Senior HTF Member
- Jul 3, 1997
- Real Name
- Ronald Epstein
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.
Studio: Olive Films
Product October 14, 2014
Running Time: 83 minutes
On A Scale 0-5
Overall 3D Presentation Rating: 4
3D Separation: 5
3D In Yo' Face Factor: 1
Seen any really good 3D films lately? Chances are, if you have been watching
some of the recent fare released theatrically and then to Blu-ray, you have probably
seen more "fake" 3D than real. Hollywood is finding it much easier (and cheaper) to
simply upconvert films in post production rather than giving premium paying audiences
"the real thing."
Perhaps that is one of the reasons why film collectors like myself who read and participate
on this forum start salivating the moment they learn a film from The Golden Era of 3D is
about to be released to Blu-ray. These films, produced during the 1950s, were the "real
deal," that provided moviegoers with sensational stereoscopic imagery. I think it's safe to
say that all of these golden era releases often surpass the "watered down" conversions
that are playing across screens today.
Before I begin to talk about Dragonfly Squadron, I'd like to make reference to Preserving
a Lost 3-D film by HTF resident and 3D expert, Bob Furmanek. I can't think of a better way to
prime one's self for watching this film than to read all the historic information behind it. One
of the most interesting aspects that Bob points out about Dragonfly Squadron is that when
the film was released in 1954, 3D was dwindling and theater owners were opting to book flat
versions of the film. For that reason, Dragonfly Squadron has never been seen in its intended
format until this new restoration prepared by the 3-D Film Archive.
Dragonfly Squadron takes place in 1950 shortly before the United States enters the Korean
conflict. Air Force Major Brady (John Hodiak) is assigned to the Kongku base where he is to
oversee the training of a squadron of South Korean pilots. With enemy forces on the move, it's
essential that Brady get these pilots trained in a short period of time. At the Kongku base,
Brady meets a former fiancé (Barbara Britton) who left him after finding out that her husband (Bruce
Bennett), who was thought to have been killed in action, wasn't. As the invasion of South Korea
commences, the evacuation of all Americans is ordered, and Brady and his remaining company
find themselves under attack from North Korean airplanes before help from the U.S. is due
The film provides a decent story, but never really rises above being the B-picture that it is.
The problem I had were two major distractions, one of which involving Brady's former love
interest, and the other, a nosy newspaper reporter named Dixon Jess Barker) who shows up
at inopportune moments to agitate things. And, if you want to see some real scene chewing,
look no further than the inclusion of Chuck Connors appearing as U.S. Captain Warnowski.
He spits out some of the worst clichés you'll see in any film. However, those distractions aside,
I thought the film featured some cool, realistic aerial footage and great, explosive airfield battle
sequences that look larger than life thanks to its 3D photography.
Would quickly like to mention that it was great to see actor Gerald Mohr cast in this film. He
is a familiar face to Lost In Space fans who might remember his role as Morbus in the episode,
A Visit to Hades.
Let me talk a little about the transfer....
Anyone expecting a pristine restoration along the lines of what Warner had done with House
of Wax and Dial M For Murder is going to be disappointed. This is not a major studio restoration
effort. To quote film archivist, Bob Furmanek:
We faced many challenges with the restoration, including flat title-overlays; de-composition during the final attack sequence; excessive grain in some dupe footage and a flat credit sequence. (The opposite side was found at the 11th hour.) The full details on the restoration can be found here: http://www.3dfilmarc...gonfly-squadron
We brought in the full project - from HD scanning to scene to scene stereoscopic correction - for a fraction (about 1/30th) of what the studios have spent on their 3-D holdings. It's not scrubbed clean of film grain and other imperfections but the 3-D alignment is now flawless and we feel that you'll be very pleased. In my humble opinion, it turned out quite well.
...and I have to agree with Mr. Furmanek. Under the circumstances, everything did turn out
rather well. The film is littered with dust speckles and other anomalies that are magnified
through 3D viewing. Film grain is evident, which is a good thing. It's not what one would call
a "pretty" transfer. That being said, I think the 3-D film archive put its best efforts forward in
doing the best restoration that they could. In the end, the positives greatly outweigh the negatives.
The moment the opening titles appear on screen, you have this immediate "Oh Wow!" moment
realizing the beautiful stereoscopic image before you. It looks like the view master images we
all enjoyed as children. Depth is amazingly infinite. When you remove your eyewear, you can
see that the image is greatly blurred. The more blurred the image, the better the 3D separation.
While watching this film, you notice how objects are effectively layered within the scene. For
instance, you'll have two actors speaking to each other inside a small office, but yet, the thing
your eyes are immediately drawn to is the hanging light fixture that seems to take on a life of its
own. The thing that makes a film like Dragonfly Squadron such an immersive experience is that
one gets the sense of realistic space and distance -- whether it be inside the barracks or outside
on a vast airfield. The action war sequences are very well done, and with the enhancement of
3D photography, you see lots of explosive debris being hurdled towards the screen. The total lack
of any pop-out gimmickry is more than made up by the intense level of depth which makes for
a very satisfying 3D experience.
I was quite surprised, despite the limited cleanup that was done, how sharp images remain. If
you want to see something really revealing, check out the scene early in the film where newspaper
reporter Dixon first meets Brady at a bar counter. Look at Dixon's head and check out the individual
strands of hair. For me, it shows how incredibly revealing the imagery is. Best of all, I found no
traces of ghosting or aliasing.
What is very important to note about this transfer is that this Blu-ray shows that a quality 3D
restoration can be achieved by the Archive at a very reasonable rate. While it's great that some
films will get a several hundred thousand dollar restoration, I am very satisfied watching a vintage
film that might show some wear so long as the 3D image is optimally aligned, vertically, which is
precisely what the Archive has done. I feel that is a better option than leaving these films locked
up in a vault where no one gets to see and enjoy them. I hope the studios will take notice and
work with the 3-D Film Archive to release more Golden Era 3D on Blu-ray.
The film is presented in mono. Overall, despite the hint of background hiss and occasional film
crackle, the audio presentation is more than adequate.
Both 3D and 2D versions are available on a single Blu-ray disc. The only extras provided is the
film's original promotional trailer.
Dragonfly Squadron may not be the quintessential golden era release, but certainly an essential
one, nonetheless. With outstanding levels of depth, the film certainly fulfills the addiction that most
collectors crave for.
But I have something even more important to say about this Blu-ray release...
It's very important that collectors support the efforts of the 3-D Film Archive in purchasing these
releases. If we buy them, we send a message to the studios that there's a demand for these films.
Personally, I don't hesitate to purchase anything released from this time period because I find the
experience to be so much more gratifying than what I get from modern upconversions.
Note: Watch for Todd Erwin's review in the next week. HTF will also be running a contest
to give away several copies of this Blu-ray to our readers. Watch for upcoming announcement.
Images are for illustrative purpose only not representative of the picture quality of this disc.
Samsung PN64F8500 display professionally 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