A 3D Gallery

Just reminding you again that Joe Dante’s THE HOLE is out there, waiting to be seen. I’d have seen it myself by now but circumstances — yes, those damned things again — have so far thwarted me. Dante is particularly interesting in that he’s one of the few using the new technology who has prior experience of 3D filmmaking, via theme park show HAUNTED LIGHTHOUSE. And I do think experience tells — James Cameron limbered up for AVATAR by making GHOSTS OF THE ABYSS, after all, and Jack Arnold… but Jack Arnold, a good director but not the world’s best, actually defeats my argument by making his best 3D movie, IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE, first. But that feeds into my other argument, which is that you need a good script.

THE FRENCH LINE’s main asset, 3D-wise, is Jane Russell. The Great lady refused to wear a bikini, feeling that would be indecent, but consented to wear the above (very) little number, which conceals about 10% more skin, but which has the moral advantage of being a one-piece. These things mattered!

You’ll have someone’s eye out with that thing! In THE CREEPS, Charles Band (the son of Albert Band, forming a sort of low-rent Dynasty of Dinge) postulates a mad scientist with some kind of, like vortex, who reanimates the classic movie monsters, but in dwarf form. Dwarfs — 3D — geddit? Me neither. But I’d be willing to go along with the gag, especially as Band’s movies usually feature one or two surprisingly adroit comic performances, were it not for the fact that they also feature skin-crawling misogyny dressed up as chuckles.

The Lumiere Brothers experimented with 3D in 1930, and of course they just HAD to shoot a train arriving at a station, didn’t they? I’m betting that even in anaglyph form, it didn’t have the same impact as the first time they shot it…

3D is, in essence, an attempt to give the audience something extra, but one of the things that rightly makes audience’s suspicious is when that extra something is an attempt to cover for absent values of a more traditional kind. Which is perhaps why filmmakers like Band are drawn to it — they know they can’t make a conventional good film, so they shore up their weaknesses with gimmickry. I wonder if something similar was behind Robert Rodriguez’s use of the technique for his SPY KIDS 3D. He’s somebody who always strikes me as a man in search of the next big “will this do?” I point to the static chimney smoke in the background of one shot of SIN CITY as an emblem of the general prevailing cheese. Now, the movie is modestly budgeted and is seeking to make a little look like a lot, and I applaud that in principle. And had the frozen smoke-cloud, perched atop a smokestack like candyfloss on a stick, been a deliberately stylised effect, I’d have enjoyed it. But it’s a small detail, clearly not meant to be noticed, and it rather offended me in its complacent inadequacy. And I see a similar cheap-heartedness at play in SPY KIDS 3D, where the idea of a virtual universe in which the heroes become trapped is not so much a TRON tribute, as an excuse for really, really cheap-looking CGI.

Thank God for GOG, or vice versa! An inventive, ideas-packed and pleasingly dated sci-fi thriller, it may miss tricks in all three dimensions (an early helicopter flight has the chopper buzz the camera but neglects to provide any POV flying footage, surely the biggest potential thrill, cf AVATAR) but does have the perverse imagination to begin with a very cute monkey getting an injection. Like, “YES! This is what the public wants!”

There are drawbacks — knowing that Herbert Marshall was just trying to pay the medical bills incurred by a defective prosthetic leg takes some of the usual pleasure out of seeing him, but he’s utterly professional and authoritative as ever. Much of the science, and all of the sexual politics, has dated badly, and there’s no sense of humour evident, unless the following is a joke ~ (the two leads have just survived an overdose of radiation) ~

Hero (kissing heroine): How do you feel now?

Heroine: Radiant!

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21 Responses to “A 3D Gallery”

  1. […] This post was Twitted by dcairns […]

  2. Good to see THE FRENCH LINE get a mention! I actually enjoy that film as much as (if not more than) GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES.

    With apologies to Marilyn Monroe fans, Jane Russell is the undisputed highlight of GENTLEMEN and it’s great to see her get an ocean liner all to herself!

    And if you think she was just a brassy dame who couldn’t act, see her beyond-sensational performance for Raoul Walsh in THE REVOLT OF MAMIE STOVER. They really don’t make ’em like Jane any more!

  3. David Boxwell Says:

    “JANE RUSSELL IN 3-D: IT’LL KNOCK BOTH YOUR EYES OUT!”

    The scandalous “Lookin’ for Trouble” number was re-shot, legend has it, to avoid any close-ups or medium shots.

    THE FRENCH LINE is a film of astounding vulgarity, even by 50s Populuxe standards.

    (and Kim Novak wears lavender taffeta in her brief appearance).

  4. David Boxwell Says:

    Happily, “thrillkillkitten” has posted the original “Lookin’ for Trouble” on Youtube, close-ups and all. To heighten the sexiness, Jane adopts a distinctly “black” voice for some dirty patter.

    Like I said, a film of astounding vulgarity.

  5. David B, can you post a link? I’ve been looking on YouTube but can’t find it with any of the obvious searches.

  6. Found it by searching for “Jane Russell uncensored.”

  7. Have only seen THE FRENCH LINE in 2D, but the lack of any medium or close shots of Jane Russell in her showgirl costume is really annoying – a waste of the film’s only genuine asset.

