Happy 50th BWANA DEVIL!

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Bob Furmanek, Nov 26, 2002.

  1. Bob Furmanek

    Bob Furmanek Insider
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    50 years ago, on November 26, 1952, Arch Oboler's African adventure had its world premiere in Hollywood and Los Angeles at the Paramount theatres. Produced on a modest budget and photographed in dual-strip Natural Vision, this 3-D attraction was a tremendous success - "A Lion in Your Lap, A Lover in Your Arms."

    Within 2 months, nearly every Hollywood studio had a 3-D feature in production. Warner Bros. began filming House of Wax; Paramount started re-shooting Sangaree (it had begun as a flat production); Universal-International started on It Came from Outer Space; RKO sent a crew to Mexico for Second Chance; Columbia began to rush Man in the Dark and Fort Ti through production; and MGM started on Arena. Even budget conscious Allied Artists got on the dimensional bandwagon with The Maze. The 3-D craze hit a fever pitch throughout the summer of 1953. At any one time, moviegoers had their choice of several first run 3-D films in all the major cities. By the fall, poor projection and falling grosses led to its first decline, and the introduction of CinemaScope in September ("The Modern Miracle You See Without the Use of Special Glasses") was another nail in the stereoscopic coffin.

    3-D had a brief resurgence in the Winter with a number of high profile entries, including Hondo, Kiss Me Kate, Cease Fire, Miss Sadie Thompson and Creature from the Black Lagoon. However, by Spring of 1954, 3-D was pretty much a dead issue. The few remaining titles were released with little fanfare, or went out in standard 2-D only.

    The 3-D craze was a quick one, but fondly remembered by those old enough to have experienced it first-hand. One technical point - all of these films were originally presented in the superior Polaroid dual-strip process. The single-strip red/blue anaglyph conversions were created in the seventies for various re-issues. There is a tremendous difference in quality between the 2 formats, and many people wrongly assume that these films were originally presented in the headache-inducing anaglyph system.

    Fans of 3-D cinema can thank Arch Oboler and Sid Pink for taking a chance with a format that no major studio would touch. Happy 50th birthday Bwana Devil!

    Bob Furmanek
     
  2. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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    It's hard to imagine that all of those 3D pictures were produced in that short of a time. Thanks to Bob and some others, I've been able to see a number of these in their genuine polarized versions. It's a revelation for those who have only seen 3D films in either poor anaglyph conversions or the modern over-under/side-by-side films of the 80s. The 3D photography is often outstanding and almost every film benefits from being seen in its intended format. Even Robot Monster and Cat Women of the Moon improved significantly!
    Leave it to Bob to pen a tribute to 3D and Bwana Devil! [​IMG]
     
  3. Bob Furmanek

    Bob Furmanek Insider
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    Thanks Pete, how could I not acknowledge 3-D's anniversary?

    There were close to 50 features, and nearly 25 shorts/cartoons, photographed in 3-D throughout 1953. Some of them were released late in the cycle, and only played flat. Those include Top Banana, Jivaro, Dragonfly Squadron, The Bounty Hunter, Son of Sinbad and The Diamond Wizard.

    Before anyone asks: Warner Bros. "Them" was not photographed in 3-D, although it was planned as a stereoscopic production. (They even incorporated a stereo Realist camera and slides into one sequence.) Test footage was taken of the ants in both 3-D and color. However, just before principal photography was scheduled to start, the studio decided on black and white, and standard 2-D. However, the studio memo in my collection does ask the cameramen to compose for 1.66 presentation.

    Bob
     
  4. GregK

    GregK Screenwriter

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    I'll echo what Peter said and say so, so, many people's only 3-D experience has been anaglyph (red/blue) 3-D on VHS or the awful 3DTV anaglyph broadcasts that ran in the early 1980's. Yuck!!! [​IMG]
    Field-sequential 3-D video is a LOT better than crappy anaglyph video, but it too has it's minor share of problems and still pales in comparison to properly projected polarized 3-D single strip films of the 1980's, or the far superior dual strip 3-D polarized films of the 1950's. Besides film's VAST resolution improvement over video, it's size on the huge theater screen makes a difference as well. I've seen "House of Wax" in field-sequential 3-D on 19", 32", and 61" video screens, and also in 35mm polarized 3-D on the big theater screen. ..And with 3-D, size does matter!!
    But back to "Bwana Devil": I've only seen the crappy anaglyph version from the SelectTV 3DTV version that aired in the 1980's. So really I have not seen this film in true 3-D yet. [​IMG]
    I tip my hat to you Bob, and those like you who strive to preserve this quickly fading genre of films, some of which may already be forever lost.
     
