Fasten Your Seat Belts

Presented in 70-millimeter in a select group of theaters, Paul Thomas Anderson’s dense and ambitious “The Master” is refocusing attention on wide-gauge filmmaking — a propitious time for the Cinerama guru David Strohmaier to come out with his meticulous restoration of the first Cinerama feature, the 1952 “This Is Cinerama,” as well as the 1958 “Windjammer,” filmed in a rival three-strip process but eventually acquired by Cinerama and released under the company’s logo. The Blu-ray editions, released this week by Flicker Alley, obviously can’t capture the impact the films had on a 70-foot wide curved screen (unless you have a very special video room), but they do summon up the experience with thrilling veracity.

“This Is Cinerama” (that’s a souvenir postcard from the original presentation above) was a technological marvel that touched off the widescreen revolution of the 1950s, though its three-projector system ultimately proved too unweildly and was replaced by a version of Super Panavasion 70. It’s a fascinating film both for its technological achievement and what it says about America in the early 1950s — a country perhaps a little bit drunk on technology and its new position of power in the postwar world. The film seems most directly to reflect the protean spirit of its executive producer, Merian C. Cooper, one of the most intriguing and hand to classify figures of classical Hollywood — a fighter pilot, ethnographic documentarian (“Grass”), technical pioneer (“Becky Sharp”), longtime production partner of John Ford (“The Searchers”) and, of course, major twentieth-century myth-maker (“King Kong”). A review here in the New York Times.

42 comments to Fasten Your Seat Belts

  • Robert Garrick

    One of my top movie thrills from the past decade was seeing “This is Cinerama” at the Cinerama Dome on Sunset Boulevard, shown with three projectors on a gigantic curved screen, in perfect fidelity to the format. This was back in 2002. I had long given up any hope of seeing this film properly projected, but life is full of surprises.

    The film’s highlight is its opening, which Dave describes well in his New York Times piece. It is absolutely true that one’s stomach churns a bit on the roller coaster ride. The film’s technology is spectacular from start to finish, but you do tend to get used to it after a while, so the roller coaster kickoff remains the most vivid memory. Cinerama’s use of sound was also astonishing for 1952, as five, six, or seven channels of sound were recorded right at the source, and recreated at the theatre. (It was called CineramaSound.) For almost every moviegoer in America, this was something new, and the first taste of multiple track sound reproduction. Remember, in 1952 many people were still buying ceramic 78 rpm records.

    A large portion of the film’s second half takes place at the Florida theme park Cypress Gardens. That park, groundbreaking in its day, closed in 2009. But it lives on, forever in its prime, in “This is Cinerama.”

    The hugeness of Cinerama is impressive, but the picture quality doesn’t measure up to subsequent processes like Todd-AO, VistaVision, or Imax, and the two fuzzy breaks between the three sections is always there. I recently watched “The Dark Knight Rises,” which was filmed about 40% in Imax, with the rest split between 70mm and 35mm. It’s easy to see the switches from format to format while the film is projected. The Imax portions look great, with incredible definition and pretty impressive cinematography in general.

    “Dark Knight” director Christopher Nolan is a film zealot, too: “For the last 10 years, I’ve felt increasing pressure to stop shooting film and start shooting video, but I’ve never understood why. It’s cheaper to work on film, it’s far better looking, it’s the technology that’s been known and understood for a hundred years, and it’s extremely reliable.”

    Not too long ago there was a piece in Film Comment on film versus video, and the cinematographers agreed that film was superior, though they also agreed that in time, video would probably catch up.

  • Mark Gross

    Speaking of Cinerama, the link below (for a trailer of SOUTH SEAS ADVENTURE) was posted by David Strohmaier on Home Theatre Forum today, and has a narration by Orson Welles & music by Alex North.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgY1eDDI4Yo

  • Going through the Bogdanovich/Ford book, I found interesting observations by Ford on filming in these developing new and different formats.
    On CinemaScope, “I hated it. You’ve never seen a painter use that kind of composition – even in the great murals it still wasn’t this huge tennis court. Your eyes pop back and forth, and it’s very difficult to get a close-up.”
    On Cinerama, “It’s worse than CinemaScope, because the ends curl on moving shots and the audience moves instead of the picture. You have to hold onto your chair. I didn’t care for it.”
    I found these remarks to be surprising as “The Long Gray Line” is such a beautiful film and “How the West Was Won” is stunning.
    I look forward to discovering “This Is Cinerama”, it sounds like a lot of fun.

