3D Blu-ray Review 3-D Rarities: THE HTF 3D ADDICT REVIEW

Ronald Epstein

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What can I say? I love 3D! From the moment I began watching 3D content in my home I quickly discovered that I needed more content. I suspect that those of you just purchasing your first 3D hardware will acquire the same ferocious appetite. That's why I became the HTF 3D ADDICT. I personally love images that pop off the screen and come inches away from your face without becoming overly gimmicky. However, I certainly appreciate the nature documentaries that offer beautiful depth and separation. These are not necessarily reviews of the film themselves. I am not going to concentrate on story or supplements -- you can find the 2D reviews elsewhere on this forum. My job is to let you know exactly what kind of 3D experience to expect from the titles that are being released. As I will be receiving a handful of new product from the studios expect to see more title coverage.








3-D RARITIES

Studio: Flicker Alley
Product Release: June 23, 2015
Ratio: Multiple
Audio: Mono, Stereo
Running Time: 147 minutes
Rating: NR


On A Scale 0-5

Overall 3D Presentation Rating: 5
3D Separation: 5
3D In Yo' Face Factor: 5


Allow me to get to the point of this review right off the bat....

3-D Rarities is the most prized Blu-ray in my library of well over 100 3D titles. It is the absolute best 3D title currently available -- and it accomplishes that task without being Avatar.

While some may greatly argue with my opinion, I beg you to read further, as I will attempt to explain why this release is so very, very important and how it succeeds in pleasing all audiences, whether you prefer dramatic pop-out or simply wonderful depth to enhance the onscreen visuals.

It all starts with my first meeting with 3-D Archive Preservationist, Robert Furmanek. It was not too surprising that he found me through this forum, given the fact that I was touting myself as an HTF 3D ADDICT. Knowing how much I appreciated the format, he invited to his home to treat me to a showing of classic archive material he was looking to get released. That meeting took place in 2012.

At that point, I had never seen any classic 3D material. Everything I knew about 3D was based upon recent releases. My opinion at the time was that anything from the classic era of 3D could never live up to the grandeur of Avatar or anything being brought to Blu-ray at the time. I could just imagine Mr. Furmanek's interest in showing me the material he had acquired.

That meeting with Bob Furmanek literally changed my life.



As I sat on a couch in front of Bob's large LCD display, donning passive 3D eyewear, he took me through hours of 3D history, beginning with some of the earliest footage taken at the very beginning of the century. I sat there in amazement watching early experiments from filmmakers hoping to bring flat pictures to life with vivid depth. More than three decades before the format would eventually boom, it was quite astonishing to see how dimensionally pleasing that early footage looked. Bob showed me two clips from the 1940s, one a promo for the Pennsylvania Railroad and another from the World's Fair that featured the building of a Plymouth automobile. Of course, the wealth of material I was shown was from the 1950s, considered the "Golden Era" of the format. I will talk a bit more about those clips and others that appear in 3-D Rarities, further into this review.

By the time Bob had finished his presentation, I was floored by what I had just witnessed. It was obvious to me, while present-day Hollywood filmmakers were making every attempt to dumb down 3D, that the material that truly represents what this format is all about, was lying around someone's home waiting for a distributer to take interest. Over lunch, I invited Bob Furmanek to come out to our Hollywood Meet. I was very excited about the material he had just showed me, and I wanted it shared with the Home Theater Forum membership.


(photo courtesy of Sam Posten)

When we polled our group of 60 attendees of the 2014 HTF Hollywood Meet as to what their favorite event was, a good majority praised the presentation from 3-D Archive Preservationists, Bob Furmanek and Greg Kintz. Like myself, they were thrilled to see material they never knew existed. Additionally, I think our audience was completely "wowed" by the combination and depth and dramatic pop-out these sequences provided. No doubt, it was a memorable afternoon for anyone interested in classic 3D.

