SPY KIDS 3-D: GAME OVER opens tomorrow, and is using the red/blue anaglyph approach for the stereoscopic sequences, which comprise most of the film's running time. While I'm happy to see a new 3-D film, I wish they hadn't used the absolute worst process available. The 3-D was shot using Cameron's new digital cameras; but rather than use the more complicated and expensive polarized or field sequential formats, they decided to exhibit the film using the simple anaglyph technique. The reasons are pretty obvious: with red/blue anaglyph, the theatres don't have do anything special at all to show the film other than hand out the glasses. Since the film is opening on 3000 screens, they have to take the easy way out. Simple it may be, but is also a very poor quality solution. Red/Blue 3-D is plagued with ghosting, soft images, and the tinted glasses distort the color. Even in black and white movies, you end up seeing a pinkish colored image. All of the above are reasons why very, very, few 3-D movies have ever used the red/blue approach. Oh, I know, many sources claim otherwise, but they are wrong. The vast majority of 3-D features, whether color or black and white, were screened in polarized format, even during the 1950's boom, when over 60 3-D films were released. Red/Blue anaglyph was experimented with since the dawn of cinema. The first 3-D feature film, THE POWER OF LOVE (1922), used this process. MGM released a few short subjects in red/blue 3-D during the late 1930's and early 1940's. But since the system usually produced such poor results, it never found use outside of novelty shorts. When people claim that the old 3-D movies were shown in red/blue, I always ask them to use logic. We all know that the red/blue format looks terrible. If that was state of the art, do you really think the major Hollywood studios would have green-lighted dozens and dozens of 3-D movies? Of course not! The reason they did so was because of a major improvement in 3-D projection, the polarized technique. The Polarized 3-D technique was perfected in the 1930's. It used clear gray glasses, similiar in apperance to a pair of sunglasses. Projection set-ups were complicated, requiring two interlocked 35mm projectors (one for the left eye print and one for the right eye print); the installation of a special light reflective silver screen, special projection lenses, and a very attentive person in the booth! While it was complicated, polarized 3-D, with its clear gray glasses, allowed clear, bright, fully stereoscopic and natural looking images to be shown. Black and White looked Black and White, and normal color 3-D was possible as well. This process was shown to great acclaim at the 1939's World's Fair, but found only limited use for several years, mostly overseas. Germany released the first color polarized 3-D feature prior to World War II! It wasn't until 1952 that Hollywood began to take notice, however. Arch Oboler, creator of a popular radio show, decided to produce a color 3-D feature! BWANA DEVIL, a low budget jungle adventure starring Robert Stack, was released with great fanfare in late 1952. Audiences lined up around the block to have a chance to watch the film through the clear, polarized 3-D glasses. The success of the film was enough to get the major studios interested. Virtually every studio began rushing to get 3-D films into production. Some of them leased existing 3-D cameras; others chose to build their own experimental units. During 1953-54; more than 60 3-D movies were shot in the United States. All of them were screened in the polarized 3-D format. The majority of them were in color, and the films were of all genres. People tend to remember the horror and sci-fi entries, but there were also a lot of 3-D westerns, action adventures, crime dramas, even musicals and comedies. All of the big stars of the time appeared in at least one 3-D film. It was a big deal for a while. Profits were big. After a few months, though, it was apparent the fad wouldn't last. The reasons? The projection was just too cumbersome and expensive. Studios wanted to charge the theaters twice as much to rent the films, too. Often the projectors would get out of sync causing eyestrain for audiences. The films themselves are often blamed, but they were no worse than most of the ordinary flat films were. At the beginning, 3-D films played only in 3-D. But by the end of the cycle, some theatres were opting to run flat 2-D versions instead, and saving themselves the trouble and expense. Still, most of the movies that were shot in 3-D were released quite widely that way, contrary to what has been published by people who didn't check their facts. Only a very few of them were released flat only. Here is a list of many of the 3-D movies released in clear glasses, polarized format in the 1950's: BWANA DEVIL MAN IN THE DARK HOUSE OF WAX ARENA CAT WOMEN OF THE MOON CEASE FIRE CHARGE AT FEATHER RIVER CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON REVENGE OF THE CREATURE DANGEROUS MISSION DIAMOND WIZARD, THE DEVIL'S CANYON DRUMS OF TAHITI FLIGHT TO TANGIER FORT TI FRENCH LINE, THE GLASS WEB, THE GOG GORILLA AT LARGE GUN FURY HANNAH LEE HONDO I, THE JURY INFERNO IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE JESSE JAMES V.S. THE DALTONS