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Sunday, November 09, 2014

More Lost 3-D Has Surfaced

A Once Burst Bubble Is Happily Restored

Here was something new from maverick producer Arch Oboler, a Fourth Dimension to top the Three he had pioneered in first depth feature that was Bwana Devil in 1952. Over a decade had passed since 3-D's tide went out. Oboler was dealt dirt by partners from Bwana Devil and spent much of 1953-54 in courts. For visionary he was, Arch got short shrift and little credit for dollars mostly made by others. The Bubble was meant to restore his leadership in depth fields and show 1966 how effective improved 3-D could be. His "Fourth" dimension amounted to objects that could seemingly "float" off the screen and into audience space. It should have been a click, was in several opener dates, but somehow the ball dropped, and The Bubble wound up a casualty of perhaps doggy distribution. Whatever the reason, it disappeared.

The Bubble Is Back in the 80's as The Fantastic Invasion Of Planet Earth

Another Reissue Try From the Early 70's
Bob Furmanek of 3-D Archive knew The Bubble's history (a couple of reissues, the camera neg cut for time, etc.), and decided to effect a rescue. He bought rights and, with restoring partner Greg Kintz, went about reclaim of The Bubble in best-ever 3-D. Digital fixes enable quality we'd not have seen even in first-runs, and certainly this Blu-Ray (available November 18) confirms Arch Oboler as pathfinder of dimensions beyond mere two that screens normally give us. And what of the movie? It is sci-fi on 60's setting, which automatically confers interest. Think of how few reps that genre had during the mid-60's, pre-2001 a lean time for a genre that peaked a decade before. And here's an unexpected kick: The Bubble is in scope plus 3-D. How many had both those lures? Effects are novel and well thought out. Oboler, who knew every trick in 3-D's playbook, wanted to give us something different, and does. Too bad he didn't get rich off The Bubble, but we can, for fun of watching a depth display too long out of circulation and barely seen even when it was new.


Blogger John Rice said...

I saw "The Bubble" during it's initial release at the Ivar Theatre on Vine Street in Hollywood which I believe even then was primarily a live theatre venue. It was the first 3-D film I'd seen since "Revenge of the Creature" closed out the brief 1953-1954 era in my hometown of Richmond, California. As I big fan of 3-D I was really excited!

The single strip 3-D was certainly impressive but I found the film dreadfully dull, just as Obler's "Bwana Devil" the film that ushered in that first 3D era was. No way I would ever want to see it again, flat or in 3-D. And yet I'm pleased it's out there in all of it's three dimensional glory for those that are curious or interested in a historical artifact.

12:17 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer reflects on limitations of the 3-D process:

Does "The Bubble" really float objects into the audience? That has always been the promise of 3D, as in the tag line for "Bwana Devil": "A lion in your lap! A lover in your arms!" It is one the films themselves have rarely delivered on. The only one I've seen that succeeded in piercing the "fourth wall" was Tony Anthony's "Comin' at Ya!," a bad film with decent 3D effects. All the others simply opened up the space behind the screen. Not that they didn't try. In "House of Wax," that barker was supposed to rattle the popcorn boxes of the audience with his paddle balls, but there might as well have been a sheet of plate glass on the screen, so far as those balls actually reaching anyone. It has been the same for all the arrows shot or chairs thrown at the audience. "Jaws 3D," "Metalstorm," even Martin Scorsese's wonderful "Hugo" offered their diversions, but always behind the confines of the proscenium arch. Did the audience cringe when a desperate Grace Kelly reached out for help in "Dial M for Murder"? I've read that they did but never experienced the effect in the film itself, which otherwise made masterful use of perspective. The most pleasing example of 3D that I've seen has been, oddly enough, the re-processed "Wizard of Oz," but as with the legitimate 3D films, its illusion of depth only stretches back from the screen into its settings.

As a film, "The Bubble" is not considered to be very good. As an entertainment, however, it would have been worth my while putting down a few centavos to have an umbrella opened in my face.