So, let me start talking a bit about what you'll find on this extraordinary Blu-ray release of 3-D RARITIES. Upon inserting your disc you will come to a Main Menu that divides the 147 minutes of material across two chapters. I have included the complete program in the image below, taken directly from the booklet included within the Blu-ray packaging.





Part 1: The Dawn of Stereoscopic Cinematography




Most of the program content within this chapter covers the earliest stereoscopic cinematography between the years 1922-1952. I will briefly highlight my favorite moments from this chapter. Some of the material is not in great condition, though still highly effective in its translation to 3D. Speaking with Mr. Furmanek about the quality of the material within this chapter, he emphasized the following...

Quote
The first few shorts are the earliest surviving examples of stereoscopic film footage, from 1922-1927. They have some wear but the fact they even survive is quite remarkable.

We did not have the funds to do a complete digital scrubbing as they are licensed from the Library of Congress and George Eastman House. They are also extracted from red/green anaglyphic nitrate prints - the only existing elements - and some baked-in ghosting/crosstalk is visible.

Once you get into the 1930's and beyond (material that we own) the image cleans up considerably.

Please keep in mind the age and historic significance of this footage.


One of the most startling moments for me -- which brings home the historical significance of the contained material -- comes at the disc's very first presentation, Thru' The Trees. Here is a look at our nation's capitol during the early 1920s, including a reunion of Civil War veterans at Arlington Cemetery. Though the footage is a little rough, one gets a nice sense of depth and spacing while sitting in awe of the documented footage.

There are some terrific pop-outs that include an old hag delivering a poisonous concoction that extends off the screen before being thrown in your face. Later, a delivered hot dog protrudes so far off the screen that it comes inches from the the viewer's lips (though with some "baked-in" ghosting crosstalk described above). The effect will be quite memorable for those that rarely see this kind of protrusion from their current 3D titles.

But Wait! Things are about to get even better. A sequence from 1935's John Norling/Jacob Leventhal tests takes us to the Thunderbolt rollercoaster on Coney Island. I swear to you, watching the coaster car climb to the very top of the tracks and then plunge itself downward, across a 118" projected screen, was a pretty queasy experience for me. I would estimate some others will feel exactly the same way no matter what their screen size.





Most viewers should enjoy the 1940 promotional short, Thrills For You, which features the Pennsylvania Railroad, the most elegant method of rail travel for its time. Though there is no pop-out to be found here, the method of photography provides a very interesting level of depth of the inside capacity of the train and the passing landscape alongside it.





Another highly enjoyable short (though a bit too lengthy for its own good) is New Dimensions, Chrysler's promotional short that premiered during the 1940 World's Fair. It took nine weeks to photograph the stop motion animation, set to music, which depicts the building of a Plymouth Sedan. The fascinating short provides an adequate amount of depth as automobile parts are "magically" placed into position. It should be noted that the short has been restored from the only known surviving 35mm Technicolor print. It looks wonderful.

There are several drawn animated features from Canadian resident Norman McLaren that include: Now Is The Time, Around Is Around and Twirligig. I found Twirligig the most captivating watch for its animated optics that come right off the screen and dance inches before the viewer's face. It's almost a hypnotic sort of sensation that should elicit a few "oohs" and "aaahs" from all who view it.


Part 2: Hollywood Enters The Third Dimension



Once again, I am only going to highlight a few favorite moments from these chapters. As we now move forward into the 1950s which became known as the "Golden Era" of 3D filmmaking, you discover how all the experimental footage from the prior chapter is now applied to Hollywood film. Collected here are some rare tidbits that haven't been seen since their original showing.



My favorite segment within this chapter is M.L. Gunzburg Presents Natural Vision 3-Dimension. Originally shown in 1952 as a prologue to Bwana Devil, this short serves as an educational tool to audiences not familiar with the new technology that had just crept into their theaters. Not only does the short feature the beautiful Shirley Tegge (1949's Miss USA), but also the very popular Beany and Cecil who get to experiment with their own glasses. I hope viewers will find this as entertaining as I did, as I feel it is one of the best shorts within this assemblage.