  • Robert Garrick

    Mark, let me add my best wishes to those that were provided on the last thread. Barry correctly notes that what we do here isn’t brain surgery. It isn’t rocket science either, though we did discuss “This Island Earth” a fair amount a few months ago.

    David D., I was gratified by Ford’s comments about film processes and cinematography in the Bogdanovich book. Ford was obviously passionate about the classical format: black-and-white photography on a 4×5 screen. Ford’s color films are works of great beauty, but he was quite clear about his preference for black-and-white.

    Phil Spector said: “Everything in mono.” It worked for him too.

  • Mark Gross

    Thanks Robert, for your kind words. I was taken to see THIS IS CINERAMA by my parents when I was 3 years old. I particularly remember the opening scene on the roller coaster, which resonated, for at that time of my life I was quite an enthusiast when it came to roller coasters, having already been on the ride at Playland in Rye, NY a number of times. But what I think was most magical about the whole experience was when the curtains opened, and kept opening, and then opened some more, until that huge curved screen seemed to encompass the entire theatre.

    After the sequence with the roller coaster ended (which I confess held my complete attention) I spent a lot of time looking at the projection booths. Two were stuck onto the wall on opposite sides of the screen. I was amazed that this gigantic curved image could have been generated from those tiny box-like structures, and I sat and watched the projectionists thread up with almost no head room to speak of.

    It’s true that Todd-A-O & Vista Vision had much better resolution (I was taken to see WHITE CHRISTMAS & AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS in their first run engagements as well), but I’ll never forget the first time I went to see Cinerama.

  • Barry Lane

    David D. Re How The West Was Won.

    Ford only directed the segment with John Wayne. The majority of the picture was done by Henry Hathaway, who resented Ford and Marshall’s receiving equal credit. All covered in Anthony Slide’s book length interview.

  • Oliver_C

    Indeed, Christopher Nolan’s most significant legacy may end up being his advocacy of celluloid in general and IMAX (with its interesting squareish aspect ratio) in particular.

  • Alex Hicks

    Anyone know of any recent 70 millimeter big screen showings of THE BIG TRAIL?

    Would a curved Cinerama screen do nicely? Any still available?

  • Alex, “The Big Trail” no longer exists in 70-millimeter. The nitrate negative was destroyed when MOMA made its anamorphic 35-millimeter transfer in the 90s. The curved screen would make no difference, since Walsh was not trying to fill the viewer’s peripheral vision, as Cinerama uniquely does (quite unlike Todd-AO or VistaVision, which were standard widescreen processes). I have to disagree with Robert Garrick’s notion that Todd-AO and VistaVision had better resolution than Cinerama. VistaVision produced a horizontal image of approximately 38 millimeters on 35 millimeter film, with a projection aspect ratio that varied from 1.66 to 2. Todd-AO produced a 65-millimeter negative (70-millimeter for projection prints, with the magnetic sound track added), with a projection ratio of 2.20. Cinerama lined up three 35-millimeter images for a total of 105 millimeters for an aspect ratio of 2.59. More details than you want can be found at Martin Hart’s fine site The Widescreen Museum.

  • Mark Gross

    Thanks Dave, for all that information. Perhaps resolution is the wrong word. I was thinking that because VistaVision is 8 perf 35mm & Todd-A-O was 65mm(as opposed to 4 perf 35mm for Cinerama;though with three negatives combined, the overall image would have had better resolution)there would be a much greater sense of individual detail found in VistaVision & Todd-A-O. Take a mountain peak in the center of the frame, for example, or the fabric of a woman’s dress. Since that part of the image in VV or Todd-A-O was originally shot on a negative roughly twice the size as an individual panel of Cinerama, there should be greater individual detail.

    As far as curved screens are concerned, AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS, which was the first Todd-A-O production, opened at the Rivoli in NY, which indeed had a curved screen. In fact, many Todd-A-O films, such as THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES & THE SOUND OF MUSIC opened at the Rivoli and looked fabulous on that curved screen. According to Wikipedia, many Todd-A-O films were booked into Cinerama theatres to take advantage of the curved screen.

