A Scent of Mystery and a Holiday in Spain – Part 1

December 15, 2014 | By
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Diana Dors smiles through SmileBox… and you’re smiling too, aren’t you?

 

I had three movie Bibles when I was in junior high school and high school, each of which were bought at local Coles and Classics bookshops.

Leonard Maltin’s TV Movies provided a catalogue of various movies that one might see on TV, and he always noted longer versions few knew existed (few being those around 14 years old in a pre-internet era).

Leslie Halliwell (yeah, I’m that old) was reliable for both his own fat tome on British-centric movies, and an exhaustive and highly important cast & crew book with exhaustive filmographies – essentially a book version of what you get on the IMDB before the IMDB existed.

Halliwell was a snob, and had no shame in raising his nose at certain actors or filmmakers he felt responsible for commercial dreck, and Maltin, while more embracing of good-bad movies, nevertheless applied the rating “BOMB” to stinkers which, in some circles and those of certain persuasions, were regarded as classics of film fromage. (To be honest, a BOMB rating was more intriguing than ****.)

There were other movie guides – Steven H. Scheuer’s Movies on TV was reliable and contained flicks and TV movies and mini-series not in Maltin’s book, but he started to delete entries to make room for new ones while keeping the page count close to the last. Another focused exclusively on movies released on video (no, not the Videohound. That came later) but they were a little too generous with their praise, and I never liked the five star rating. Why add another star that blurred the line between Excellent, Super-Excellent, Super-SUPER Excellent, and Anointed by God?

I’m sure each of these books had an entry for Scent of Mystery (1960), but my third movie Bible, after Maltin and Halliwell, was the Medved brothers’ Golden Turkey Awards, which catalogued things you just never thought existed, let alone were made, and Scent got more than a write-up in that tome.

A nominee for worst technical gimmick, Scent was the first & last feature film released in Smell-O-Vision, and that infamy (and the Medveds’ colourful adjectives) ensured Mike Todd Jr.’s production would be forever branded a turd. The movie was out of circulation, never available on tape, so it was an easy target to keep piling on the ridicule for something that couldn’t be seen, assessed, nor a film that could defend itself. Unlike most of the films within the Turkey book, Scent may be the most maligned because it had vanished from sight.

Cut to Cinerama historian, preservationist, and editor Dave Strohmaier, who decided to tackle the film because it was released in a 3-panel, unscented version by the company that put the real wow-factor into widescreen movies.

Scent was sold to Cinerama who shortened the film and produced 3-panel versions, and reissued the film as Holiday in Spain (1962). After what sounds like a successful run, it then vanished, languished, and like other Cinerama films, was  in danger of fading away due to a multitude of technical and storage issues often associated with orphaned films.

HolidayInSpain_BRStrohmaier’s reconstruction & restoration is amazing, especially when one sees the samples from which he had to extract colour, image stability, and detail, so alongside a review of the new Blu-ray edition of Holiday in Spain – a movie I never thought I’d ever see – there’s a pair of Q&As with Dave Strohemaier and producer Brian Jamieson, whose Redwind Productions released the Blu edition that’s available exclusively from Screen Archives Entertainment.

Jamieson, alongside partner Nick Redman, are the minds behind Twilight Time, whose meaty monthly release schedules have proven the market for classic and contemporary films on physical media in special editions isn’t gone. It’s a smaller, more demanding market that’s hungry for more goodies, which is why studios such as MGM / UA, Fox, Sony, Universal, and Paramount have licensed their HD transfers of catalogue films to labels like Twilight Time, Olive Films, Grindhouse Releasing, Kino Lorber Studio Classics, and Shout! Factory.

If the home video market was dead, these lucrative relationships wouldn’t exist. The studios have realized that the era of mega-sales is over, but (modest) monetary gains can happen by opening the libraries to indie labels. It’s smaller scale, but alongside their own on-demand DVD-R divisions, it fulfills the needs of collectors rather than locking up movies in so-called ‘vaults’ and relying on digital delivery venues.

If collectors were a puny, unprofitable minority, Shout! and its Scream Factory shingle wouldn’t be putting out mega-sets of series and special editions of cult films.

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I’ve also added an updated review of the Scent of Mystery soundtrack album which was produced & released by Bruce Kimmel via his Kritzerland Records label, and comes as a bonus disc in the Holiday release. Mario Nascimbene’s score is quite charming, and really resonates in the rich surround sound mix on the Blu-ray.

Pity there are no surviving Cinerama cinemas in Canada. In the Blu’s detailed and lively commentary track, Kimmel pulls out some promotional ephemera and reads some ad copy on Holiday’s Canadian premiere, which occurred at the old Eglington Theatre in the ‘alternative’ Cinerama process, the 3-panel Cinemiracle system which Cinerama eventually bought.

The Eglington was one of the best neighbourhood cinemas in Toronto, and featured fine THX sound and beautiful thirties Art Deco design. When it folded, the city and the neighbourhood lost a wonderful venue for A-level movies, and although it wasn’t knocked down for a parking lot, super-sized drugstore, or condo, it’s not the same thing as an events house (the Eglington Grand). Care was taken to preserve the cinema’s architecture and décor, but it should’ve been able to survive as first-run movie house.

For some background info & pictures, visit Historic Toronto and Silent Toronto.

Coming next week will be a lengthy podcast interview with Dave Strohmaier, who goes into greater detail on bringing Scent Holiday back from oblivion.

Cheers,

 

 

Mark R. Hasan, Editor
KQEK.com

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Category: EDITOR'S BLOG

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