Intertitle of 3D Week: The Ninth Day

Welcome to the Third Dimension!

2_frenchlineThank you, Miss Russell, for that technical demonstration.

(I’ve never seen THE FRENCH LINE, and so I mainly know of it because I’ve heard Jane Russell complain that the studio wanted her to wear a bikini, and she refused such a scandalous wardrobe, opting instead for a showgirl costume that revealed exactly as much skin and looked far kinkier, but was technically a one-piece.)

I haven’t done any themed weeks this year on Shadowplay (Shadowplay Year One Featured Losey Week, Preminger Week, Borzage Week — look ’em up!) because they tend to collide with Hitchcock Year and sometimes with The Forgotten, but since DIAL M FOR MURDER lands on this Wednesday, and 3D is a broad (and deep) enough church to contain many different items of interest, a week spent perambulating in three-dimensional space seemed like a good way to stretch the legs, and enables me to call Shadowplay The World’s First Three-Dimensional Blog with only a moderate degree of dishonesty.

But where will I find a 3D intertitle?


This is from DIAL M FOR MURDER, but alas I don’t have it in 3D. It exists due to a technical quirk of the process. Normally movies in the 50s could be projected on two gigantic reels, each on its own projector, with the projectionist effecting an almost-seamless changeover midway, if you were lucky. But 3D required the use of two projectors at once, so even though DIAL M was film of absolutely average length, a short intermission was required for the real change.

So far, so uninteresting. I guess the difficulties of projection, coupled with the cumbersome equipment (although Andre De Toth found it no bother, and much easier to deal with than Technicolor) played a role in the medium’s near-extinction. As Hitchcock said, “3D was a nine days’ wonder, and I arrived on the ninth day.”

Now 3D appears to be back, with a backlog of movies waiting to get into the few screens that can handle the gimmick — this is much bigger than the occasional flurries of 3D action that have broken out since the 50s. It’s been pointed out that the third dimension is unlikely to become ubiquitous, since why would audiences want to see a regular rom-com in 3D (well, maybe if the people were attractive enough?) — but I would observe that colour, for years, was reserved for certain genres where it was felt to add something, and plenty of big pictures would be made in black and white. There was a belief, perfectly reasonable, that thrillers and horror movies often worked better in b&w. I think that if it weren’t for the extra ticket cost and the inconvenience of the 3D glasses, 3D might take off the way colour eventually did, and become an aesthetic tyranny. So maybe we should be grateful to those specs — they stand between us and the realist dystopia Erich Von Stroheim espoused: “The cinema of the future will be in colour and three dimensions, since life is in colour and three dimensions.”

frenchlinemWhat life is like.

19 Responses to “Intertitle of 3D Week: The Ninth Day”

  1. Here’s Jane’s infamous number

    The ad line read “She’ll knock BOTH your eyes out!”

  2. Fritz Lang, 1955 “3-D is only good for filming snakes…comin’ at ya; or funerals…where they throw the coffin at ya!”

    James Cameron, 2009
    “Every time I watch a movie lately, from Antonioni to Atonement, I think how wonderful it would have been if shot in 3-D.”

  3. I’m sure George Lucas had the same thoughts. I’ve always wondered what Yakima Canutt would have thought of James Cameron’s much over hyped ability to shoot a chase scene.

  4. Christopher Says:

    geez!..I’m gonna need some of those glasses I more drink won’t make them One!

  5. robert keser Says:

    Truth be told, THE FRENCH LINE does not hold up very well in any dimensions, starting with the distinctly odd premise that a wealthy Texas oil heiress would also have a knack for burlesque display. Still, some of the dance numbers remain entertaining in an obvious, Howard Hughes kind of way. I’ve read that the present (though still notoriously controversial) “Lookin’ For Trouble” number was largely reassembled from unused long shots in an attempt to … err … lower the temperature for censorious types, not least America’s still powerful Legion of Decency, which condemned the entire production anyway. This would account for the curiously distant camera placement in that number, remaining well back at a theatrical distance when any Hollywood pro would move in closer as soon as possible.