  • Mark Gross

    Let me also say, that having seen many of the original 3 projector Cinerama films first run, that Vista Vision & Todd-A-O, for all their mind boggling beauty and fine detail, didn’t hold a candle to Cinerama!

  • Rob Leith

    As a child I saw what were, I believe, the only two non-documentary feature Cinerama films, The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm and How the West Was Won. This was a time when suburbanites, like my family, still dressed up and drove into the city (Boston) to see a first-run film, and the magnificent old theaters, complete with flashlight-equipped ushers, made moviegoing a great occasion, never more so than in these two overwhelming experiences. The soundtrack was a big part of the experience, especially How the West Was Won, which contains what is still one of my favorite musical scores. I understand that a couple of theaters still show Cinerama films, and I hope one day to re-experience an indelible part of my youth.

  • Alex

    Dave K.,

    Too bad. Maybe the 70 millimeter negative rests somewhere alongside the reels of Welles’ pre-Brazil cut of The Magnificent Amberson!

    Heck, maybe in some parallel universe Welles and Korda did get his flights to Moscow from Churchill and film WAR AND PEACE (with Welles, of course, as Pierre and Olivier and Vivian as Andres and Natasha making millions –though then going on to ruin his career as the self indulgent director of a rash of Nero Wolf films series with Bogart alongside his Nero as Archie Goodwin and some BOMB of a Western about the Johnson County War).

  • Robert Garrick

    Let me briefly address Dave’s comments on Cinerama, Todd-AO, and VistaVision. The history of widescreen processes is a minefield of exceptions, variations, and esoterica, and I hasten to point out that I’m no expert. There are critics (John Belton is one) who have devoted a great deal of time to this fascinating area.

    Any film process is a function of the film frame itself, the way it is projected (including the speed with which it is pulled through a projector), and the environment in which it is intended to be shown. It’s not just a matter of film size and aspect ratio.

    Todd-AO in its ultimate form was used only twice, in “Oklahoma” and “Around the World in 80 Days.” The film was 65mm wide, but it was pulled through the projector at 30 frames per second, rather than 24 frames per second. The Wikipedia site for Todd-AO says . . . “the difference does not seem great, but the sensitivity of the human eye to flickering declines steeply with frame rate and the small adjustment gave the film noticeably less flicker, and made it steadier and smoother than standard processes. The original system generated an image that was ‘almost twice as intense as any ever seen onscreen before, and so hot that the film has to be refrigerated as it passes through the Todd-AO projector.’”

    After watching a demonstration of Todd-AO in Buffalo, New York in 1953, Rodgers and Hammerstein became convinced that the process was superior to Cinerama, and sold their play’s rights accordingly.

    http://www.in70mm.com/newsletter/1994/31/todd_ao/index.htm

    As for VistaVision, it came in a dizzying number of aspect ratios and variations. Comparisons are difficult because as originally conceived, VistaVision used a huge negative–2.66x bigger than a standard 35mm negative–but that negative was printed onto 35mm stock.

    For a few opening engagement prints, though, full-size horizontal contact prints of VistaVision were struck. The details are complex but essentially two 35mm frames were combined to make a single frame, and were pulled through the projector at 24 frames per second. Because the frame size was so large, the film had to move at three feet per second, and this proved to be impractical. But a tremendous amount of information was projected onto a screen that was not notably wide. True VistaVision was, in fact, somewhat similar to the current IMAX process, which uses a large frame and a tall (i.e., more square) screen.

    Cinerama–three 35mm images lined up in a row–was not more detailed than the normal film in the normal neighborhood theatre. Yes, there were three 35mm images worth of information, but true Cinerama screens were easily three times as large as a typical 35mm screen. It was the sound and the wraparound enormity of the image that gave the process its spectacular quality, not the amount of resolution on the screen.

    So I’m going to stick to my guns here, but again, we’re talking about processes that have been used for just a few films, in just a few theaters, and in most cases not for a half century or more. I have seen true Cinerama (and IMAX, of course) but I have never seen VistaVision or Todd-AO in their ultimate forms. In heaven, I want to see “To Catch a Thief” (1954) in an 8-perf contact VistaVision print. It will have to be in heaven, because those prints (there were only a handful) must be long gone, and I’m quite sure those projectors are gone as well.

