January 25, 2012

Classic 3-D horror films... not for sale in 3-D, mostly

3-D movies wish-list, or, I've got a 3-D TV and I want to use it

(Updated November, 2013)

3-D movies are back in the cinemas, having appeared in various incarnations for over a hundred years. But for the first time, a high quality 3-D experience is available at home. Until this new wave of 3-D televisions were available, we've only been able to use cardboard red/blue or red/green glasses to watch DVDs and videotapes for a fairly poor 3-D experience. Watching a blurry VHS of Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare in 'Freddy Vision' wasn't an immersive experience. But now that there are new 3-D systems, in high definition, I think 3-D is here to stay, especially with its use in video games...

I've always enjoyed 3-D cinema, and was especially excited to discover that some classic horror movies had been made that way. I've hunted down various special screenings over the years and have seen all my favourites in 3-D (the BFI ran several 3-D seasons in London, for instance).

The new incarnation of 3-D movies has been the biggest ever, though I've mostly enjoyed animation, like Ice Age 3. The process has been used and abused in many action films where it's at odds with fast editing and juddery camera movement. Even more variable are the 'faked' 3-D movies that post-produce dimensional effects from 2-D image recording. Post-produced 3-D has been effectively revitalising older animated feature films. The first 'unflattened' Disney films I saw in the cinema was The Nightmare Before Christmas (now 3-D on Blu-ray) in 2008 (though it was first released in 2007), and it gave us false hope that all 'fake' 3-D was going to look as good.

Of the recent live-action films, 3-D works best for me with a slow-moving or static camera looking at deep sets. Joe Dante's The Hole (2009) is a lightweight horror for youngsters with some effective Japanese ghostly apparitions, but the constant and inventive 3-D visuals are wonderfully designed.

For the first years of this new 3-D wave, Hollywood studios seemed to reach an across-the-board agreement not to remind present audiences that, visually, this isn't much different from the previous 3-D crazes (that all rapidly faded away). They've released very few of the old 3-D movies using this new technology, no matter how good the 3-D effects were. Obviously, with two prints or negatives involved, twice as much costly restoration work is needed.

But here's a rundown of the classic, older, 3-D movies that could and should be on 3-D blu-ray, including the few that already are.

In the 1950's, the movie business was terrified by the erosion of audiences by that new gadget, TV. People could stay at home and watch movies, so why go to the cinema? So studios had to offer what TV couldn't. Wider screens, bigger screens, stereo sound and 3-D - all innovations that appeared at great expense to keep the industry thriving.

3-D movies were shot with two cameras, presented on their first run in cinemas on two synchronised projectors, and viewed with polaroid spectacles. It's a myth that the first big audiences for 3-D wore red-and-green glasses in the 1950s - they were seeing sharp 3-D images using a very similar process as we get now.

Only on re-release would the single-strip red-and-green prints be distributed. Small cinemas and even colleges could then show the slightly inferior 'anaglyph' version of 3-D. I don't think I've ever seen a polaroid presentation of a classic film - it's always been with two-coloured glasses. All the more reason that I'd like to see these films in HD and 3-D.

Like now, not all 3-D movies are good, but Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954) is still great fun, even when viewed 'flat'. In 3-D, it uses some great 'grabs' at the audience with its huge razor claws, and some fantastic dimensional scenes underwater. It's also a classic monster movie with a fantastically well-designed creature suit. The underwater version of the suit didn't have an air supply - diver Ricou Browning had to hold his breath for each take.

This is now available in the newly remastered HD Universal Horror range, both in the boxset and on an individual blu-ray release. The disc contains both a 2-D and 3-D version of the entire film in high-definition.

Creature From The Black Lagoon was a roaring success, so the first sequel Revenge Of The Creature (1955) was also shot in 3-D. The second sequel, The Creature Walks Among Us, was made after the 1950s' 3-D boom went bust, and was shot 'flat'.

An early close encounter, based on a Ray Bradbury story, is the frankly scary It Came From Outer Space (1953), which even hurls flaming meteors at the 3-D camera to make audiences duck and cover. All three of the above films were directed by Jack Arnold. It has an eerie 'body snatchers' plot with aliens victimising a remote town in the desert.

I must also mention The Maze (1953), even though it's yet to surface even on DVD. It stars Richard Carlson who's also in all three of the Jack Arnold 3-D movies! This is a mystery that takes place in a Scottish castle. The 3-D is effectively planned by legendary production designer-turned-director, William Cameron Menzies, who also made Invaders From Mars the same year. The 3-D effects are especially good when wandering around the maze itself. I first enjoyed this in one of the BBC's Saturday night horror double-bills in the 1970s and have been waiting for it to be rediscovered ever since. More about The Maze here.

So far, the movies I've mentioned are all black-and-white, but an expensive colour film launched the 3-D format in America. The original House of Wax (1953) starred Vincent Price at the start of his horror career. Charles Bronson also makes an early appearance as his mute assistant. The 3-D highlights of the film include the hooded killer stalking the foggy streets, the camera prowling through the wax museum, and, ahem, the guy with the paddle ball...

