The (3D) Adventures of Sam Space: Image: MoMA

Intergalactic traveller Sam Space answers a distress call from the planet Meecan. Image: MoMA

If there’s one thing we love, it’s discovering rare footage that deserves a cult following.

One such film is The Adventures of Sam Space (1960), a “puppet cartoon” about two boys and a scientist who travel on a shiny rocket to a distant planet. Not only does this animated short have a nifty robot named “Robo”, it’s presented in THREE DIMENSION!

(Digression: While Sam Space & Co. are travelling to the distant planet, they see an interstellar ad for Joe’s Diner, located “only 36,000 light years ahead.”)

Sam Space is one short from the 3-D Rarities blu-ray from Flicker Alley, restored and curated by Bob Furmanek and the 3-D Film Archive. These shorts are beautifully restored and look fabulous on a 3D television.

Some of the 3D effects are so good, we found ourselves flinching. For instance, 3D footage filmed between 1924-27 made us duck when a baseball pitcher throws a fastball, and say “Eww!” when a fisherman dangles a fake (but very creepy) bug “in” the audience.

Yes, you read that right. This is realistic 3D footage from the 1920s, and it turns out the 1920s weren’t even the earliest years for 3D footage. (Smarty Pants Tidbit: The first 3D footage was released in 1915.)

The 3-D Rarities set features a wide variety of films, including a World Championship fight (Rocky Marciano vs. “Jersey” Joe Walcott), scenic tours of tropical islands, footage of the Pennsylvania Railroad (featuring value-priced “roomettes”), and trippy, experimental 3D animation courtesy of the National Film Board of Canada. One of the most mesmerizing scenes (that we watched repeatedly) is footage of an atomic blast in Nevada.

By the early 1950s, 3D had hit its stride. It had bold colour, thrilling effects and scripts that capitalized on both.

Happily, the 3-D Rarities blu-ray includes selections from the midst of this “golden era”. These shorts and movie trailers almost make you nostalgic for this generation of 3D film.

They also make us wonder if the relationship between early filmmakers and 3D technology was as straightforward as we thought.

Richard Carlson warns us away from The Maze (1953). Image: Flicker Alley

Richard Carlson warns us away from The Maze (1953). Image: Flicker Alley

Filmmakers from the 1950s knew exactly what 3D is and what it should offer viewers. (You can see a complete list of 1950s 3-D movies at the Film Archive site here.) These movies are sensational and exhilarating; viewers realize they should never hold a cup of hot coffee while viewing.

We were surprised to see 3D films were not always about intense thrills. One of the earliest films on the blu-ray has genteel, patriotic shots of Washington D.C. The disk also includes street footage of New York City, and an earnest explanation of the importance of the railroad to the American economy. One short (hosted by Lloyd Nolan) shows us the inside of a large, expensive-looking 3D camera and explains how our eyes see 3D images.

Another narrator declares,  “You can see how things work in three-dimensional movies. Almost better than being there yourself.” He says this as we watch a man ploughing a field with a bright red tractor.

Oh.

These are noble efforts to give us audiences an intellectual 3D experience, to try to make us better people. But let’s face it. If we’re watching 3D film, we aren’t concerned with Being A Better Person at the moment. We want thrills!

We want the high-speed car chase and the up-close-and-personal roller coaster ride. (Both filmed, incidentally, in the 1930s. We do not recommend viewing after a heavy meal.)

Still, you have to respect early filmmakers who wanted to educate us and show us parts of the planet we may never have visited. You find yourself appreciating these altruistic efforts.

We feel the 3-D Rarities collection from Flicker Alley offers an enlightening mix of shorts that give us a greater perspective of 3D history. Once you experience it, you’ll agree that some of this footage deserves its own cult following.

This post is part of the Classic Movie History Project Blogathon co-hosted by Movies, Silently, Once Upon a Screen and yours truly, and sponsored by Flicker Alley. Click here to view all the posts for today’s era.

Click HERE to purchase a copy of 3-D Rarities.

Check out Silver Scenes contribution HERE for a more complete look at feature 3D films of the 1950s.

For a review of a live screening of 3-D Rarities at MoMA, check out Citizen Screen’s review HERE

 

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Happily blogging about old movies and using the royal "We".

25 Comment on “Better Living Through 3D Viewing

  1. Pingback: The Classic Movie History Project presents THE GOLDEN AGE | Once upon a screen…

  2. Pingback: Classic Movie History Project Blogathon: Modern Era | Silver Screenings

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