  • Rob Leith

    Years ago I saw a 35mm screening of The Searchers, a VistaVision film, at the Brattle Theater in Cambridge. In a number of scenes, most notably when Ethan (ostensibly) and Martin spend the night in sleeping bags around a campfire, the studio lights were clearly visible at the top of the frame. This was quite interesting, though it was highly disruptive to the narrative illusion. Has anyone ever encountered this in The Searchers or in other VistaVision films? I understand that the projectionist had not masked the film correctly.

  • Rob Leith (September 25, 2012 at 7:57 pm): in 2001 in the circulating U.S. Millennium Tour series of American classic films there was a print of THE SEARCHERS where lamps and boom mikes were visible in Monument Valley if the print was not screened in the proper widescreen ratio. Has it become difficult to see a good print of THE SEARCHERS?

  • mike schlesinger

    Rob: The first time I ever saw SEARCHERS, they started it in 1.33:1. Lights, tops of backdrops, even the soundstage walls beyond. Everyone was laughing like hell. Fortunately, they switched over to 1.85 at the second reel and everything was fine thereafter, but it was a brutal way to be introduced to it. Someone needs to strap Jeffrey Wells in a chair and make him watch it full-frame.

    BTW, Dave, that “version of Super Panavision 70″ is actually Ultra Panavision, which is SP with an anamorphic lens. It was essentially MGM’s Camera 65 with a few tweaks.

  • Robert Garrick

    Back around 1985, I had Joseph McBride (and his brother) to dinner at my house in Georgetown, and after dinner we went upstairs and watched some things that I had on VHS. One of the things McBride showed me was a station wagon, at the top right part of the screen, in “The Searchers.” You have to know where and when to look . . .

    There are many films made after the mid-50s that, if not properly masked, will show booms and other filmmaking equipment. In most cases they’re films that were shot on normal 35mm film, but that were meant to be shown slightly masked to produce a semi-widescreen look. You used to see it on TV quite a bit, back when they showed films on local TV channels.

  • Robert Garrick

    As long as we’re talking about Cinerama, we should mention its reductio ad absurdum, Circle-Vision 360. This process, developed by Walt Disney’s imagineers, opened at the Disnyeland theme park in Anaheim in 1955, where it was originally known as Circarama, and was shown in the Circarama theatre, in Tomorrowland.

    Circle-Vision (as it was later called, and as it is called today) used nine cameras, and the resulting film was projected onto nine huge screens arranged in a complete circle. (The viewer stood somewhere in the middle, and was given a handrail to hold.) To take the film, cameras were often mounted on top of an automobile, or sometimes a helicopter or airplane. Wikipedia further explains: “By using an odd number of screens, and a small space between them, a projector may be placed in each gap, projecting across the space to a screen. The screens and projectors are arranged above head level, and lean rails may be provided for viewers to hold or to lean against while standing and viewing the film.”

    The process has since been used in theatres at the Magic Kingdom in Florida, and also at Epcot there; at Expo 67 in Montreal; at Expo ’86 in Vancouver; in China; and at Disney parks in Paris and Tokyo. As far as I know it is still in use at Epcot and in China (in Beijing, near the Great Wall). There are plans to bring it back to Disneyland, and a new film is being prepared for that.

    I have seen this process–several times–and while it is incredibly impressive, and weird, you wouldn’t want to watch a film that lasted more than about ten minutes. Luckily, that’s about how long most of the films were.

    True Cinerama hasn’t been used since “How the West Was Won,” but new Circle-Vision films are still being made. Circle-Vision has never been used for a feature film. Two feature films were made in three-projector Cinerama, but it wasn’t quite true Cinerama because the film speed was slowed down to 24 frames per second for the two features. (For the earlier travelogues, a faster film speed of 26 frames per second was used.)

    The Disney parks, in general, have been a paradise of innovative film processes over the years. Today, one of the leading attractions at Disney’s California Adventure (adjacent to Disneyland) in Anaheim is “Soarin’ Over California,” which combines IMAX, smell-o-vision, and viewer seats that take flight. I experienced it just last month and it’s effective.

  • Junko Yasutani

    ‘Has anyone ever encountered this in The Searchers or in other VistaVision films? I understand that the projectionist had not masked the film correctly.’

    Extra material from Japanese laser disc of THE SEARCHERS shows black and white documentary of making the movie, and can be seen Mitchell camera filming some scenes, so THE SEARCHERS was not completely filmed in VistaVision. Maybe campfire scene was not shot in VistaVision.