JIVARO KISS ME KATE LOUISIANA TERRITORY MAD MAGICIAN, THE MAZE, THE MISS SADIE THOMPSON MONEY FROM HOME MOONLIGHTER, THE NEBRASKAN, THE PHANTOM OF THE RUE MORGUE ROBOT MONSTER SANGAREE SECOND CHANCE SOUTHWEST PASSAGE STRANGER WORE A GUN, THE TAZA, SON OF COCHISE THOSE REDHEADS FROM SEATTLE WINGS OF THE HAWK DIAL M FOR MURDER Even The Three Stooges made a couple of 3-D shorts, and there were 3-D cartoons with Bugs Bunny, Casper, Woody Woodpecker, Popeye and Donald Duck, too! And no one saw them wearing red/blue glasses! However, the old red/blue format has been revived here and there for a few partial 3-D movies, such as THE MASK, FREDDY'S DEAD, and a few skin flicks like DISCO DOLLS IN HOT SKIN and WILDCAT WOMEN. Now we have SPY KIDS 3-D doing the same thing. What confuses a lot of people is that through the years, a few of the older 3-D flicks (usually the black and white ones) have been "downconverted" into red/blue anaglyph format for 8mm home digests, 16mm rentals at college campuses, even TV broadcasts. Universal even did a 35mm re-issue of CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON and IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE in red/blue, but the results are sad to see. Instead of the original, clear, polarized images, the red/blue conversions were ugly, blurry, suffered from ghosting, and gimmick shots which didn't come off in the new version. The TV broadcasts were even worse! These horrible, compromised versions have been really damaged the reputation of not only the old films, but the concept of 3-D itself. Many people think the old movies are supposed to look that way! I say again, if 3-D was that bad, the studios would have never gone 3-D crazy in the first place. The clear glasses, polarized format has also been revived from time to time, however. Using a scaled down, single projector version which combined the left/right eye images on to one print helped solve some problems in in the booth, but created others. The reduced pictures weren't as sharp and tended to be darker than normal. This approach was used by several low budget movies in the 1970's, most notably ANDY WARHOL'S FRANKENSTEIN. Other polarized 3-D movies from this period include A*P*E, DYNASTY, REVENGE OF THE SHOGUN WOMEN, THE BUBBLE, THE STEWARDESSES, PRISON GIRLS, DOMO ARIGATO, THE CHAMBERMADES, THE GROOVE ROOM, THE CAPITAL HILL GIRLS, INTERNATIONAL STEWARDESSES, and MAGNIFICENT BODYGUARD, an early Jackie Chan flick! From 1981-85, the fad caught on again to an extent, and over 20 3-D movies were released in polarized 3-D, many quite widely. However, this time, the movies weren't so good and were mostly filled with lots of outlandish "off the screen" gimmick shots. These included: COMIN AT YA! PARASITE FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III TREASURE OF THE FOUR CROWNS SPACEHUNTER ROTTWEILER JAWS 3-D THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE METALSTORM AMITYVILLE 3-D STARCHASER VENUS SEXCALIBUR EMMANUELLE IV SILENT MADNESS CHAIN GANG TALES OF THE THIRD DIMENSION HYPERSPACE HIT THE ROAD RUNNING HOT HEIR HOUSE OF WAX (national re-issue) DIAL M FOR MURDER (national re-issue) And No one wore red/blue glasses to see them! (If you find some FRIDAY THE 13TH or JAWS glasses with red/blue lenses, those weren't used for watching the movies, but for posters, gumcards and other 3-D items used to promote the films themselves.) Projection problems and cost, along with the gimmicky approach, again brought an end to 3-D features for the most part. Since then, just a few polarized 3-D features have been released, like RUN FOR COVER and THE CREEPS, and a few Russian children's films. All of these received very little distribution. Cameron's GHOSTS OF THE ABYSS played in polarized 35mm in about 50 theates around the country recently. In recent years, 3-D has made a comeback at theme park attractions and at IMAX theatres. In fact, these days, IMAX seems to be making more 3-D films that flat ones. An IMAX NASCAR 3-D movie is now in production! The IMAX theatres use both polarized 3-D, and a higher tech format called field sequential, which requires the audience to wear LCD goggles. This same format is even catching on at home, with DVD sets and PC games. OK, What does this LONG diatribe have to do with SPY KIDS 3-D? When you watch the red/blue 3-D scenes, just keep in mind you are looking at 1920's technology that has rarely been used for 3-D movies (it is much more suited to comics books and posters), and that afterwards, you still won't really have seen a 3-D movie at all. I hope Disney's planned 3-D zombie feature and James Cameron's upcoming 3-D feature film go the higher tech route, and use polarized, clear lens glasses. Advances in digital projection will make this even easier. I think that when the day comes that most of the theatres in the country are capable of projecting digital images, that is the day you'll start to see Hollywood play around with 3-D movies again on a more regular basis. SPY KIDS and its low tech red/blue 3-D just won't make the grade. Those with an interest in real 3-D might want to check out www.3dfilmfest.com, for details on the World 3-D Film Expo, in where over thirty of the 1950's movies will be shown in their original polarized, clear glasses, glory!