The Mad Magician: THE HTF 3D ADDICT REVIEW

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Ronald Epstein, Jan 10, 2017.

  1. 1 Jan 10, 2017
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    Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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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.




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    The Mad Magician (3D/2D)


    Studio: Sony via Twilight Time
    Product Release: January 17, 2017
    Ratio: 1.85:1
    Audio: DTS HD-MA 1.0
    Running Time: 72 minutes
    Rating: NR

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    On A Scale 0-5

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


    For 3D enthusiasts, Twilight Time has provided the ultimate movie night package of feature and shorts with a transfer that sports the most pristine quality I have seen to date out of the golden age of 3D classics.

    I can't begin to describe how excited I was to have received my copy of The Mad Magician --- this despite the fact I had never seen it before. It was just the anticipation of creating my own "movie night,:" starting with two Three Stooges shorts and then the main feature that had me racing to my home theater room. As I sat in my recliner and cued up the projector, I was about to transport back into time and enjoy a 3D multi-feature presentation of golden age greats.

    Let me state up front, I don't have one negative thing to say about this release from Twilight Time. It is impeccable in every aspect. If you find me gushing too much throughout this review, it is for good reason.

    With all that said, let's start our evening of movie watching by cuing up the two included shorts....

    Pardon My Backfire

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    This 1953 short starring The Three Stooges was quite a revelation for me. I never considered myself a fan of this comedy trio, but watching the boys at work with their array of sight gags, solicited quite a bit of laughter as I watched in delight. Here we have Moe, Larry and Shemp as auto mechanics who promise their father in-law to work hard so they can marry their sweethearts. When escaped convicts arrive at the garage, the comedy ensues.

    This short is really funny, despite having some cringe-inducing moments including Larry feeding a wire through his nose and out his ear. Ouch!

    Leave it to a short from this era to load itself with 3D gags. The short begins with the Stooges introducing themselves and thrusting a stick towards the audience. Probably the only moment of its sort that comes with a bit of crosstalk behind it. For the rest of this short, expect to be barraged with all kind of nasties including forks, fingers, a pail of thrown water, followed by a dousing of spewed oil. Some of the out of screen gags work pretty well, others fall short of breaking the barrier, Some of the more impressive pop-outs involve car radio knobs that plunge themselves forward, or a car radiator that takes a prominent place in the foreground,


    Spooks!

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    Also released in 1953, Spooks! presents the comedy trio as detectives who are hired to find a missing girl. They come up with the idea of posting as pie salesmen, to break into a haunted mansion that is home to a mad scientist. There are some pretty damn funny moments here, most notably, a flying bat that features Shemp's barking face.

    Once again, the boys find the most safest of objects to leer towards the viewing audience. They include a hypodermic needle, a cleaver and pitchfork. While I found the needle gag to be the most effective "pop-out" moment, it did come with its share of crosstalk. Other forward projections fall a little flat, but when you are having so much fun watching all these attempts to break the barrier, somehow it doesn't matter. Even with the inclusion of a man in a gorilla costume, Spooks! manages to be an effective, entertaining 3D experience.


    Transfer quality on both these shorts is remarkably immaculate. I really couldn't believe how perfect these features looked -- given the fact that their past anaglyphic releases were absolutely horrible in every regard. The prints have been completely cleaned to the point that these shorts look brand-new. Crosstalk only appears in extreme pop-out moments, and even then, it's very minimal. It's more than apparent that Sony spent a lot of time working on these shorts to make certain they looked nothing short of excellent. If anything negative can be said about what has been done here, is that the picture looks so exceptionally detailed that you can plainly see the wires used in many of the gags.


    For our movie night, we have just finished watching two shorts and now it's time to move on to the Feature Presentation....


    The Mad Magician


    In very much the same light of House of Wax and Dial M For Murder, The Mad Magician manages to break away from the cheesy sci-fi films that dominated this era. Instead, this 1954 film presents itself as a more serious murder/mystery thriller complete with a few included twists.

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    The story involves itself around an ingenious Magician named Don Gallico (Vincent Price), who has created elaborate magic apparatuses, only to have them taken away and credited to rival Magician, The Great Rinaldi (John Emery). The lack of being able to present his own tricks to an audience and make a name for himself thrusts Gallico into a deadly act of revenge. What follows is not only an investigation by the police, but a landlady who just happens to be a crime novelist who is hell-bent on solving the case.

    While The Mad Magician doesn't particularly stand out as being anything exceptional, it's still quite a delight watching Mr. Price plays multiple roles, showing both a strong and sensitive side of himself, against a backdrop of villainous retribution.

    Two additional actors to make note of in this film...

    First, the insatiable Eva Gabor (Green Acres), complete with her signature "Dah-ling." You may also recognize, in the role of the landlady's husband, Jay Novello. He is a notable character actor that has appeared in episodes of I Love Lucy, McHale's Navy and even The Brady Bunch, I certainly recognized him, though at first, I couldn't make the connections.


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    I wouldn't consider The Mad Magician to be one of the better 3D films out there, though its presentation certainly elevates it to that level. Confused? I have seen many more films from the era that make better use of depth and 3D effects. However, that doesn't necessarily mean The Mad Magician fails on both levels. There is a nice sense of depth and spacing throughout the film. This doesn't have the "view master" kind of feel that I prefer from films of this era. However, that is a personal preference I don't expect everyone to agree upon. There is good use of object placement --- particularly in Gallico's workshop --- that enhances the effect of forefront/background separation. Even brief shots looking at and down a fire escape, or looking through the reins of a horse, give a very profound sense of separation. There are a few attempted outward effects that do fairly well here, including flying sawdust from a buzz-saw, a shish-kabob of playing cards pointed forward, and water sprayed towards the audience]. One of the more subtle outward projections actually comes from a piece of paper (a contract), whose pages lean predominantly forward.