    GOG is just OK in 3D. Surprisingly, one of the best 3D sf/fantasy films from that era (other than the Jack Arnold classics) is ROBOT MONSTER, which, if viewed as a child’s fantasy along the lines of THE 5000 FINGERS OF DR. T, is truly delightful. Love those 3D soap bubbles!

    Re a director’s second 3D feature being better than his first, Fleischer’s AMITYVILLE 3D is *much* better than his first 3D feature ARENA, at least in terms of 3D effects and the use of space in general (the script is on the dumb side).

  8. > the script is on the dumb side

    Somehow, when I see the title “Amityville 3D,” I don’t expect a script credited to Clifford Odets.

    “Gog” was shown fairly regularly on Los Angeles TV in the ’60s. That was when I last saw it.

    The name in the cast that stands out for me is Constance Dowling. She wowed a lot of people in real life, apparently — including Elia Kazan — but for some reason her virtues don’t seem to photograph well. At least in the films *I’ve* seen. Me, I’ll take her sister Doris (cf. “The Lost Weekend” and “The Blue Dahlia”).

  9. Christopher Says:

    I didn’t know GOG was in color..much more 3D!..I haven’t seen it since the early 70s in B&W on a color TV ! ?

  10. Actually, I’m now psyched to see Amityville 3D. I’d forgotten it was Fleischer, and even though his last few films are pretty bad, the prospect of him flexing his muscles in the third dimension entices!

    Constance DOwling is fine in Gog, certainly better than B movie average, but it’s a nothing part. No effort has been wasted on characterisation in this one, apart from the obnoxious Werner Von Braun type.

    The uncensored French Line number is pretty saucy, more for Jane’s perf, as David B says, than for the costuming (although that’s a wow too). Those medium closeups would be eye-popping in 3D. People in the front row would be ducking.

  11. kevin mummery Says:

    What’s this about Herbert Marshall and his prosthetic leg? I knew he had one, but at least in movies he seemed to walk normally…I wonder if it ever occurred to anyone to have him play Long John Silver instead of Robert Newton.

  12. Marshall limps a bit in Gog, because his leg was giving him physical problems by this time. If the thing is constructed wrong it can really be debilitating. Maybe he’d gained weight, or shrunk with age, and the leg no longer fitted. Anyway, the poor guy was suffering.

    Directors worked out many tricks to disguise his difficulty in walking. In Trouble in Paradise he exits shot and Lubitsch pans around to catch his stand-in sprinting upstairs. In The Little Foxes he exits frame, dying, in the background, and his stand-in expires on the staircase. Generally he was very good at using furniture or other actors for subtle support so he didn’t show any sign of a limp.

    I guess his success meant that he wouldn’t want to damage his image by playing an actual unidexter like Long John Silver or Captain Ahab.

  13. kevin mummery Says:

    Good point…probably it wasn’t publicized that he’d even lost a leg. Not exactly something a studio would want to call attention to, nor an actor for that matter. Unless it was Lon Chaney, the clever bugger.

  14. I LOVE Jane Russell. She managed to transcend her original job description (a pair of ambulatory breasts) and transform herself into a terrific performer with a wonderful, dry delivery and a great singing voice. Long may she reign!

  15. Yes, she’s a genuinely funny woman. Her interview with Mark Cousins shows the same dry, incredulous delivery she uses when dealing with Monroe in GPB. Like she’s asking us “Can you believe this?”

    Yes, I’m not sure how well-known Marsahll’s leg was. I believe it was a war wound, so theoretically worth bragging about, but I think the policy was not to call attention to it.

  16. And she was best buds with sometime co-star Robert Mitchum, which is no small p’tatoes. They had a great chemistry together, sparked in each other’s company onscreen and likely off as well. A big part of Bob’s persona was this nonchalance bordering on indifference, which she seemed to respond to beautifully. And they were well-matched physically, both broad-chested brunettes, pretty healthy specimens in their prime.

  17. Anyone else recall the Pete and Dud sketch where Pete is encouraging Dud to meditate by coming up with with his own personalised mantra ?Inevitably, it’s ‘Jane Russell.’

    Sample dialogue –
    Pete – Have you let your mind go blank?
    Dud – Yes.
    Pete – Not a difficult step for you I imagine.
    (Note – This gag was recycled in Avatar, of all places!)
    Pete – Now repeat your mantra.
    Dud – Jane Russell, Jane Russell, Jane Russell, Jane Russell, Jane Russell, Jane Russell, Jane Russell…’Ere, Is this meant to make you calm? It’s making me come over all unnecessary.”

  18. CLIVE: What’s ‘e called? That philosopher, the one who knows words ‘n’ everything like that? […] RUSSELL! Russell.
    DEREK: Oh, Jane Russell.
    CLIVE: No, Bertrand. Bertrand Russell.

    (Joan Crawford didn’t get off so lightly on that album though.)

  19. Excellent! Am properly psyched now! Review of The Hole goes up tomorrow.

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