    Now I am wondering how many VistaVision movies was partially shot in regular 35mm.

  • jbryant

    Circle-Vision blew me away when I was a kid visiting Disneyland. And Soarin’ Over California is a blast. My girlfriend and I had season passes to the parks a couple of years back, and it was always the highlight.

    I recall that watching HBO in the late 70s offered a motherlode of boom mikes. At the time, I never could figure out why, say, SHAMPOO looked perfectly fine at the drive-in but was infested with boom mikes on the 19″ TV in my dorm room.

    Merian C. Cooper had an amazing life, which you can read about in Mark Cotta Vaz’s biography “Living Dangerously: The Adventures of Merian C. Cooper, Creator of King Kong.”

  • Junko (September 26, 2012 at 12:18 pm): I have asked experts how is it at all possible to see boom mikes in a VistaVision movie and have never quite understood their explanations. Your hypothesis would make sense. I was also puzzled by the uneven visual quality of the Millennium Tour print of THE SEARCHERS.

  • Circle-Vision was still around in Disneyland as late as 2000; the line for Rocket Rods (possibly the worst ride in Disneyland history) took you through the Circle-Vision theater/room. IIRC, the ride that Rocket Rods replaced, the Peoplemover, once had a section which took you between a pair of giant screens projecting the lightcycle scene from Tron on either sides of the track. It was a cheap attempt at immersion – by the time you figured out what you were looking at you were already on your way out – but it was still pretty exciting while it was happening.

  • “It’s worse than CinemaScope, because the ends curl on moving shots and the audience moves instead of the picture. You have to hold onto your chair. I didn’t care for it.”

    And yet Ford alone took pains to disguise the seams of the three panels by using trees and posts in his compositions.

    “The Civil War” is by far the best part of “How the West Was Won.” I saw it at the Dome with Bill Krohn 8 years ago; we were inspired to go by recent remarks on Ford made by Daniele Huillet. In 15 minutes with just some voice over and a few shots of “Bloody Kansas” he laid out the causes of the war and then personalized the tragedy of it for commanders and rank and file soldiers alike. Ford introduces the battle of Shiloh with blood being washed off an operating table and more blood filling the stream from which the two soldiers drink, and links the home from which Zeb departs to the field headquarters by means of a blossoming tree.

    Since Junko pointed out the use of regular 35mm in “The Searchers” Ford (or the editors) used a clip from the non-Cinerama “Raintree County” for a brief battle montage.

  • By the way, almost the entire Cinerarma ouevre (if it can be called that) is screening this week and next at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood:https://www.arclightcinemas.com/movies/now-playing.

  • RIP to the great Herbert Lom.

  • “RIP to the great Herbert Lom.”

    And Marcel Hanoun…

  • Marcel Hanoun: I have only seen his “film inside the system”, THE EIGHTH DAY (with Emmanuelle Riva), which he disavowed, but because even it is so interesting, I’m looking forward to seeing his more committed work.

  • Mark Gross

    “And Marcel Hanoun…”

    Thanks, X. At one point Marcel Hanoun was my favorite French director. This was at the time the Public theatre in NYC had a retrospective of his work in the mid 70′s. I think it’s criminal that UNE SIMPLE HISTORIE hasn’t yet been released on region 1 home video, as I consider it the best French film of 1959 (and yes, I know that’s the year of THE 400 BLOWS & PICKPOCKET)although the film that resonates the most after all these years is L’ETE, which, if memory serves,concerns a young woman who was involved in the May 68 general strike in Paris, and is now on a commune in the country, mostly alone, looking at photos of the events in May, which are interposed with long held images (with mostly long focal lengths) of the countryside. Of course, it’s impossible to describe any of Marcel Hanoun’s films. The miracle is in watching them. Before seeing Marcel Hanoun’s work, I don’t think I was ever so aware of film grain possessing a human essence that interacted with every instant of my viewing, not to mention every breath I took.

  • Jim Gerow

    UNE SIMPLE HISTOIRE is available unsubtitled on Youtube:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crHW-wR0lcE

    I happened to stream it shortly before Hanoun’s death, in my ongoing effort to see all of the films on Jonathan Rosenbaum’s list of 1000 Essential Films. Even with my limited understanding of French I found it a haunting experience.

