By Bob Furmanek and Greg Kintz, 3-D Film Archive
It has been nearly 59 years since CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON premiered in dual-strip 35mm polarized 3-D. The feature’s storyline and the iconic Gillman have been covered elsewhere numerous times and will not be repeated here. Instead, we will concentrate on the 3-D history of this title, and examine in detail how well the original presentation is delivered via the 3-D Blu-ray format. Click on certain images to expand.
Arch Oboler’s independently produced BWANA DEVIL had its world premiere in Hollywood on November 26, 1952 and set the box-office on fire. Following the phenomenal success of the first 3-D feature film in color, every studio in Hollywood made plans to jump on the 3-D bandwagon.
Universal-International had started working on its own 3-D camera system in January of 1953. Clifford Stine, David Horsley, Fred Campbell and Eugene F. Polito developed a dual-camera rig that, unlike the Natural Vision system which had two cameras facing an angled mirror, placed a pair of Mitchell cameras side by side with one camera inverted. A Selsyn motor was utilized to interlock the focus controls. Two different rigs were built; one for medium/long shots and another for close-ups. Jack Arnold remembered the resulting equipment as a “big monster,” but one that worked perfectly. Filming of THE STRANGERS FROM OUTER SPACE began on February 4 and the production was shrouded in secrecy. The cast and crew signed a “loyalty pledge” stating they would not divulge the nature of the plot.
Newly titled IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE, the studios first 3-D feature opened on May 27, 1953. Composed for the aspect ratio of 1.37:1, it was the first 3-D film projected in widescreen at the World Premiere in Hollywood. Motion Picture Daily wrote, “The screen developed by Universal-International has a 1.85:1 aspect ratio with a textile base, sprayed with an aluminum solution to provide a 4-to-1 light magnifying factor. It is curved on a 90 foot radius.” The combination of 3-D, widescreen and three-channel stereophonic sound provided the audience with an immersive experience and effectively ushered in the “New Look” in motion pictures.
WINGS OF THE HAWK was their next 3-D production, this time in Technicolor and composed for 1.85:1 widescreen with stereophonic sound. Filming commenced on March 28 and was completed mid-May. At that point, the studio shut down to prepare all departments for 100% widescreen production.
As of May 28, CREATURE was planned for Eastman color as well, with the underwater scenes to be shot in black and white and tinted blue as a cost-saving device. However, when filming began on October 6, the plan had been dropped. Surviving Kodachrome images show how the Gillman would have photographed in color.
While CREATURE was still in pre-production, Jack Arnold helmed his second 3-D feature, THE GLASS WEB. This excellent, under-rated 3-D classic began filming on June 23 and starred Edward G. Robinson, John Forsythe and Kathleen Hughes, “That 3-D Sensation of IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE.”
The studios huge camera rig was not practical for the underwater photography so Clifford Stine devised a unique solution to the problem. Two small Arriflex cameras were placed in a compact, watertight housing. Arriflex cameras were not in wide use in Hollywood in the 1950’s; most cameramen felt that such a small camera was not “good enough” for Hollywood films. But Stine was advanced in his thinking, and when he found that the small camera was suited to the job, he used it—with very good results. [more…]
Source: 3-D Film Archive