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>
This is Cinerama was added to the Library of Congress National Film Registry list in 2002. It was the 2nd Cinerama process motion picture to be added to the list. See more »
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 »
I sat in the same theater (the Pacific Cinerama Dome on Sunset Blvd. in L.A.) on the same date as mk4 of Long Beach, but I'm happy to say I didn't see the same film; nor did I hear any murmurs of disappointment on the way out. At the screening I attended, when Lowell Thomas proclaimed, "Ladies and gentlemen -- this is Cinerama!" and the screen expanded to full size as the rollercoaster began, the audience burst into spontaneous applause. And there was sustained applause during the credits at the end.
This was my third viewing of "This Is Cinerama," having previously seen it at the Esquire in Sacramento in 1963 and the New Neon in Dayton, OH in 1996, and it was far and away the best. (I also saw the disappointing one-strip reissue in 1972 -- which should have been called "This Isn't Cinerama" -- but that doesn't count.) The folks at Arclight Cinema, or whoever is directly responsible for restoring this landmark film, are to be congratulated for having done everything exactly right.
The print at the Dome -- or prints, I should say -- were virtually flawless; I saw only a brief green emulsion line in the right frame for about a minute during the first "Aida" sequence, a very slight blue cast to some of the Cypress Gardens shots, one or two seconds of white speckling, and a single cracked frame during the Venice scene. Otherwise, the film was absolutely flawless, the 1950s Technicolor brilliant, vivid, and stunning. Yes, the seams between the frames were there, but that's a given with Cinerama, like black-and-white photography in many movies or subtitles on foreign films. More important is how the seams were managed by the projection apparatus and operators -- the picture was absolutely ROCK-STEADY, and I was pleased to notice none of the "rippling" that was always noticeable in a Cinerama film when someone or something crossed the seam. I don't know how they managed it, but the Cinerama picture never looked this good before.
As the title clearly implies, "This Is Cinerama" is nothing more or less than a demonstration of the process (which is why the single-frame 1970s reissue was such a dumb idea), and it took people to places they probably couldn't go themselves; travel was not nearly so common or so wide in 1952. Besides, even if someone did make it to La Scala in Milan, how many of them would actually have a chance to stand on stage among the performers? True, the choice of segments, and to a certain extent the narration, reflect middlebrow attitudes of 1952. Deal with it. If that makes "This Is Cinerama" look kitschy or dated now, it's as much a limitation in the eye of the beholder as in the film.
Lowell Thomas says in the prologue, "We truly believe this is going to revolutionize motion pictures," and the truth is, it did. Hollywood flirted with wide-screen processes in the early 1930s, then quickly gave them up. But after "This Is Cinerama," the wide screen was here to stay (and now it's even taking over television!). For that matter, so was stereophonic sound (a term that was actually coined for "This Is Cinerama"). Today it is a rare and cheap movie indeed that isn't shot for the wide screen and recorded in stereo. Cinerama itself may not have survived -- it was, after all, cumbersome and expensive -- but its influence was absolute, and continues to this day.
The restored screenings at the Pacific Cinerama Dome show why, and Arclight Cinemas have done a tremendous service in preserving and reviving the Cinerama experience. I look forward to seeing more (particularly "How the West Was Won," easily the best of all Cinerama movies), especially if they are presented as faithfully as "This Is Cinerama."
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