When 3D Was Really Red, White & Blue!
Long before there was virtual reality, or even cell phones, the internet, and Pong for that matter, 3D movies were all the rage.
The concept of viewing a two-dimensional motion picture using optical techniques and effects which simulate the dimension of reality we all experience every day debuted in 1914 with an American film called Niagara Falls, that was shot using something known as the Porter-Waddell Stereoscopic Process.
Forty years later, and with improved technologies, 3D cinema was in its heyday.
In 1953, there were more 3D movies released around the world than any other year in history, including 31 in the United States and seven of international origin. Among the many titles were horror classics like House Of Wax; sci-fi legends such as It Came From Outer Space; and even Western cornerstones like John Wayne's Hondo.
Fast forward another 25 to 30 years to the halcyon, theater-going days of my childhood, and 3D movies were still around; although Hollywood was only turning out a fraction of what it had been during the red-on-one-side-and-blue-on-the-other golden age of the 1950's.
Although only about two dozen 3D flicks hit the cinemas from 1978 to 1983, I only remember a few of them, and only saw two.
A couple of the titles I recall were R-rated horror films, and since this fare wasn't part of my family's usual regimen for paid visual entertainment, we didn't see - nor can I ever remember seeing - Friday the 13th Part III or Amityville 3-D to this day actually.
But thankfully, I did get to experience an old-school 3D flick with the paper glasses a couple of times when I was a kid.
The first one I ever saw is actually a film that isn't credited as ever having been in 3D...but it was! And I remember it well, since the glasses that were sent to the old Columbia Cinemas in East Wenatchee had been manufactured incorrectly, with the red and blue clear plastic needed to produce the three-dimensional effect reversed, thus requiring them to be worn upside down!
That movie which had all of us in the theater that summer night sitting there like a bunch of idiots with the top edge of our 3D glasses over the bridge of our nose and the curled ends of their paper handles pointed up, was Krull!
Krull was released on July 29, 1983. It was a fantasy/science fiction hybrid starring a baby-faced Liam Neeson in what was his cinematic debut.
I had been reading about it in magazines like Fangoria for over a year and was very eager to see it. And although it didn't totally disappoint, it failed to resonate like the bombshell its promotional vehicles had promised.
Nevertheless, Krull does sit on a high and dusty shelf within the cult classics section of my childhood zeitgeist; and I will always recall how jealous my ex-wife was that I got to see it in the theater, since it was one of her favorite movies of all time.
The other flick I had the privilege of chomping overpriced Jujubes and sipping flat Coca-Cola while watching through a set of red and blue lenses was Jaws 3-D.
Jaws 3-D was actually released one week before Krull, on July 22, 1983, and if memory serves me correctly (and I'm truly blessed that it usually does :-), I believe I actually saw this turkey more than once; the first time with my fam, and the second with a grade school friend who hadn't seen it yet. Both times at the old Vitaphone Theater on Mission Street in Wenatchee.
Now if you know your cinematic history, then of course you know that the folks in Hollywood should've ended the Jaws franchise with the eponymous 1975 summer blockbuster. But alas, the ivory-towered execs in Tinseltown went on to make three sequels between 1978 and 1987, with each one being decidedly worse than its predecessor.
Jaws 3-D is truly a bad movie, there's no question about it. But like so many truly bad 80's movies, it's thankfully saved from being unwatchable due to its nostalgic underpinnings and the I'm-only-in-this-for-the-paycheck acting chops of one Louis Gossett, Jr.; who produces some of the outlandishly corny, and therefore most epic lines in cinematic history as part of his dialogue, including, "what'dya mean it's the damn shark's mother?!," and in one scene when answering an important telephone call by simply uttering, "Bouchard here!" Priceless!
Boy, those were the days. And I can only imagine what kids of the same age must have felt like during the height of 3D cinema in the 1950's; at a time when those red, white, and blue glasses were as much a part of the fabric of America as Old Glory itself.
Yes it's true that in recent years, Hollywood has been making more 3D movies than at any time since that acme, but the technology has changed and it just isn't as much fun anymore as a result. The glasses are solid plastic and look far more fashionable and the movies themselves lack the same eagerness to tell a story than they do to impress an audience with flashy CGI effects and trying to turning record profits.
But thankfully, I'm old enough to have lived through at least a tiny sliver of those days when a bucket of popcorn and an ambitious plot rendered through red-and-blue lenses were as real as the dimension of space and time we all share to this day.