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THE FOUR ASPECTS OF THE FILM (3-D)

While admittedly, 1983’s TREASURE OF THE FOUR CROWNS (now on 3-D Blu-Ray from Kino-Lorber Studio Classics, working with the terrif 3-D Film Archive folks) isn’t a monumental movie masterpiece, it nevertheless holds a place of quasi-relevance in cinema – especially for stereoscopic fans. And particularly because of those involved.

In 1981, with the spaghetti western long dead, Italian actor/writer (in reality, a West Virginia expat) of the dubious moniker Tony Anthony (aka, Tony Pettito, or Roger Pettito, or Frank Pettito – depending upon which bio you subscribe to) decided to revive it. After all, what fame he had was owed to the genre, having scored a hit back in 1967 (at the spag/wes height) with A Stranger in Town (and the sequel, The Stranger Returns). Anthony Anthony came up with a quirky carrot to get the green light. Shoot it in 3-D. Convincing director/scribe and college professor (!) Fernando Baldi of the possibilities, the pair (in cahoots with another thesp/writer pal, Lloyd Battista) then concocted a viable, salable, and sensational plot about Old West sex trafficking, and loaded the pic up with 3-D effects, some great – some lame (a newborn baby’s rump held out to the audience) – all in questionable taste. The result shocked even them. The movie was an international blockbuster, and jump-started the 1980’s 3-D craze (causing many big studio franchises to take the bait: Jaws, Friday the 13th, Amityville).

Without a doubt, there would have to be a follow-up, so checking what was hot, the duo-trio wisely hit upon Raiders of the Lost Ark. And, thus, TREASURE OF THE FOUR CROWNS was born.

Once again, it would be in 3-D, only this time much-improved with knowledge learned from past mistakes; the process was dubbed Super-Vision 3-D, a single-strip over-and-under anamorphic process; not the ideal format, but very effective nonetheless (it was also known as 3-Depix and WonderVision, basically semantics for Comin’ at Ya’s Optimax III and DimensionScope). And, once again, a beautiful costar would help the narrative along (Anna Obregon replacing the previous effort’s Victoria Abril). Mostly, the hook would be an unbelievable, crazed plot about J.T. Striker, an Indiana Jones-looking mercenary, hired by a museum to retrieve the title ornaments, which, in the wrong hands, could destroy the world!

I suspect, and this is my personal opinion, that Double Anthony had this scenario tucked in his pocket since the mid-late Sixties Italian obsession (post-Tokapi) with the heist movie. The Raiders stuff was added to update and put the project over (Golan-Globus/Cannon ended up with a lion’s share of the distribution rights). This is mostly due to the seeking out of a crack team to help perform the thievery – wherein Striker recruits a number of nefarious, but colorful rogues, including the gorgeous Liz (a circus trapeze artist). Indeed, the four crowns are really three (either a victim of a budget cut or bad mathematics) – with one retrieved in the Lost Ark opening sequence (the key segment in the movie for 3-D fans). So, really (after the first act), two.

Compact Anthony, who couldn’t look less like Harrison Ford, more closely resembles a Mike Myers version of Indy, which adds to the goofy fun. In addition, the barrage of bad press TREASURE has had heaped upon its crown is mostly due to the escapade being grossly misunderstood. So, let’s say it now: this popcorn epic was never to be taken seriously, not for one frame; it’s a fun afternoon at The Movies, and, once one manages to comprehend this fact, the 101-minute running time doesn’t wear out its welcome.

As for the aforementioned opening, it, alone, is worth the purchase. Beautifully framed by d.p.s Marcello Masciocchi and Guiseppe Ruzzolini (with third dimension supervisor Stan Loth fully on-board), the 3-D establishing shots of the “haunted” tomb/crypt are wonderful – and the ensuing kitchen sink action of weaponry and demonic creatures shooting out toward the camera/audience is a non-stop vast improvement over Comin’ at Ya. There’s even a fireball parody of the Raiders boulder moment (plus snakes, no doubt to help promote the “homage”).

Aside from Anthony and Baldi seemingly having a blast, FOUR CROWNS offers a cool array of supporting actors, including company associate Gene Quintano, and cowriter Jerry Lazarus, Emiliano Redondo, Francisco Villena, Kate Levan, Lewis Gordon, and the wonderful Francisco Rabal. The writing (with uncredited Anthony generously ceding all the juice to Lloyd Battista, Lazarus, and Jim Bryce) is strictly Republic serial 101. Even better, music-savvy star-producer Tony Tony’s tones are scored by no less than Ennio Morricone!

The Kino-Lorber/3-D Film Archive Blu-Ray of TREASURE OF THE FOUR CROWNS is generally excellent. The restored materials look fresh with some nice popping colors and good detail. The wee bit of bleeding (or crosstalk) is due to both the over-and-under process and the still-not-quite-getting-the-framing-right quotient. But these technical dings are brief and minor; thank God, Cannon had the elements in decent reanimatable (is there such a word?) shape.

I do understand the mediocre response the movie gets, as its usually contributed by folks who saw it in anaglyph (briefly playing TV in the 1980s – you had to get your own tie-in red and green glasses), or flat. Either of these options is really unacceptable. This is first and foremost a polarized 3-D movie, and should only be seen that way. Of course, not all home video collectors have the post-Avatar 3-D systems required, so Kino and the 3-D Film Archive offer all three versions (a pair of anaglyph glasses included). The sound is accessible in either 5.1 or 2.0 surround (it genuinely was originally presented in Dolby Stereo). There are also (typical of the 3-D Film Archive) some nifty audio extras, comprising an interview with Tony Anthony by Douglas Hosdale, and running commentary by Jason Pichonsky, as well as the trailer.

As you know, I’m a 3-D junkie, so, for me, seeing and owning this edition is a duck ‘n’ laff riot. If you’re a similar addict, be prepared to have a lot of fun. The rest of youse’ll probably be scratching your heads. So be it.

TREASURE OF THE FOUR CROWNS. Color. Widescreen/3-D [2.35:1; 1080p High Definition]; 5.1/2.0 DTS-HD MA. Kino-Lorber Studio Classics/The 3-D Film Archive/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios. CAT # K25857. SRP: $29.95.

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