For those of you who cherish trailers, there are plenty to be found here. We have four from 1953: It Came From Outer Space, The Maze, Miss Sadie Thompson and Hannah Lee. Though Hannah Lee succumbed to financial and technical problems prior to its release, in my opinion it is one of the best trailers in the collection due to its noteworthy pop-out near its close.





The first and only 3D newsreel ever produced, Rocky Marciano vs. Joe Walcott (1953) may appeal more to the hardcore boxing fan than most. It does provide an interesting look at the World Heavyweight Champion at ease, in his home, chowing down or playing cards with his father and assorted friends while also toying with the camera by attempting to do his own 3D effects. The depth is quite good, and a few clips of the boxers working out with a punching bag provide some neat pop-out.



Stardust In Your Eyes was shot in 1953 and opened for the 3D cult favorite, Robot Monster. It features nightclub comic Slick Slavin against a static backdrop doing a host of impressions of Hollywood's greatest actors from that era. This is another short that concentrates on realistic levels of depth rather than resorting to any gimmickry. I remember really enjoying this piece when Bob Furmanek originally showed it to me back in 2012. I am so happy that I found its inclusion here.



Perhaps the short that put the biggest smile on my face was the Casper The Friendly Ghost cartoon, Boo Moon, produced in 1953. You know, I haven't seen a Casper cartoon since I was a kid. Bob Furmanek had originally shown it to me back in 2012, but I had forgotten about it. So, when I saw the familiar logo and music suddenly appear onscreen, I felt like a kid all over again. This time, I was watching a full-fledged 3D cartoon -- and it looked AWESOME -- thanks to its perfectly layered placement of objects. No doubt, those of you who grew up in the Casper era are going to really enjoy this short.




Once again, these are highlights of the bounty of material that has been put together for this rarities collection. If you venture into the bonus material, one of the clips you should look at is The Bellboy and the Playgirls. It was lensed in 1961 with parts written by upcoming filmmaker, Francis Ford Coppola. What was very interesting about this clip, for me, was the fact that it has a very multi-layered look to it. You have a piece of furnishing directly front right. Then there is June Wilkinson layered front center. Behind that actor Don Kenney in drag. Behind that you'll find the other girls. Just an amazing use of 3D that is worth a look.

As mentioned at the top of this review (with a quote from Bob Furmanek), the overall quality of the clips, shorts, newsreels and features presented in this package vary according to year. For the most part, outside of the early work that was licensed from the Library of Congress and George Eastman House, the quality of content is mostly exceptional. The same can be said for the accompanying audio. Sans the early material already discussed, both video and audio are in nearly reference shape here. You can really see that this was a labor of love for 3-D Archive restorationists Furmanek and Kintz who have taken this old material and miraculously revived it.

What puts this collection at the very top of my HTF TOP 3D TITLES list is partly historic, but more for the fact that it will please those who love pop-out and those who love only depth that the format provides. Most everything presented here has a very "exaggerated" dimensional look and feel to it. Those who grew up with View-Master stereoscopes are really going to appreciate the intensity of the 3D. Those who like pop-out, on the other hand, are going to be exceptionally thrilled by a myriad of close encounters with objects that project themselves directly at the audience. This is the kind of stuff that Hollywood of today won't even consider doing. And, if you are as bored with today's 3D filmmaking as I am, you will view 3-D Rarities as a breath of fresh air.



To accentuate the amount of care that went into putting together a quality Blu-ray package, one needs to look no further than the included 24-page booklet. Wonderfully illustrated, and with an introduction by film historian, Leonard Maltin, the booklet provides a historic perspective on all the material included within this Blu-ray collection. You'll undoubtably find yourself thumbing through it before and after the presentation.