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    Where do I start talking about this transfer? Well, I suppose it would be with Sony itself. I would be inclined to believe that Grover Crisp and his team were behind this release. I say that, because the meticulous work that has been done here shines in every frame. Not since the Warner 3D transfers of House of Wax and Dial M For Murder, have I seen anything from the golden age look this pristine. In fact, I dare say that Sony has outdone those transfers with a well-detailed picture that is completely liberated from scratches, dirt, or any other type of debris. It's flawless! And, because so much care has been given to this film (and its accompanying shorts), there are no alignment issues and ghosting is practically nonexistent.

    The mono audio on all the included features are very clear, with excellent fidelity and clear dialogue. No background hissing of any kind.

    Please feel free to marvel at the transfers. These are probably the best you will ever see from this era or format. Sony should be praised for their efforts!


    CONCLUSION

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    Sony and Twilight Time come together in providing a 3D package that will be impossible to beat this year or any moving forward. It's a true "movie-going" event in your own home, complete with two exceptional Three Stooges shorts. Most important of all, the level of restoration effort given to all these films reaches far above what I have seen to date from any studio/distributor

    While I sit here and decide where this will specifically rank in the top 5 of my Top 30 3D Releases, you shouldn't be sitting and let more time waste before purchasing this exceptional Twilight Time release.



    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 AVR-X7200WA Dolby Atmos Receiver
    Atlantic Technology H-PAS AT-1 fronts, 4400 center; 4200 rear side and back speakers, AW-5 overheads (x4)
    SV Sound Subwoofer
     
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  2. bob kaplan

    bob kaplan Supporting Actor

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    .....can't wait for mine to arrive!!
     
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  3. 3 Jan 10, 2017
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2017
    Bob Furmanek

    Bob Furmanek Insider
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    It's worth nothing that SPOOKS was originally released to theaters in Sepia tone (as was MAN IN THE DARK) and was specifically intended to follow Columbia's first Technicolor, 3-D, stereophonic feature FORT TI, directed by William Castle.

    The second part of a 3-D feature was always shorter (part one usually ran 45 to 50 minutes with part two running 30 to 40) so theaters with just two projectors could run the shorts, cartoons and trailers after the feature.

    FORT TI has a scene with bats in a cave near the conclusion so that sets up the gag with the Shemp-bat. The Stooges also mention Fort Ticonderoga as they are getting dressed in the first scene of the film.

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  4. Camps

    Camps Second Unit

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    What's more insatiable than Eva Gabor in Mad Magician? My appetite for '50s 3D titles! Keep 'em coming, Bob!
     
  5. disctrip

    disctrip Stunt Coordinator

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    Fort Ti was the first 3D I ever saw as a child and it had me cringing in my seat. Hope it finds a 3D release soon.
     
  6. bob kaplan

    bob kaplan Supporting Actor

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    I thought the picture on MAD MAGICIAN was wonderfully "rich." No one will be able to complain about the loss of detail due to wearing glasses. Nice work all around. Picture really pulls you in, The second time I watched, I let my eyes wander around the rooms and enjoy the depth and detail.
     
  7. Mike Ballew

    Mike Ballew Stunt Coordinator

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    The controversial author and film historian R.M. Hayes singles out The Mad Magician for special kudos, saying that it boasts the best visual appearance of any 3-D film of its era, indeed of all time. ("It may be the clearest and sharpest 35mm 3-D feature ever made.") I have kept this in mind every single time I have seen The Mad Magician in 3-D on the big screen—three times as of this writing. I've always thought the film looks very good, but not superlative in the way Mr. Hayes conveys. Perhaps this Blu-Ray presentation finally vindicates his position!
     
  8. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Lead Actor
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    Mike, I gotta say, I haven't received the disc yet but when I saw it projected in 35mm circa 2010, I was really impressed with how clear and sharp the image was. Sony had struck new prints within a few years of the showing, and they looked brand new. I saw it right after a showing of House Of Wax and Spooks, and it was amazing how "real" Mad Magician seemed by comparison. Compared to all of the other dual 35mm titles I saw during that festival that week, Mad Magician stood out to me as the one that had the best sharpness and detail.

    That said, I'm going off a nearly seven year old memory here, so I can't say it's the best 3D tile I've ever seen. But it was the best looking one of that week's screenings.
     
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  9. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    Best visual experience, yes. This is the best-looking title out of the golden age, bar none.

    Best 3D? No. Seen better depth and pop-out on other titles from that time period.

    However, again, it is the most spectacular looking title of its kind.
     
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  10. RolandL

    RolandL Producer

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    Still number one in sales at Screen Archives.

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  11. marcuslaw

    marcuslaw Rabid 3-D Aficionado

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    Learning about how great this release is will be bittersweet to many 3-D enthusiasts in need of a new TV or wishing to upgrade as apparently most, if not all, 2017 UHD TVs, will not support 3-D.
     
  12. Dick

    Dick Producer
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    2016 models are still readily available, for now.
     
  13. RolandL

    RolandL Producer

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    Watched it last night. I love the 3D in these 1950’s titles. Objects (horse reins, carriage, telephone, desk/table, horses, mask, etc.) and people are in front of the screen for most of the film. They also had a few scenes where the person or people and table they were sitting at were completely out-of-the screen – (about 8 feet into my home theatre room!). Made you feel you were there in the scene with them.
     
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  14. Keith Cobby

    Keith Cobby Screenwriter

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    Projected the blu-ray last night and just wanted to endorse the positive comments above. The Three Stooges shorts, Pardon My Backfire and Spooks, are the best 3-D I have seen. Looking forward to more 1950's 3-D features and top of my list is The Maze.
     
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