House of Wax is now on 3-D blu-ray in the US. The disc also includes a 2-D version and the 1933 movie Mystery of the Wax Museum, on which it was based. There's also a thorough appreciation of the film, including interviews with Joe Dante and Martin Scorsese about the use of 3-D in this innovative production.

Even Alfred Hitchcock made a 3-D movie during this period, Dial M For Murder (1954). Surprisingly, his use of the third dimension was quite restrained and the story suffers from obviously being based on the confined shenanigans of a stage play. Still, Grace Kelly in 3-D...

This was released in late 2012 on 3-D blu-ray by Warner Home Video.

The 1950s' 3-D bubble burst after only a few years, making 3-D a rare oddity until the 1980s. An exception was The Mask (1961). Most of the story is filmed flat, in more ways than one, but the 'dream sequences' are exceptionally well-filmed in 3-D, with trippy scary scenes revolving around a sacrificial netherworld. There was an anaglyph (red/blue) release recently on DVD. The film is black and white and cited as Canada's first horror film! More about The Mask here.

I've had a few arguments online about the use of 3-D in I, Monster (1971) the Amicus Films adaption of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. This began filming using a very different method of 3-D that only works with specific left-right camera movement. There's a debate about how much of the film was shot correctly but, to me, it works in almost every scene. The director was at odds with the producer over the 3-D effect and the film wasn't given a 3-D release. But...

Any version of the film will still work in 3-D, on VHS, DVD or whatever, but a different kind of glasses are needed, where the right lens is darker than the left. I bought some proper 'Pulfrich effect' glasses online, but knocking the left lens out of a pair of sunglasses is a cheaper option. More about I, Monster here...

Ahead of the next 3-D wave is one of the greatest 3-D horror movies. Andy Warhol's Flesh For Frankenstein (1973) was filmed in 3-D, presumably to add extra kitsch value. This benefited from a new film format that made it possible to halve the cost of shooting in 3-D, with both images shot on the same strip of film. Besides saving money by only needing one camera, this meant that older issues of alignment (two cameras having to be perfectly positioned) and synchronisation (film damage on one print might make it slightly out of synch with the other) were now also solved. This is also why the best 3-D that followed was all 2.35 widescreen - both widescreen images were stacked in the space of where one 35mm image normally was.  

Director Paul Morrissey gave us the first in excessive 3-D gore, which pre-empts and exceeds much of the blood-letting in the 3-D Friday the 13th movie that followed. Bad taste, bad acting, great 3-D. This outrageousness tops my wishlist for a proper 3-D release. There was a single, blurry 3-D transmission of this on Channel 4.

The 1980s brought the next 3-D boom, using the over/under 2.35 process to great effect for Jaws 3-D and Friday the 13th Part 3 3D. While they're not the greatest movies, the 3-D is very sharply presented. This Friday really deserves a great 3-D release to show how good they could make it back then. It's also the best way to understand why everyone is firing stuff at the camera.

While I was preparing this article, the good news was that Friday the 13th Part 3 3D is getting a 3-D release on Blu-ray. The bad news is... it won't be using the new 3-D technology, but the old red/blue 'anaglyph' process. Therefore you won't need a 3-D television to enjoy it. It's also available on DVD, again in anaglyph 3-D.

Jaws 3-D has also been announced for a Blu-ray release later in 2012 and again won't be using the new 3-D technology, the same as the Friday the 13th Part 3 3D release. Glasses will be provided with the Blu-ray. No artwork is available yet.

Finally, Freddy's Dead - The Final Nightmare cheated (in many ways) by only having a 3-D finale, by the time my eyes had adjusted, the scene was over! It looked even worse in 3-D on VHS (above). I'm mentioning this for Freddy fans, I don't actually want to see this again...


3-D Movies by R. M. Hayes.
Chunky textbook attempting to document every single movie or short film released in the first 100 years of 3-D cinema.

Fantastic 3-D - A Starlog Photo Guidebook.
An easy reference guide, lots of colour photos, but published before the end of the 1980s 3-D boom.

A concise history of cinema 3-D - on the Wide Screen Movies site.

3-D Online Magazine horror special...

January 15, 2012

JAWS filming locations, part 2 - South and West: bonfire beach, Quint's dock

Continuing this look around Martha's Vineyard for filming locations for Jaws. (Part 1, a look around Edgartown, is here). 

Day 2, we hired a car, because Jaws had been shot in all the farthest corners of the island. This part looks at the south and west of the island. In the map, you can see two roads forking down from Edgartown. We first headed south on the Katama Road down to Katama Point that juts out into Katama Bay. We then doubled back and took the other fork down to the easternmost end of South Beach. We then headed inland and crossed the island to Menemsha. Then we looped south around Menemsha 'pond' to get to the westernmost point of the island, the cliffs at Aquinnah...