  6. I do hope that, in your attentkion to 3D, you talk about ’50s Jack Arnold — namely, “Creature from the Black Lagoon” and “It Came from Outer Space.” I got to know ’em in “flat” versions, but I still love ’em both.

    Oh, yes, and (of course) the George Sidney “Kiss Me Kate.”

  7. Christopher Says:

    All these years,I was totally unaware that Kiss Me Kate was done in 3D!!
    ..I need to find a pair of specs..I know I must have some around here somewhere..??..Wonder if just a bit of red and blue cellophane will do?

  8. Yes, red and blue, or green, but preferably cyan plastic would do the trick. I’ve theorized that red and blue food colouring and an eye-dropper might work too, but I’m not going to be the one to try it. Or you could try colouring in a pair of ordinary glasses with a translucent pen.

    The movie I didn’t realise was 3D is Son of Sinbad. Makes total sense when you think about it. I’m weirdly find of that movie, mainly for Vincent Price’s lovable Omar Khayam, although the way the plot stops every ten minutes to squeeze in a belly dance (by some of the top strippers of the day) is oddly endearing.

    Lloyd Bacon directed The French Line and he was certainly an old pro. But I think a lot of those longshots are about the legs. And I’m sure the censors would have preferred closeups to those medium shots! I wonder if the film was shot 1:1.88 and we’re seeing an open-matte version with extra room at the top and bottom though, the wide shots do seem a little wider than necessary.

    Rest assured, Chris, Jack Arnold will feature — and in depth. I’m just debating whether to chase up a copy of The Glass Web too.

    Cameron’s 3D dream sounds a bit like Jerry Bruckheimer’s assertion that he could do Lawrence of Arabia better with CGI — ie, the ravings of a loon.

  9. 3D and “Sons of…” go together. Douglas Sirk directed SON OF COCHISE in
    3D (originally released in 2D).

  10. I recently saw Hondo in 3-D at a special Academy sceening. Most impressive in that it’s a serious western without any gimmicks. Consequently the 3-D effect is utilized primarily in scenic terms. Directed by John Farrow it features John Wayne in one of his very greatest genuine performances — as opposed to traditional star turns. The female lead is — of all people — Geraldine Page (!) She and Wayne work quite well together and it’s a very affecting film overall.

  11. I can imagine Farrow’s gliding long takes working quite nicely in 3D — I guess the twin cameras were bulky as hell, but it’s a shame more filmmakers didn’t creep the camera in more, I think that kind of movement looks nice in 3D.

  12. Christopher Says:

    thats the reason I’ve always wanted to see Hondo in 3D,is the scenery
    a favorite big Duke,words of wisdom, quote from this film…
    when Ms Page drops the H(husband)word one too many times,Wayne comes back with…”Woman thinks every man comes along wants ’em!”

  13. The desert landscapes work rather well in It Came From Outer Space, especially when they get up on a hill.

    Hondo just turned up on cable here, but I don’t have that station. A friend is recording, but I might not get hold of it in time…

  14. I am gutted I threw away some 3-d glasses whilst moving house last week. Gutted!

  15. Try emptying a jar of blueberry jam and a jar of raspeberry and looking at the screen through the smeary bottoms.

    And always hang onto your 3D specs! Those things could save your life!

  16. Christopher Says:

    I’ve often wondered if just a piece of red cellophane and blue cellophane would work…almost easier to find a pair of 3D specs

  17. It would work ONLY TOO WELL. Maybe you could use the wrappers from some boiled sweets. I could tape a couple to my forehead, solving the problem of how to fit 3D specs over or under my regular specs.

  18. Christopher Says:

    I think everyone should start taping colored plastic to their specs..3D is the wave a da future!
    I brung ya some boiled sweets miss Laurie

  19. Red and cyan contact lenses would look pretty stylish too.

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