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Thursday, March 19, 2020

Widening Screens Come In


Universal Pretends Thunder Bay Is Things It Is Not


Forget Thunder Bay --- Les Paul and Mary Ford!
What a fleece Universal put across with Thunder Bay. It was a Jim Stewart vehicle directed by Anthony Mann that was shot on conventional frame of 1.37. U was meantime sniffing bloomed rose that was Cinerama and hearing word of 20th Fox at fast development of their own wide process. Suddenly, it became a question of who’d get a competing process out first. If U didn’t have a genuine expand to put on screens, they’d fake one. Paramount had done as much with their April 23, 1953 open of Shane at Radio City Music Hall. Stretch of image for that was strictly ersatz, in fact did damage to director George Stevens’ compositions, but how to deny a public hot for embrace if not engulf by screens now wider than high? Universal would do a top and bottom trim of Thunder Bay and put leavings on Loew’s State (NYC) display, their May 20 premiere hyped by trade ads to imply wrap-round image you’d need a swivel head to experience. To that was added “Directional Stereophonic Sound,” which was fresh meat for novelty-seeker appetites, the rich tracks being so far used on 3-D features making round of theatres during spring ’53.




Three Times Regular Size? Must Have Looked Pretty Fuzzy


The imposed-upon width seems to have stuck, as Universal kept Thunder Bay like that for DVD, then more recently leased a fresh HD transfer to TCM for fall 2017, again 1.85. I watched on expectation that action would be cramped, as in foreheads and feet gone, but Thunder Bay actually looked pretty good. I wonder if Anthony Mann and camera crew got notice that this one might emerge wide. Change was applied at fast clip during 1952-53 gold rush days (first 3-D feature Bwana Devil a November ’52 release), and for all we know, Mann sensed trends ahead and made allowance for them. Sure looked that way to me from evidence of Thunder Bay. The film otherwise ranks among bottom-half of Stewart-Mann teamings. It is contempo-set, is straightforward as to action narrative and predictable bumps. Stewart and Dan Duryea are vagabonding wildcatters, Jim more than a mere soldier-of-fortune thanks to visionary scheme for ocean drilling. Jim’s age by this time (mid-forties) would have made it unseemly to present him in dollars-and-dames mode, his project here a fulfillment of  lifelong dream and thrust toward oil to supply the multitudes. Fact JS chews up shrimp harvest (basis of contretemps with Gilbert Roland) and befouls blue water is not for airing on Thunder Bay’s get-it-done terms, but conservationists and pollutant foes could sure do a dance on this one. The 1953 message was simpler: If Jim wants it done, it must be right.

1 Comments:

Blogger Unknown said...

Apparently between the premiere of Cinerama and the subsequent processes like Cinemascope and VistaVision, there was a period (mostly in 1953) where films were cropped for faux widescreen. This article covers the various ways this occurred:


http://www.3dfilmarchive.com/the-first-year-of-widescreen


Cannot get the link to show but you can copy and paste it into your browser.


8:11 PM  

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