CONCLUSION





I would estimate that because you are reading this review, you love film and have a keen interest in 3D. Well, imagine yourself going into an old attic, rummaging around the multitude of spider-web covered artifacts that are strewn across the floor. Suddenly, you uncover an old box without a label. You open it -- and behold -- you find an aged collection of 3D movie reels. Your entire body tingles with excitement knowing the treasure you have just uncovered.

That is the feeling I had when I first saw much of this material for the first time back in 2012. I experienced the same feeling this very week when I watched 3-D Rarities for the first time and discovered even more stuff I had never seen before.

And you know what? This isn't even the tip of the iceberg as far as what material still lies out there. I have seen things in Bob Furmanek's personal collection that may never be released. HTF Members who came out to our 2012 meet were treated to much of the same material that is copyright protected and may never see the light of day.

It is so very, very important that people support this release. I did this review off an early check disk. I could easily have had Bob Furmanek ship me a final copy for free. My decision was to support this release. The only way that we are going to show distributors that there is interest in these classic films is through purchasing them. If this release sells well enough, who is to say that much of the other material that is out there won't get picked up.

This is the real stuff when it comes to 3D. It's the kind of disc you'll throw on to demonstrate to friends exactly what your system is capable of producing. Don't expect today's Hollywood films to come close to the the level of dimensional enjoyment you will experience here.

To get even more detailed insight into 3-D Rarities, don't forget to visit the official website at:

http://www.3dfilmarc...om/3-d-rarities


Images are for illustrative purpose only not representative of the picture quality of this disc.

Equipment

Sony HW55ES Front Projector calibrated by Gregg Loewen, Lion AV
Oppo BDP-93 3D Blu-ray Player
Denon 3311CI Receiver
Atlantic Technology H-PAS AT-1 fronts, 4400 center; 4200 rear side and back speakers
SV Sound Subwoofer
 

Josh Steinberg

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Really looking forward to this - the only thing on the disc I've seen before is the "Miss Sadie Thompson" trailer so the rest will be all new for me.
 
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Bob Furmanek

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Ron, let me just add one comment to clarify your statement:

Images are for illustrative purpose only not representative of the picture quality of this disc.
The images that you have included from Thrills for You, M.L. Gunzburg Presents Natural Vision Three-Dimension, Hannah Lee trailer, Stardust in Your Eyes and Boo Moon are direct frame-grabs from the disc.
 

Charles Smith

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FANTASTIC write-up, Ron.

By God, that ought to sell a few more discs. :)

I, too, had my pre-order in the first day, and can't wait. But I also can't wait for the big screen presentation at MOMA next week!!

Thank you so much for all of this, Bob and Greg!
 

Matt Hough

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Wonderful write-up and a great way to anticipate even more (if that's possible) this upcoming release. Have had my pre-order in since the beginning, and I'm counting the days until it arrives.


Thanks, Ron, and congratulations, Bob and Greg, on a greatly awaited release!
 

youworkmen

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I'm in the UK so I have to wait for Flicker Alley to get mine to me but the review makes me even more keen to get this.

Can't wait
 
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Bob Furmanek

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I've had many people express surprise at the level of depth in the vintage material.
 

Will Krupp

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I believe the color version of NEW DIMENSIONS on the disc is actually the second version of the short, yes? I seem to remember the old Morgan & Symmes AMAZING 3-D book of my youth mentioning that the short first appeared in b&w when the fair opened in 1939 but proved so popular they decided to re-shoot it in Technicolor for the second (1940) season. Is that accurate? Either way how amazing to have located an original (and the last!) Technicolor print!


Great stuff and thanks!
 
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Tina_H_V

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Sweet!!! While this title may be too late for my birthday, which is coming up this weekend, it will be a fine addition to the collection later this year--for XMAS!!!!! Who knows!!!??? I may just make this my 2016 New Year's Midnight Movie!!!! We shall see!!!!


Thanks, Bob and Co., for this!!! :3dglasses: :3dglasses: :3dglasses: And thanks, Ron, for the encouraging review!!!! :3dglasses: :3dglasses: :3dglasses:
 

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