Forget all you’ve read or heard about early use of 3-D
unless you’ve seen it with your own eyes. The World 3-D Film Expo beginning this
weekend at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood may be the last opportunity you
have to do just that. This isn’t exaggeration or Hollywood hype: with 35mm
going the way of the dodo bird, the likelihood of future revivals using the
original two-print, two-projector technology is slim at best. Anyone who
attended the previous festivals in 2003 and 2006 (or their equivalent at New
York City’s Film Forum) can attest to the fact that nothing looks quite like 35mm
film prints screened in sync on a silver screen. Digital restorations are good
but they don’t pop off the screen the way the originals do. Don’t miss out on
seeing Kiss Me Kate, Phantom of the Rue
Morgue, Gorilla at Large, Inferno, It Came from Outer Space and other
vintage goodies the way they were meant to be seen.
What’s more, it’s far from certain that studios are going to invest in full-fledged restorations of the oddities and obscurities that festival directors Jeff Joseph and Dennis Bartok have gathered here, from a Pinky Lee short called Hawaiian Nights (featuring a young Mamie Van Doren) to experimental works from Europe and the Soviet Union. And while most of the features have played in earlier editions of the Expo, there are two exciting debuts: a 1946 Russian version of Robinson Crusoe and the first showing of the Korean war drama Dragonfly Squadron (1954), starring John Hodiak, in 3-D. Like a number of other films on the calendar, it was filmed in the dual-vision process but released “flat” because the 3-D craze had fizzled by the time it was ready to be shown to the public.
There’s also the camaraderie of sharing these screenings with fellow movie nuts who love the sense of excitement this festival generates. It has less to do with the intrinsic quality of the films than the nostalgia for a lost era of showmanship.
The passage of time since the previous World 3-D Film Expos is all too evident when one remembers the guests who accompanied screenings of their films and are no longer here to share their memories, including director Richard Fleischer (Arena), Herbert L. Strock (Gog), production designer Henry Bumstead (Money from Home), actor Biff Elliot (I, the Jury), and Jane Russell (The French Line).
But there are still some survivors here to tell the tale, including producer Walter Mirisch (The Maze) and actresses Julie Adams (The Creature from the Black Lagoon), Kathleen Hughes (The Glass Web), Piper Laurie and Pat Crowley (Money from Home), Louis Gossett, Jr. and Lea Thompson (Jaws 3-D).