DirectorVarious, produced by Bob Furmanek
Release Date(s)1941-1983 (April 7, 2020)
Studio(s)Various/3-D Film Archive (Flicker Alley)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: B
3-D cinema has been with us for as long as the film medium itself, going all the way back to the first patents in the 1890s. And when you consider the ingenuity of such early pioneers as the Lumiere brothers, Georges Méliès, Skladanowsky brothers, G.A. Smith, Edwin S. Porter, William E. Waddell, and Thomas Edison, that’s not surprising. Various rigs and processes were devised in those early years to capture stereoscopic imagery and present it to a theatrical audience, with the first known exhibition of 3-D material occurring in 1915. But it remained something of a curiosity for decades, until the advent of television in the 1950s forced Hollywood to consider new and ever greater measures to keep audiences in theaters, including Technicolor, CinemaScope, and yes… 3-D.
Fortunately, some of those early tests and curiosities have survived in archives, attics, and warehouses the world over… and few people have been more heroic in finding, restoring, preserving, and sharing these gems with modern audiences than Bob Furmanek and his team at The 3-D Film Archive. A couple of years ago, they released a collection of some of the best early 3-D films they’ve found and saved on Blu-ray 3D, under the most honest of titles… 3-D Rarities (reviewed here at The Bits). The disc was nothing less than a gem—a genuine time capsule of the 3-D cinema. And if you enjoyed that release, you’ll be thrilled to learn that Flicker Alley has once again teamed up with Furmanek for a follow-up volume that’s now available, appropriately titled 3-D Rarities II!
There are 8 segments in all this time, covering a period from the early 1950s to 1983 (including 5 short subjects, a film trailer, a film prologue, and an actual Spanish language feature film). In each case, the best available vintage source material was scanned in HD or 4K for restoration. Together, the collection runs about 143 minutes (optional English subtitles are available for all of them). Here’s a complete list:
- A Day in the Country (1953) (1.33:1 – B&W – approx 13 min.)
- The Black Swan (1952) (windowboxed 1.33:1 – B&W – approx 13 min.)
- Hillary Hess presents Mid-Century Memories in Kodachrome Stereo (2020) (1.78:1, shifting to windowboxed 3:2 for the slides – color – approx 15 min.)
- Games in Depth (1966) (1.33:1 – color – approx 5 min.)
- Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror (Prologue) (1968) (2.20:1 – color – approx 2 min.)
- The 3-D Movie (Trailer) (1983) (1.85:1 & various aspect ratios – color – approx 4 min.)
- El Corazón y la Espada (1953) (1.37:1 – B&W – approx 80 min.)
- The Stereo Photography of Harold Lloyd (2020) (1.78:1, shifting to windowboxed 3:2 for the slides – color – approx 11 min.)
A Day in the County is a sort of docu-comedy that was actually believed lost (the original nitrate camera negatives were destroyed in the 1960s), but this presentation has been preserved from the only surviving 35mm anaglyphic release print. It’s faded and there’s a bit of image ghosting baked in. But given the challenges, the 3-D restoration is remarkable. The film is a silly curiosity but fun to see—it’s packed with in-your-face gags (thrown objects, falling apples, extreme perspectives, etc).
The Black Swan is short film released in 1952 in the U.K. and directed by Leonard Reeve. It features a filmed sequence from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake ballet with music by The Strand Symphony. It’s the dance movement here that enlivens the 3-D imagery, with the background and costumes adding a bit of dimensional texture. The restoration is very clean. This short also offers an optional special feature: Audio Commentary by 3-D film expert Mike Ballew.
Hillary Hess presents Mid-Century Memories in Kodachrome Stereo is a short presentation on the Stereo Realist camera, available in the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s, which took 3-D still images using regular Kodachrome 35mm film. Hess talks about the camera and then presents a gallery of 3-D color images showing a nice cross section of life in America of the period. There are family portraits, travel pix, nature shots, images of a band performing live for WKBR-TV, a shot of a TV cameraman covering the Rose Parade, shots of Jerry Lewis and Abbott and Costello, even a cleverly staged shot of a construction worker on the side of an L.A. building. Each image is bursting with character.
Games in Depth is a short film shot by the Polaroid Corporation, probably in 1966. It may have been intended for exhibition at the 1967 World’s Fair in Montreal, Canada. But it ultimately wasn’t used and has otherwise been lost to time... until this Blu-ray 3D restoration. It’s basically a collection of footage featuring sports and other recreational imagery set to silly music. Look close and you may spot a few shots taken behind-the-scenes on the set of The Swimmer (1968) with Burt Lancaster.
Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror (Prologue) is just the opening segment from the 1968 Spanish horror film La marca del Hombre Lobo, complete with titles. Directed by Enrique López Eguiluz, it was eventually distributed in the U.S. by Independent-International Pictures in 1971. It’s pretty cheesy and the footage is of low quality, but again, the curiosity value is high.
The 3D Movie (Trailer) is just that—a theatrical trailer for Leonard Scharader’s 1983 “clip show” documentary that featured a collection of 3-D scenes from previous films of all types. “It makes everything else look flat!”
The main program on this disc is El Corazón y la Espada (a.k.a. The Heart and the Sword or The Heart of Granada), a 1953 Mexican feature film directed by Edward Dein and Carlos Véjar hijo. It’s notable for being the first Mexican film produced in 3-D. Essentially, it’s a swashbuckler starring Cesar Romero as Don Pedro de Rivera, the rightful heir of a Spanish castle attempting to reclaim it from a Moorish caliph with the help of the great explorer and conquistador Juan Ponce de León. The restoration is terrific and the film is campy good fun. Optional subtitles are available in English (for the Spanish audio track) and Spanish, along with a special feature: Audio Commentary by author David Wilt and film historian Dr. Robert J Kiss.
Finally, the program concludes with The Stereo Photography of Harold Lloyd. Hosted by Susanne Lloyd Hayes (Harold’s granddaughter), this is another short presentation that features a gallery of the great silent film actor’s own library of Stereo Realist 3-D still images. Many of these have never been seen before. They offer an amazing look back at Lloyd’s personal world from 1947 to 1971, including his home and family, travelogue images, movie sets, and famous friends (like Bob Hope, Sterling Holloway, Dick Powell, Jayne Mansfield, Red Skelton, Marilyn Monroe, gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, and director Frances Marion).
There’s also another lovely liner notes booklet included in the packaging that offers additional detail and context for each of the segments, along with restoration credits. It should be noted too that you can still watch this content in 2-D (on a regular Blu-ray player and display) if you don’t have 3-D capability.
Aficionados of 3-D in all its many forms—not to mention cinema history—should be thrilled by Flicker Alley’s 3-D Rarities II, another fine restoration effort by Bob Furmanek and his team at The 3-D Film Archive. Highly recommended, especially for fans of the first volume.
[Editor’s Note: I’d be remiss if I didn’t also recommend that you visit Furmanek’s excellent 3-D Film Archives website here. You won’t be disappointed.]
- Bill Hunt