8:20 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

I'm no huge fan of 3-D, but I have seen a few examples of items floating out of the screen. It seems to be more readily accomplished with graphics: the opening credits of FRIDAY THE 13TH 3D, the closing credits of CORALINE.

The best and most extreme examples in my experience come from FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN (ANDY WARHOL'S FRANKENSTEIN.) Several times during that film, things (often gross) floated out among the audience.

My favorite: I saw the movie with a packed house on the day it opened. At one point, two young men in the audience were returning to their seats from the concession stand, laden with sodas and popcorn. Just as they strolled down the aisle, only a few feet from me, a flock of bats flew off the screen and into the auditorium. Both of those young men hit the deck as quickly as if machine gun fire had broken out. Refreshments went flying in all directions, though mainly straight up. This was followed by one of the biggest, heartiest laughs I've ever heard -- or taken part in -- in any theater.

1:54 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

That is a GREAT anecdote, Rick. Thanks for sharing it.

3:36 PM  
Blogger Mike Ballew said...

With tremendous respect to Dan Mercer, every 3-D film he mentions offers multiple examples of objects transgressing the limitations of the screen and entering theater space. In my experience, unless such narrative events are handled ostentatiously or done as obvious gimmicks (e.g., “Check out this old yo-yo I found! Here, you’ll need this torch! Tell the old man to watch where he spits that chewin’ tobaccky!”), people tend to overlook them as off-the-screen events. I’ve known casual viewers to swear up and down after viewing a given 3-D film that nothing came off the screen, when it is a quantifiable fact that there were numerous examples of negative parallax (the technical name for the condition that gives rise to that effect).

I will single out two of Dan’s examples for special comment. Anyone who has seen the original 3-D trailer for “Metalstorm”--let alone the feature proper--knows that that flick went cheerfully out of its way to project various objects, people, and body parts into the audience. One famous effect brought a claw-like robotic arm off the screen… which arm then promptly sprayed a green venom or acid even further into theater space!

“Jaws 3-D” I saw twice back in 1983, and again in September 2013 at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. It was very obvious that, owing to the fixed lens separation on the Arrivision stereo lenses being used, the filmmakers absolutely had to rely on bringing foreground objects off the screen just to have a workable parallax budget. We’re talking ordinary two-shots of guys arguing, to cite an example. The actors’ heads and upper bodies are suspended out in theater space—perhaps a little too far out for comfortable viewing, even—delivering heated and dramatic exposition, with nary a yo-yo or flaming torch in sight.

But all that being said, I myself am concerned that many recent examples of 3-D film have been very reserved, even timid. Many high profile live action 3-D films in recent years have muted their stereoscopic imagery to the point where sometimes it makes no difference whether one bothers to wear the glasses or not. This criticism emphatically cannot be leveled against “The Bubble,” which is a tour-de-force of pleasant and entertaining off-the-screen effects of almost every kind. I hope your readers will consider purchasing “The Bubble,” partly to support the tireless efforts of Bob Furmanek and Greg Kintz, and partly for the pleasure of seeing a full-blooded 3-D film that is not ashamed to be what it is.

3:24 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Craig Reardon is tempted by "The Bubble":

"The Bubble", by your accounting, sounds worth getting! I'm a 3-D-aholic, so I'm sure I'd find something to like about it, even though I never liked that guy from "The Mod Squad"! (Michael Cole.) As for "Inferno", I HAVE that import, and it is something special. I was lucky to see this, perhaps projected from the very same source prints, in the early '80s during a brief 3-D festival mounted at a theater on Sunset Blvd., no doubt backed by Bob Furmanek himself (the festival, that is!) Like you, I concur that it's a tight and effective little thriller, very well-cast and played, that would be and is, actually, just as entertaining even 'flat', though as an avowed 3-D nut, I will take 3-D every single time. I'm thrilled to have learned recently that the much-appreciated MGM musical "Kiss Me, Kate" (even though photographed in the wretched AnscoColor process, I think) will be released on Blu-ray soon by WB, in 3-D.

2:11 PM  

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