A standard screen B&W prologue during which Lowell Thomas shows how, from the dawn of history, mankind has attempted to create the illusion of depth & movement by artistic, mechanical and ... See full summary »
A standard screen B&W prologue during which Lowell Thomas shows how, from the dawn of history, mankind has attempted to create the illusion of depth & movement by artistic, mechanical and photographic means. Cinerama format opens with Rockaway Playland Roller Coaster, then Temple Dance from "Aida", views of Niagra Falls, Long Island Choir - an early test of CineramaSound in B&W -, Canals of Venice, Edinburgh Military Tattoo, bullfight and musical performance in Spain, Act II finale of "AIDA" at La Scala Opera House, Milan. "Intermission 15 minutes" Act II commences with a sound demonstration - "we call it stereophonic sound" says LT. Then to Cypress Gardens, Florida, for trick water skiing and boating scenes. The last half of Act II- "America the Beautiful"- is viewed from the nose of a low flying B-25 aeroplane. Finally, credits. Written by
David Coles <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In the otherwise wonderful "America the Beautiful" segment, Yosemite Falls is called Bridal Veil Falls in the narration. Also, the Sierra Nevada mountains are said to be in western California, not eastern, which is their correct location. See more »
Was the original Cinerama - with its triple cameras and triple projectors - really necessary? Probably not, but it's an undeniable part of movie history, and should be respected as such.
A now-obsolete (not to mention unwieldy and expensive) process, Cinerama was something I'd known about only from film history books and encyclopedias - there was no practical way of seeing Cinerama in its original form. I'd seen "The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm" as well as a revival of "This Is Cinerama" in the early 1970's, but in both cases the triple negatives had been reprinted onto a single strip of film. The results looked awful - it wasn't just the tell-tale lines of demarcation where the frames were joined, but also severe distortion caused by flattening out images originally designed for a deeply curved screen. The reprinted "This Is Cinerama" looked so appalling, I wondered what all the fuss had been about. (The only sequence that seemed to work was the legendary roller-coaster ride at the beginning.)
Thanks to The New Neon Movies in Dayton, Ohio, I have seen the past - and it works. Neon's manager, Larry Smith, revived Cinerama with a series of screenings beginning in 1996 that were made possible thanks to a projectionist and Cinerama "nut" named John Harvey who's been collecting Cinerama equipment, prints and memorabilia over the years. (He's put together a customized set-up that enables him to run the projectors and soundtrack reader single-handedly.) I saw "This Is Cinerama" in Dayton in January 1997.
"This Is Cinerama," which introduced the process, is basically a corny 1950s travelogue hosted by globetrotter (and Cinerama backer) Lowell Thomas, who hams it up nicely for this extravaganza ("Ladies and gentlemen ... this is Cinerama!"). Seeing the Cinerama process in all its flawed glory was a fascinating experience. At its worst, Cinerama looks exactly like what it is: three side-by-side projected images that frequently jitter in opposing directions, spoiling the effect. (Harvey's prints are also visibly worn and scratched.) But at its best, Cinerama offers a height of clarity and detail you can't get elsewhere, except maybe for IMAX films.
The opening roller-coaster ride was a wonderfully dizzying experience. But for me, one of the most spectacular sights in "This Is Cinerama" was a view down a street in Spain teeming with people - it seemed to go forever into the distance with amazing sharpness. (Cinerama's larger-than-life clarity was also evident in the other film I saw during my visit to Dayton, "How the West Was Won." During a scene set in a casino, I found myself staring into the frame, trying to pick up all the visual details I could.) The Neon isn't that big a theater, and yet the Cinerama image still looked awesome.
Only seven films were made in the original Cinerama process. I regard Cinerama movies the way I do 3-D films: I'm glad they were made, and I'm glad to see them in their original form - none of which is an argument for making new movies in either process, but it is an argument for preserving, not just the films themselves, but the experience of seeing them the way they were meant to be shown.
Thank you, John Harvey and Larry Smith. (And Fred Waller, Cinerama's inventor.)
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