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A man tells his harrowing story of one evening at midnight being alerted by a telephone call from his Aunt Tilly in distress at the old deserted Smith mansion. The man drove the two hours to the isolated mansion to find that it was haunted by various creatures after him. As the movie viewers are wearing metroscopic glasses watching it in 3D, the man, as he relives the story, and thus the viewers by association, are bombarded by weapons coming right at them wielded by these various creatures. The question becomes how the man escapes and saves his aunt... if he does indeed.Written by
"Third Dimensional Murder" is one of the very early 3-D films, made well before the 3-D fad of the 1950s. It's worth a look ... IF you can manage to see it in 3-D (as I did, thanks to Film Forum in New York City), but you'll need the appropriate viewing apparatus ... which has a much shorter 3-D parallax than the standard 3-D eyeglasses of 1950s drive-in fame.
"Third Dimensional Murder" was released on the Loew's circuit in the days when a trip to the movies usually meant two features, plus a bunch of short subjects. For this double-feature show, moviegoers were given a short cardboard rectangle with a thumb notch on one side and two panes of coloured cellophane: one blue, one red. The ushers in every Loew's cinema were instructed to warn the audience members not to touch the coloured panes with their fingers, and to keep the gadget handy until the 3-D short started. Instead of being worn over the bridge of the nose, this gadget was meant to be held up in one hand and peeked through (like a lorgnette or a pair of opera glasses). I'm left-handed, so I was annoyed (but not surprised) to discover that this gizmo only works properly when held in the viewer's RIGHT hand.
The opening shot of "Third Dimensional Murder" is in 2-D colour, showing a blonde bit-part actress holding the cardboard gizmo properly. Now the movie starts. Pete Smith does his usual narration, in his sarcastic nasal tones. The plot makes no sense: something about the narrator going to investigate a murder at a house full of monsters. We get glimpses of a man in a trilby hat stumbling through the haunted house: he's apparently the narrator, but we never see his face clearly. The unconvincing monsters keep chucking objects at us. The 3-D cameras were set up with a very narrow parallax; if you watch this thing with standard 3-D eyeglasses you'll end up cross-eyed. The "gags" aren't funny, and the flying objects are too predictable ... at least from our modern standpoint. Let's give this movie some slack for being an early experiment ... not only in 3-D technology but in 3-D storytelling.
SPOILERS HERE. The "pay-off" gag is weak and unfunny, but at least it's unexpected. The narrator gets killed, but he carries on narrating. In the very last shot of the movie, he turns into a talking skeleton. At least the 3-D view through his rib cage looks interesting. "Third Dimensional Murder" has some slight historical interest, but that's all.
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