  5. Steve Phillips

    Steve Phillips Screenwriter

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    JIVARO, SON OF SINBAD, and THE DIAMOND WIZARD did play some markets in 3-D. I've been able to track down newspaper ads. I'd agree more theatres ran the flat versions though.
     
  6. Bob Furmanek

    Bob Furmanek Insider
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    That's very interesting Steve. I've done extensive research on release patterns for those films, and could find no 3-D playdates whatsoever. Sinbad and Wizard are not even listed as being available in 3-D in the various trade magazines, such as Boxoffice and Motion Picture Herald. Jivaro was initially listed as a 3-D release, but changed to flat only a month before the official release.

    I've seen pre-release 3-D ad mats for Sinbad and Jivaro, but nothing on Wizard. Those ad mats came from a collector in Texas, and they were acquired from a local poster exchange. These were prepared long before the films were released, and before the studios had made the decision to send them out flat. There's even a promotional view-master reel for Son of Sinbad, prepared by Sawyer's when the film was initially slated for an 11/53 release.

    Can you give me some more info on what you've seen? For instance, what cities and/or theatres had the 3-D versions? Would it be possible to see a copy of the ad? That would help my 3-D research tremendously, and would clarify some undocumented releases. Thanks very much!

    Bob Furmanek
     
  7. Steve Phillips

    Steve Phillips Screenwriter

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    Now that I look further, I'm wondering if I am thinking of the pre-release ads you mentioned, and mixing them up with the actual ads I've found from the various newspapers. I tried to find the ads for JIVARO and SINBAD last night amongst all the clippings I've collected, and didn't find anything with those two films that mentioned 3-D.. I guess seeing the pre-released ads and seeing the 3-D clip from JIVARO in ENCOUNTERS IN THE THIRD DIMENSION caused me to think I had seen an actual ad for a real playdate.

    Didn't SINBAD get re-released in 1955 cropped to a scope ratio and of course flat?
     
  8. Bob Furmanek

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    SON OF SINBAD was scheduled for 3-D release in 11/53 by RKO. However, the Production Code office refused to give the film a Seal of Approval because of two offending dance numbers. RKO shelved the film, and didn't release it until mid-1955 when it was converted to anamorphic Superscope. The 3-D version was never released. Instead, RKO put all their efforts into Jane Russell's THE FRENCH LINE, which also had problems with the various censor boards. That's why I found the concept of a 3-D playdate for SINBAD a bit unusual, unless it was an early test screening.

    On the other hand, the Hayes 3-D book (which has quite a lot of mistakes) claims THE DIAMOND WIZARD did receive some 3-D playdates. However, the only "fact" he provides as verification is the fading memory of someone seeing it in a theatre. There is no concrete evidence, such as a newspaper or trade ad. Considering the release date of the film (Fall, 1954) it seems very unlikely that it had any 3-D playdates. 3-D was totally dead by that time. The trades don't even indicate that a 3-D version is available to exhibitors. Unfortunately, this may be lost forever in its depth version. The surviving left/right 3-D elements are considered "un-printable" by the lab that is storing them for United Artists. THE DIAMOND WIZARD was the only British 3-D production during 3-D's golden age.

    One mystery that I'd like to clear up concerns Allied Artists second 3-D film, DRAGONFLY SQUADRON. There's a small clipping from Boxoffice (dated 12/53) that indicates the studio was going to test the 3-D version in four cities. (There was a resurgence in 3-D at that time, due to the success of films like HONDO, KISS ME KATE and MISS SADIE THOMPSON.) However, there is no further mention of these test screenings. When the film went out in January, it was flat only. I'd really like to find which cities had the depth version, and locate copies of the ads.

    I didn't realize ENCOUNTER IN THE THIRD DIMENSION had vintage footage from JIVARO. What other 50's titles are shown?

    Thanks for your help!

    Bob
     
  9. Steve Phillips

    Steve Phillips Screenwriter

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    ENCOUNTERS has brief clips from JIVARO, MONEY FROM HOME, THOSE REDHEADS FROM SEATTLE, FORT TI, and someone even mentioned TOP BANANA, but I'd have to take another look before I'd confirm that one. One or two others I think also.
     

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