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Thursday, October 09, 2014

Lost 3-D Is Found!


Dragonfly Squadron (1954) Will Put You Deep In The War

Here is something really novel that Bob Furmanek, Greg Kintz, and Jack Theakston have come up with: a 50's war actioner shot in 3-D but released flat only back in January 1954. Never shown stereo to the public till now, Dragonfly Squadron arrives next week on Blu-Ray from Olive Films. It is a crack job of depth retrieval from the Furmanek team, and compelling demo of what expertise can achieve outside corporate structures where overhead would make such a project prohibitively expensive. Furmanek, who is among other things Home Theatre Forum's resident guru on 3-D and widescreen matters, has cracked the code for economy presentation of depth, he and Kintz/Theakston putting a marketplace on notice that 3-D is doable for home viewing at a right price. How they did it is told at dazzler site 3-D FilmArchive, where details of the restoration accompany Furmanek's history of Dragonfly Squadron rollout amidst a fad in freefall, depth by '54 avoided "like the plague" by showmen who only months before lauded it as salvation for the theatre business.


Dragonfly Squadron is a Korea war yarn starring John Hodiak and Barbara Britton, directed by jack-of-all genres Lesley Selander. Allied Artists made it, having shook most of Monogram dust loose, and ready to compete with majors for best bill placement. Exhibitors liked red meat AA served, be it westerns, war, or crime thrilling. Edge-of-seat was where grind-goers preferred sitting, entertainment for them best punctuated by gunshots or explosion. Dragonfly Squadron has these plus what I'd call a most natural utilization of long gone Natural-Vision, no show-off effects as was wont of earlier 3-D. What pleases is depth not calling attention to itself, giving sets and location a reality where 3-D can enhance, rather than dominate. Warner Archive has also released a number of AA's similar to Dragonfly Squadron. All of ones I've watched have been efficient and enjoyable. These were salvation in their day to theatremen faced with ruination from TV and tortuous terms set by the big companies. A 1954 showman could choke on percentage demanded by Paramount for Korea-set Bridges At Toko-Ri, but profit nicely with Dragonfly Squadron on flat rental.


I call Squadron's a comfort cast, Hodiak-Britton supported by Bruce Bennett, Gerald Mohr, Harry Lauter, Frank Ferguson ... faces I increasingly prefer to stars out of higher bracket. These were players who made bigger names look good, and it's nice to see them leading a charge, whatever the budget circumstance. Fun is found in youngsters among the group: Fess Parker with one or two lines and demeanor Disney would figure ideal for Davy Crockett, a robust and Sgt. Rock-ish Chuck Connors, all gritted teeth and slit eyes as he barks dialogue at underplaying Hodiak. Wonder if the older man thought, This was me, ten years ago, as Connors spat lines toward gallery that was big-time stardom (which he'd achieve, but on smaller screens). Watching Dragonfly Squadron flat would be enjoyable enough; what's added by 3-D makes it a must. Universal, Paramount, Columbia/Sony et al should seek out Furmanek's creative cartel to bring out some of 3-D abundance these companies own. Most welcome would be Blu-Ray plus depth for Revenge Of The Creature, The Mad Magician, Gun Fury, Wings Of The Hawk ... any of fifty or so features produced during flush season for 3-D that was 1953-54.

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