Finding Physical Media in an Urban Maze +The Maze (1953) in 3D!

April 28, 2018 | By

‘In yonder maze doth the lair of new physical media lie bare, most opportune!’

 

As April draws to a close and the vestiges of The Winter That Wouldn’t Go The F**k Away are finally reduced to steam under the spring sun (or eradicated by belated April showers), May is a mere days away, promising the warmth and sunshine denied in cities like Toronto.

Spring proper is also filled with a slate of new films, new TV series, premiere releases or orphan films, reissues and remasters, and new surprises – proof that home video isn’t dead.

When HMV closed up shop in Canada and its stores were purchased by Sunrise Records, it seemed logical that the superstore at 333 Yonge Street would become a major source for the retailer’s loyal clients, but with the city being blighted by high property values, even chains selling physical media have had a tough time finding a mother home on the world’s longest street.

Yonge Street used to feature a cluster of record stores, stereo shops, and plenty of competition around the Yonge & Dundas area, but you could argue the redevelopment of Yonge & Dundas Square to the ugliest quadrant in the city was the first sign that fans of CDs and DVDs might lose their main outlets. The illusion of flagship locations was sustained by the inclusion of Future Shop at that ugly corner, but it was HMV, even with half of its original multi-level floor space, that made it seem as physical was in the midst of sustaining the good fight.

With the downtown core comprised of Best Buy and Walmart, that pretty much leaves indie video shops as both the only source for mainstream and cult titles that continue to be released every Tuesday.

It’s been that way for decades – even when I was in the bookselling world as early as 1987-1993, new titles always streeted on Tuesdays – and 2018 is no different, but HMV’s 2017 closure initially left a wealth of loyal clients who like movies, TV series, and whole sets and collections, and they remain a significant buyer base.

Some found homes with indie shops – see this existing tally of video stores in Toronto – while others no doubt moved to online vendors, well, Amazon, really, but Amazon doesn’t carry everything nor always offer the best price. If Amazon has an issue with a distributor, it’s often indie shops that have the leeway to send out feelers, and the reason product still reaches fans is because of dedicated importers and indie distributors who have found new opportunities where once dominant monopolies have gotten lazy, or are giving signs they’re getting tired of physical, since it doesn’t bring in the large revenue from big box chains.

That’s fine, because if and when an egotistical, library squatting monster pulls back, there’s a few good indies that can not only handle the acquisition of cult and collector lines, but treat them with a bit more care, ultimately providing better value for vendors and consumers alike.

The market is smaller, the clientele more finicky and dedicated to their obsessions, but the indie retailers are also comprised of like-minded connoisseurs.

As a puzzled consumer or critic, you may wonder why are classic 3D films being released when even the studios are holding back on steady Blu-ray 3D releases, and TV manufacturers have dumped the feature. If they haven’t made a new 3D set in the last 3-5 years, why bother?

The 3-D Film Archive is wise in knowing this is a plum chance to rescue, restore, preserve, and ensure the films that comprise the format’s first wave will exist for fans with existing gear, fans with peculiar workarounds (like myself), and niche theatrical exhibition… and maybe a new fan base when the format returns again.

 

 

That’s why a long forgotten gem like The Maze (1953) now exists on Blu-ray via Kino’s KL Studio Classics / Unobstructed View. If you have the perfect gear (or goofball workaround), it’s another joy to experience; if you don’t, you’re missing out on a periodic but steady release of 3D films that offer stories cheesy, absurd, or plain fun.

These titles do sell, and alongside format fans there’s also connoisseurs who know even the first 3D films have ideas worth preserving and mining. You’d think the first 3D features would be clumsy, gimmicky, and lack storytelling finesse, but directors like Jack Arnold, Alfred Hitchcock, Byron Haskin, and in this case William Cameron Menzies knew 3D was also a tool with which stories might be told with extra oomph – a small degree of realism with carny fun in B&W or colour.

My review of The Maze is ostensibly about the film, the pros & cons of the story, and Kino’s special edition. The studios and manufacturers continue to maintain the illusion that 3D is dead, but I’m not alone in buying classic productions on disc to enjoy and archive. Their ignorance is our gain, especially among filmmakers & cinematographers, because instead of being teased with post-rendered bombast, we get a healthy diet of 3D productions in which ingenious minds refined ideas on the job with film cameras, knowing scene setups couldn’t be fixed so easily in post.

Coming next: Mark Rydell’s odd caper film Walter and Harry Go to New York (1976) from Twilight Time, followed by some vintage Jess Franco from Severin.

Thanks for reading,

 

 

Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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Category: EDITOR'S BLOG

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