Depth Perfection

Not surprisingly, 2015’s Flicker Alley/3-D Film Archive release, 3-D Rarities, quickly became one of my top discs of that year.  I still marvel at the 1920’s Kelley’s Plasticon Pictures’ anaglyph newsreels.  Of course, I fantasized about additional volumes, and recently, thanks to the two companies’ continuing partnership, it has come to pass.  At long last, after five years, here, in full stereoscopic glory, is 3-D RARITIES II; it’s certainly 2020’s must-have platter for Third Dimension fans and collectors.

As the text states on the jacket, this ensemble is a diverse sample of “ultra rare and stunningly restored 3-D films.”  They ain’t kidding.  From an erudite use of the process via Raymond Spottiswoode’s classy 1951 ballet piece The Black Swan to the trailer for the loopy (and lupe-y) 1968 horror schtick, Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror, RARITIES II literally has something for everyone.

The aforementioned Black Swan is, quite succinctly, a posh demo of how artistically the process can be used.  Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror goes to the opposite extreme.  A Spanish-West German co-production, the movie was astoundingly shot in 3-D, 70MM and stereophonic sound.  Cut by American schlockmeister Sam Sherman for distribution here in 1972, the pic was also retitled (originally La Marca del Hombre Lobo, or Mark of the Wolfman); Frankenstein, BTW, appears nowhere EXCEPT in the title.  The movie starred (and was scripted by) Paul Naschy, who splattered his way through a number of late Sixties/early Seventies grindhouse horror pics.  Apparently, a fairly intact version of this feature now exists in 3-D (love to see/own that!); until then, this trailer will suffice (maybe its better that way).  Speaking of “Coming Attractions only,” there’s another wonderful 3-D one for 1983’s The 3-D Movie, a sort of That’s Entertainment for third dimension cinema; sadly, it was never completed, and the tantalizing trailer is all that remains.

Two lengthy examples of our mid-century fascination with 3-D still photography are given the A-plus treatment, via Hillary Hess’s Mid-Century Memories in Kodachrome Stereo, and, a collection containing many (of literally thousands) of chrome photos shot by format aficionado Harold Lloyd (yep, that hanging-from-the-clock silent comedian dude; celebrities really got into the process, Fred Astaire was another big 3-D fan/photographer).  The montage is narrated by his granddaughter Suzanne Lloyd Hayes, who (as a child) also appears in several of the shots, snapped in settings from all over the world.  The images transcend mere in-your-face visuals; they are inventive, clever and fun.  Wonder if Lloyd ever toyed with the idea of a 3-D feature (or perhaps special sequences), back in the Twenties/early Thirties?  Note to self:  if ever you meet Ms. Hayes, ask!

Two Holy Grail titles for Third Dimension connoisseurs are included as well, one a short – the other a feature.

1953’s A Day in the Country has long been on my 3-D Want List.  As often is the case, my idea as to its content and origins was totally wrong; nevertheless, it’s a fascinating evolutionary tale.  I had surmised that the two-reeler was a color travelogue, done post-Bwana Devil to cash in on America’s brief, wildly popular love affair with 3-D, (replete with humorous narration).  Nope.  The short subject was actually shot in red/green anaglyph in 1940, perhaps in competition with Pete Smith’s more renowned MGM 3-D hoot Third Dimensional Murder.  The movie comprises a melange of low-jinks “comedy,” filmed silent with wacky commentary by an up-and-coming comedian named Joe Besser.  Besser, a superb comic character actor (“Stinky” on The Abbott and Costello Show, and a later post-Shemp third Stooge) had an instantly recognizable voice, but not so notably here.  This is REALLY early stuff.  A Day in the Country was rescued from the vault by Lippert Pictures, and was recycled to cash in on the 1950’s 3-D craze.  While it isn’t what I expected, it’s still a title that I’m thrilled to have access to, and a good primer to a Coming-At-Ya night at the Movies.

The 3-D RARITIES II piece de resistance is undoubtedly the discovery and restoration of 1953’s El Corazon y la Espada (aka, The Sword of Granada), the first Mexican 3-D motion picture.  The movie pulled out all the stops, casting Cesar Romero as its lead, costarred with Katy Jurado, along with such other Latin attractions as Miguel Ferriz, Rebecca Iturbide, Tito Junco, Victor Alcocer, Fernando Casanova (possibly, one of my relatives), and Gloria Mestre.

Corazon is a black-and-white 80-minute costume epic, about treachery, torture and rebellion in the corrupt royal court.  It’s similar to the Technicolor backlot stuff routinely being churned out at the time by Universal-International, Columbia and RKO.  Jurado’s character is the most interesting, a sexy swashbuckler (ridiculously constantly confused as a boy) with a fiery temper and a growing lust for adventurer/hero Romero. Her role is often reminiscent of the part Maureen O’Hara played in At Sword’s Point (made by RKO the previous year) The picture did get an American release in 1956, and, even in 3-D (when the process was already well past its dying down phase).  Flat, this pic would be of only marginal interest, but in 3-D, with scenes framed by director Carlos Vejar Hijo (and American Edward Dein, who was called in to assist) and d.p. Enrique Wallace, Corazon does pop.  The monochrome images are atmospherically lit and audibly appended by a score from composer Antonio Diaz Conde.  Corazon is accessible via the original Mexican track (w/English subtitles) or the Anglo dub, prepared for the U.S. and the UK.  Trust me, go with the Spanish track, as the English dubbing is Mystery Science Theater awful (unless that kind of stuff is your wont)!  The print quality is outstanding, and another worthy notch for Flicker Alley, the 3-D Film Archive and third dimension collector’s shelves.

Extras on 3-D RARITIES II include music for the chrome montages by Joey Tiberio, audio commentary on Black Swan and Corazon by stereoscopic scholars Mike Ballew and Dr. Robert J. Kiss, and a beautifully illustrated souvenir booklet.  Here’s hoping for Volume Three!

3-D RARITIES II.  Black and white/Color. Full frame and widescreen [1080p High Definition]; 2.0 DTS-HD MA.  Flicker Alley/3-D Film Archive.  CAT # FA0069.  SRP: $39.95.




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