the chariot race from "Ben Hur", the arrival in Rome from "Cleopatra" - usually to a chorus of "get that s*** off" and "how can I play pool with that thing on?!"
    The one thing that has worked has been turning the sound down, by public demand cranking up the 'classic rock' radio station and putting on pictures like "Casino Royale" (1967), "The Magic Christian", "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" and practically every movie Bruce Lee ever made -- all with the original movie's sound on mute, and this heritage rock soundtrack going throughout, full bore -- at least I get to recite the screenplays to the poor bartender there, and nobodys pool game is ruined.
    Soon, I'm going to bring in "This Is Cinerama" one night, unannounced, in all it's Smilebox glory -- I look forward to the banshee like bellowing from the regulars when Lowell Thomas appears in his 4:3 section in the middle of the screen -- and then that expansion, the rollercoaster, La Scalla, flying over 1952 era cities and freeways -- and probably to the usual AC/DC and Rolling Stones playlist -- I suspect not much pool will be played that night....
     
  8. ahollis

    ahollis Producer

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    Thanks Dave. I will start to look forward to the hopeful release of this one. I already ordered WINDJAMMER and THIS IS CINERAMA. I cannot wait to watch them.
     
  9. Chuck Anstey

    Chuck Anstey Screenwriter

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    These titles look great but $40 apiece is out of my price range for what I am willing to pay for a movie. I hope they come down because I would love to own them.
     
  10. Brandon Conway

    Brandon Conway captveg

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    Just ordered both as blind buys - which I almost NEVER do.
     
  11. jeffsultanof

    jeffsultanof Extra

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    I pre-ordered them from Flicker Alley, and got a $10.00 discount on each one.
    I'm in for the whole series of Cinerama films when they are released on Blu-ray. I'm thrilled that this films will be viewable again. Alex North's music for South Seas Adventure always makes me weep.
     
  12. jeffsultanof

    jeffsultanof Extra

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    And needless to say, thank you Dave for your wonderful work.
     
  13. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?

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    Good luck with that one.
    Welcome to Home Theater Forum Mr. Strohmaier. Looking forward to hearing more.
     
  14. NY2LA

    NY2LA Screenwriter

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    I'm with you there, though this and Windjammer both have enough presentation and extra elements to make them interesting, I can't see myself watching either one very often. However I'm aware that the tiny distribution from a tiny company makes a price drop unlikely. I did do the pre-order at $10 off each one, which is as cheap as we'll see them for the foreseeable future.
    Tomorrow is the official release date so maybe if you go order directly from Flicker Alley right now - today - you might still catch the preorder discount.
     
  15. Strohmaier

    Strohmaier Stunt Coordinator

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    More reviews here:
    NY TIMES:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/23/movies/homevideo/new-on-dvd-this-is-cinerama-and-windjammer.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0moc.semityn.www
    LA TIMES
    http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/moviesnow/la-et-mn-classic-hollywood-20120924,0,311467.story
    NY Post
    http://www.nypost.com/p/blogs/movies/dvd_extra_happy_th_anniversary_this_FIZoi7f1k4C622ypHl9l1O
    DVD Talk:
    http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/57194/this-is-cinerama/
    Dave
     
  16. Richard Gallagher

    Reviewer

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    It's $32.44 at Deep Discount, which may still be too steep for you but it is a savings of $7.50.
     
  17. Mark Oates

    Mark Oates Supporting Actor

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    There seem to be few opportunities for those of us outside the US to import these titles, even if they weren't region-locked. :(
     
  18. Douglas R

    Douglas R Screenwriter

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    They aren't region locked are they? I've order them from Amazon.com which has cheapest shipping to UK.
    I never saw the Cinerama travelogues, apart from THIS IS CINERAMA in the 70mm reissue, so I'm looking forward to these and others which may follow. The extras look really interesting.
     
  19. Mark Oates

    Mark Oates Supporting Actor

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    Sorry, Doug. Duff information. I was looking around a few places to buy and they were talking about Region A. Luckily I happened on the Beaver review which says Region Free.
    Unfortunately, even through Amazon it's out of my price range :(
     
  20. John Morgan

    John Morgan Supporting Actor

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    Nice review at the Beaver.
    http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film4/blu-ray_reviews57/this_is_cinerama_blu-ray.htm
    (I see Mark already posted the link..)
     

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