  • Mark Gross

    Thanks so much Jim!

  • “it’s impossible to describe any of Marcel Hanoun’s films. The miracle is in watching them.”

    That’s true Mark. I remember that his movies received a poor critical response form many critics (with a few honorable exceptions like Jonathan Rosenbaum) when they were first screened in the US.

    For awhile “Une simple histoire” was fairly popular in New York City in the 1970s; you could see at least once a year at one revival venue or another. Obviously things have changed.

    Perhaps Hanoun’s untimely passing will inspire a tribute retrospective.

    (And let me add my best wishes to you Mark. Keep the faith!)

  • Steve Elworth

    I want to add one point to the much deserved discussion on Hanoun and hope that his death will led to a much needed retrospective. With Bresson, he was the French film maker of the 50s to be shown at Anthology Film Archives and they do have an unsubtitled print of the astonishing UN SIMPLE HIASTOIRE and they have hosted several retro spectives including the one way back in the day when they were briefly at the Public theater.

  • Alex

    Great week for film!

    Paul Thomas Anderson peaks –sorry, David Thompsan– with his THE MASTER.

    And I discover that Lasse Hoile has ALREADY nudged the Gonzo aesthtic of Oliver Stone and Brian Di Palme into immortality with his great (1 minute and 40 second) SCARFACE, THE SHORT VERSION (on YOUTUBE everywhere).

  • Alex

    Perhaps the roller coaster imagery of the Cinerama add (like the contents of that first Cinerama release) should be viewed ominously. Roller coaster-like animation is used to segue viewer into the main feature portion of each showing at Regal and AMC theaters. Moreover, the idea of the movie as a roller coaster ride is not unlike those of it as a video game and adrenalin shock and action spectacle. David Denby writes interestingly of the tension between narrative and dramatic strengths on the one hand and FX (particularly in the current super hero genres) in the current New Republic; and Geoff King has written insightfully of the tension between the narrative-centered Classical Hollywood and film as spectacle. It’s not too many long jumps from the Cinerama roller coaster to the roller- coaster like chase in Bullit to the move toward implausibly survived car chases (and then gun fights and explosions) in a thousand films since.

    Understanding with film students disfruntled with boring old narrative-centered, low-FX films can often be achieved by the observation that the video gam model of video entertainmemnt is not my main model and video game like thrills can be more enthralling framed by defensible dramatic and narrative frames like those of DIE HARD, ALIENS or the first THE MATRIX.

  • Jean-Michel

    Re: Circle-Vision 360 — Penglai Pavilion (in Yantai, China) has a vintage 360-degree film (most likely a knock-off system and not “real” Circle-Vision) that they screen a few times a day. It’s a roughly ten-minute travelogue about Hawaii, and judging from the clothing and hairstyles on display–not to mention the general condition of the film–it can’t date from any later than the early ’80s. Rather incongruous in that setting.

    Re: How the West Was Won — Ford’s segment is indeed the highlight and borderline miraculous given the nature of the system and the limitations it created. (Actors had to be placed on the right, left or center so as to prevent them from standing on the joins between the three images, and I recall reading that Ford had to abandon or attenuate a planned ground-level tracking shot of George Peppard crawling through the mud in close-up, because the distortion at that height and that distance would’ve been too great.) Serendipitously, David Bordwell has put up his own essay on Cinerama, with due attention to Ford’s achievement.

  • Mark Gross

    (And let me add my best wishes to you Mark. Keep the faith!)

    Thanks, X! Steve, I seem to recall that all the Hanoun films I saw at the Public were unsubtitled (expect perhaps UN SIMPLE HISTORIE), so it’s possible that Anthology was still in residence, though I remember sitting in normal seats, and not those isolation boxes.

  • My folks took us kids to Cinerama in Detroit (around 70 miles from our town). We saw How the West Was Won and had a great time. Technological marvels like Cinerama were a big tourist draw. Americans thought it was important to see them.

    By contrast, I have vivid memories of seeing The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm in a plain old regular theater. This was the first movie I ever saw where I’d read the book. I knew and loved all these fairy stories, and knew what was going to happen. I felt so learned!

