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A SALUTE TO 3D FILMS

Of all the movie trends that have come and gone, there's none I miss more than 3D. For some odd metaphysical reason that even Dr. Strange can't explain you can take an absolutely lame ass film the likes of which Cinemax would be reluctant to show, and make it bearable in 3D.


The story of BWANA DEVIL, the first 3D movie...was actually remade almost 50 years later in the Val Kilmer/Michael Douglas film GHOST AND THE DARKNESS

The first theatrical full length 3D film was the politically incorrectly titled BWANA DEVIL. This 1952 film was composed of mostly stock footage, it gave audiences a chance to watch lions and elephants dance in their lap, while they got headaches and crapped in their seats.

One can only imagine how magical it must have been for folks to see a 3D movie for the first time. It's too bad that BWANA DEVIL was one of the shittiest movies ever made (if Ed Wood could have made a 3D film, it would have been pretty close to this), because with the exception of Vincent Price's HOUSE OF WAX which was released in 1953, the debut of this exciting new genre fizzled quickly, as most films focused more on the 3D gimmick, and forgot to include such movie essentials as a good story and acting.  


HOUSE OF WAX was filmed by a director who couldn't see in 3D!

HOUSE OF WAX stands out, as it's a good film in 2D as well. Perhaps because the director, Andre Toth, only had one eye, and wasn't able to see things in 3D anyway.

Several other 3D films were released in the 50s, like IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE, and the famous CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON was even converted into 3D (easy to do with black and white, but near impossible with color), but soon they went away, not to be seen again for decades.

William Castle, who did some great films like the original HOUSE OF HAUNTED HILL (which had a skeleton drop into the audience), was a master of cheesy movie gimmicks. With his film MR. SARDONICUS, the audience could vote whether or not the villain died at the film's end. Castle banked on the fact that he'd likely be voted dead, and only had one ending ready to use, anyway. Another great gimmick film he released in 1959 was THE TINGLER. Various seats in the audience were rigged with a buzzing effect to startle the nervous filmgoers.

 


The thoughtful makers of 13 GHOSTS let you decide if you wanted to see the ghosts in the movie with these special glasses. If only they could have only make these to filter out Whoopi Goldberg, the gimmick may have had a future.

But in 1960, Castle twisted the dead 3D gimmick to a whole new level with 13 GHOSTS. A great little haunted house movie that featured Margaret Hamilton (THE WIZARD OF OZ Wicked Witch), viewers received special cards with two different view windows. One that would let you see the ghosts, and one that would make them disappear if you got too scared.

Sadly, the weird gimmicks of Castle weren't enough to save the genre, and it wasn't until the 80s did 3d films rear up their blue and red lensed head again.

 


A title like this seems better suited for a porno

 

In 1981, COMIN AT YA was released. Though I can't say I ever saw the film, this review from critic Leonard Maltin certainly makes me curious.

3D spaghetti Western take-off features rats, bats, and blood, all hugged to death by the camera (and often in slow motion!). No redeeming sense of humor, either. It's films like this that killed 3D the first time around. Dimensionscope.

Despite the film's horrible performance at the box office, other films soon followed suit. National Lampoon was in preproduction to make a JAWS spoof titled JAWS 3: PEOPLE 0 but the Hollywood bigwigs thought making JAWS 3D would be a much better way to keep the exciting franchise alive. The 1983 film featured Dennis Quaid and Lou Gossett Jr., in a ridiculous plot that featured the shark wreaking havoc on the denizens of Florida's Sea World. Aside from a few lame startle effects, the director seemed to forget that the film was in 3D.

 


The Best 3D Movie ever made

Not the case with the brilliantly made, and my all time favorite 3D movie, FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3 IN 3D. Not only was this a kickass classic Jason movie that holds it's own as one of the best in the series, but they utilized the 3D in an outstanding manner. Viewers were treated to Jason squeezing a guy's head until his eyeballs popped out into the audience, 3D sex scenes, and a pitchfork sticking out of someone's neck, right into your face. Even the fight scenes had knife-swinging shots that made you duck. If you cruise around on eBay, you can usually find 3D copies of the video you can watch at home.

 

Believe it or not, this movie features the film debut of Meg Ryan. While another 80s 3D flick PARASITE introduced Demi Moore to the world. Just imagine what a beautiful thing it would have been if she would have done STRIPTEASE in 3D.

Sadly the 3D effects were rarely transferred to video, so if you didn't get to see them at the theater, that was it. JAWS 3D was retitled JAWS 3, but for some crazy ass reason, AMITYVILLE 3D was still called AMITYVILLE 3D on video, even though it wasn't in 3D! Talk about a misleading box, check out the pix above with the very small disclaimer "Home Video Version Not In 3D". Of course the fact that it didn't come with glasses should have been the first tipoff, but then again, folks who would rent this movie in the first place probably weren't bright enough to figure it out, anyway.

3D appears to be long gone from coming back to theaters, but at least they're being kept alive in various theme parks. Though the ill fated Michael Jackson film CAPTAIN EO (which was directed by Francis "How Much Are You Gonna Pay Me To Film This Piece of Shit" Coppola) is no longer at Disneyland, it's success has made TERMINATOR 3D, and other cool films abound throughout the country.

Now if they could only make 3D contact lenses so I wouldn't have to put those damn things on top of my glasses, my life would be complete.

-Robert Berry
rberry@retrocrush.com