This stretch of water is almost a lagoon, there's a very narrow strait as it passes by Edgartown. The sand spit that once joined Martha's Vineyard to Chappaquiddick has also breached (not sure exactly where). But Katama Bay is almost completely protected from the sea, making it an ideal shooting location when the crew became exasperated by filming up at the State Beach in the sea.

Nothing here is recognisable from the film, but it gave us a good idea of how much easier it was to shoot on the water here. The main drawback was being surrounded by land. There's no problem for any angles looking straight down at the water, but Spielberg also reasoned that the Orca was getting close to home by the end, so a coastline would be visible in the distance. It's t
he shores of Katama Bay that can be glimpsed towards the end of the movie.

Looking north from Katama Point - the white houses around the bay can be seen in behind-the-scenes photos of the film's climax

Looking east at the southern tip of Chappaquiddick as it meets the sand spit. On the other side of the sand is the sea
Looking south - the Bay is very shallow (note the fisherman in the distance), allowing the crew to stage the complex boat-sinking and final duel, but minimise the danger


Again, no chance of any landmarks along this stretch of sand and sea, but this is the beach where the opening bonfire was shot and Chrissie runs off. It's also the location of the discovery of her body... (Chrissie in the water was shot over at Cow Bay).

Of course, we had to give it a look and luckily found some of that fencing.

Don't say cheese, say "Chrissie!"
You can't say she wasn't warned

Looking East along South Beach, in the distance, the coast curves around along the horizon


We drove north/inland and then west along the Edgartown - West Tisbury Road to the other side of the island. At the end of the road, we turned left into South Road and through Chilmark. We stopped off at the Abel Hill cemetery to pay our respects to John Belushi. South Road hits a crossroads called Beetlebung Corner where we headed north a short way to get to Menemsha.

Driving down into Menemsha ends with these two buildings on the right. The Galley restaurant and a store now bookmark either side of the site where Quint's shack was built for the film. It's still a vacant lot. The production team were ordered to dismantle the building immediately after filming. It only ever existed for less than two weeks. As I showed in the previous article, the art gallery in Edgartown inspired its look. All that's left is a patch of grass at the end of the dock. The restaurant (above left) was also a vacant lot when the film was made.

End of the dock - the grass in the middle is where Quint's 'shack' stood. The store is on the left, The Galley restaurant on the right is new
Side view of the empty lot, looking around the restaurant (at right)

From where Quint's shack stood, looking out to sea - as you can see at the end, the Orca would have to zigzag to the left to get out of the dock

The house behind my head is where the next two shots were taken from...
Looking down on the dock, approximately where we see the Orca set sail, travelling left to right
A little to the right - this downward view is quite restricted because of housing. Menemsha Pond is in the background
Other side of the dock, looking back towards the restaurant (next to the patch of grass), just to give you an idea that this place is still all about the fishing!

Menemsha has only a few buildings, but is a perfect natural harbour. The huge pond is also where the Orca and the huge flat barge used as a filming platform were initially laid to rest (until they were more recently relocated away from souvenir-hunters).

The open sea awaits, the narrow dock is off to the right of this pond


Driving south from Menemsha, we hit Beetlebung crossroads again, but took the South Road heading west. The road loops around the huge Menemsha Pond and heads northwest to the very tip of the island. This is a popular tourist destination for the scenic view of the cliffs and another of the island's five lighthouses. But that's not why we went...
The idyllic Gay Head cliffs at Aquinnah. Not sure where they got the name...
This is where the Mayor, Police Chief Brody and Hooper argue about keeping the beaches open, referencing the defaced 'Welcome To Amity' hoarding of the girl on a surfboard...

Down the road from the car park, these two benches are next to where the hoarding stood. The scene ends with Hooper sitting on a large rock
Using a portable DVD player, this is a location that David triangulated from the lighthouse, the telephone pole and that side-turning off the road

 Looking towards where the hoarding stood. There are still two benches, but these have changed positions since the film.
We approximated this angle. Pretend I'm Murray Hamilton...
Perhaps this is the rock where Richard Dreyfuss sat? Down in the distance is a sandy beach referred to in the argument. It's a looooong way away.

There you have it, folks. A stretch of water, a beach, two patches of grass and a couple of benches. Doesn't look too exciting.

But this is all that's left. Usually filming locations are instantly recognisable, but as you can see, this isn't so easy with Jaws. It still gave me a far better understanding of how the film was made - what was actually there and what was faked for the film. Also the conditions they filmed in. Locations of the behind-the-scenes photos are certainly more recognisable knowing how the island is laid out.

For the last part of this three-part photo-tour of Martha's Vineyard, we look at the Jaws locations on the north and east coasts of the island, including a visit to the Brody residence...

Jaws filming locations - part one: Edgartown

The Making of Jaws: if you want to know more, here's where to look

Memories From Martha's Vineyard: jawesome book of islanders' photos taken during filming in 1974

( All photographs in this post are copyright of Mark Hodgson and David Tarrington © 2011 )