    Fairy tales, Norse myths, Greek myths and the Arabian Nights were a big deal as a kid. Devoured all the books from the public library.
    Loki from Norse mythology was and is a favorite. Am distressed to read in Dave Kehr’s column that The Avengers treats Loki as “a Norse god gone wild”. Gee, did they put him in a mustache :)
    Loki is a trickster, and part of the fabric of the universe. He is not a by-the-numbers villain.
    ***
    Would like to see some of the multi-screen films of Charles and Ray Eames. These include:
    Sample Lesson,
    Glimpses of the U.S.A.,
    The House of Science,
    Think

    Glimpses of the U.S.A. created a sensation when it was shown in the Soviet Union.

    IBM at the Fair (1965) is a film record, of the Eames-designed IBM Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair (1964). We get extensive glimpses of the film the Eames created for the IBM Pavilion. Called Think, it is the climax of a series of films the Eames made since the 1950s, that use multiple screens to project numerous different images.
    This is the only view I’ve had of the Eames multiscreen movies.

    The IBM building has a unique auditorium. The audience sits in bleachers, that are then lifted sixty feet into the air!
    The music conductor in the auditorium also has a special chute, that whisks him upward. It reminds one of the cylindrical lift that shoots Ruby Keeler upward, in the musical number “I Only Have Eyes for You” in the film Dames (1935).

    Get well soon, Mark!

  • “By contrast, I have vivid memories of seeing The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm in a plain old regular theater.”

    I had the experience of seeing both “The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm” and “How the West Was Won” in Cinerama and regular 35mm at the neighborhood theater. The “flat” versions were disappointing compared to the Cinerama versions. (Were these two movie the only 3 panel ones to receive wide releases in the ordinary 35mm format?) The seams looked more obvious and were distracting, and the sides were cropped. Super Panavision 70 looked better flat than Cinerama, and the pictures made in that format (“It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” “2001,” etc.)

  • Oliver_C

    “The Avengers treats Loki as ‘a Norse god gone wild’. Gee, did they put him in a mustache? Loki is a trickster, and part of the fabric of the universe. He is not a by-the-numbers villain.”

    It’s my opinion (shared by comic creator John Byrne, for what it’s worth) that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, when creating Marvel Comics a half-century (!!!) ago, made a great mistake in insisting such characters as Hercules, Loki and Thor to be the genuine mythological characters (albeit substantially bowdlerized), rather than Earthly superhumans whose actions in ages past had inspired subsequent legends.

    Kirby himself might have realized this, since his later series The Eternals took the latter approach (with his reinvention of the Greek Circe as the Jane Russell-esque ‘Sersi’ being a particular pleasure).

  • Tom Brueggemann

    Saw How the West Was Won from the balcony of the downtown Cleveland Cinerama theater in 1963. A bit too high up for full effect, but it was impressive.
    But it didn’t make up for the disappointment of going with my family to a closer theater in 1962 on the last Sunday of their showing of 7 Wonders of the World, only to find it sold out. (We were dumped off at a closer to home theater to see my first Arthur Hiller film, Miracle of the White Stallions.

    Anyway, it was with real excitement I went to see 7 Wonders and This Is Cinerama this weekend at the Dome. 7 Wonders was digitally presented, adequately it seemed to me. I saw this first, and the advancement of mobility of the cameras was very apparent. The most interesting parts were the Darjaleen railroad in reverse downhill sequence, and the Vatican segments (particularly the weekend papal home blessing, which must have been spinetinkling for many when first seen).

    Beforehand, a 25 minute short shot in and around LA tourist sites was premiered, the first film shot in Cinerama in four decades. The effects were OK, the acting and dialogue laughable unfortunately.

    This is Cinerama is wildly uneven – awfully static initially once past the rollercoaster, way too much emphasis on performance. The Cyprus Gardens sequence – the longest in the film – showed off a bunch of different visual capacties, but felt like an ad. But the plane tour across the country was quite riveting.

    Unfortunately, though centered, I was in the back of the theater, which likely decreased the impact. Ironically, the friend I took actually did get motion sick during the rollercoaster, so my initial apologies for not being front and center were unnecessary.

  • mike schlesinger

    I was in the second row during the Cinerama festival, down where all the smart people sit. The whole point of Cinerama is that its 146-degree span mimics the human field of vision, so it should fill your vision thusly. Sit in the back, you might as well be watching a very narrow TV. I felt justified when, during one of the breakdown reels, Lowell Thomas commented that the first three rows were the best place to truly experience Cinerama. Take that, you mockers!