Holiday in Spain: Interviews with producer Brian Jamieson and Cinerama preservationist & historian David Strohmaier

December 15, 2014 | By




Mark R.Hasan: Although Flicker Alley has released several Cinerama films on Blu-ray, including This is Cinerama (1952), Search for Paradise (1957), Seven Wonders of the World (1956), Cinerama Holiday (1955), South Seas Adventure (1958), and Windjammer (1958), Holiday in Spain (1961) is distributed by Redwind Productions via Screen Archives Entertainment in a limited run of 2000 copies. How did you become involved with the title, and was there a reason to limit the release?


Brian Jamieson: Well in some ways Holiday in Spain was something of an orphan child and possibly because of its very low visibility, there was never any interest from any distributor in picking it up for distribution.

I had watched Dave Strohmaier labor long and hard in the resurrection and restoration of all the Cinerama titles and had of course marveled at his patience and resolution to complete the task. His dedication to this medium was beyond just a labor of love. Dave is truly a savior of sorts, because if he hadn’t done what he has been doing with the Cinerama titles for the last several years, no one would have. There was a real danger that these titles may have been lost forever, if it wasn’t for Dave’s absolute dedication to the subject matter, and for John Sittig of Pacific Theatres (who own the Cinerama copyrights) who believed in Dave’s ability to get the job done.

Dave Strohmaier is not a guy of half-measures – when he set out to save these lost Cinerama treasures, he gave the same loving care and attention, not to just the key titles that everyone remembers, but also to the orphans, such as Holiday in SpainRussian Adventure (1966) and The Golden Head (1965).

I guess I became involved when Dave kindly invited me over to his place one night to see the re-incarnated Holiday in Spain, in SmileBox. I was fascinated because I had never ever seen the title before – it was a new one on me! Well, the truth is I wasn’t disappointed – there was something quite charming about the whole piece. It was different than the others and it captured a moment in time, in terms of the Spanish locations. You will never see these same locations like it ever again.


Extract of Holiday in Spain presented in David Strohmaier’s Smilebox format which replicates the look and scope of the original Cinerama curved screen:


I was equally fascinated with the back-story of the film’s reconstruction, for which Dave had labored long and hard to create. It seemed such a shame that after all this work, fans of the medium would never have the chance of seeing it again, or like me, experience it for the first time.

Dave asked me if I could help him get it released. Being a long time friend, I was happy to help where I could and offered him my Redwind Productions, Inc. label to help facilitate this.

Actually, it’s not a Limited Edition Release at all. 2,000 units were originally struck for economical reasons as we had no idea on how it might sell. If the 2,000 units sell out eventually, I’m sure Dave and his team will want to do a further manufacturing run of the title. So I’m guessing it will be available as long as people wish to buy it.




MRH: Were you already familiar with the history of this famous / infamous film that was originally released as Scent of Mystery in 1960 before being shortened and reformatted for 3-panel Cinerama and released in 1962 as Holiday in Spain?


Brian Jamieson: Actually I wasn’t really familiar, although I had vaguely heard of Smell-O-Vision, but to me it just seemed like some gimmick that had come and went! Again, it was Dave who enlightened me with the whole history of the title, which I have found to be quite fascinating!




MRH: As a producer, do you find you’re sometimes caught in a no-win situation with collectors, especially when it comes to the price of titles? I remember when Shogun (1980) debuted on VHS, it cost over $250, and it wasn’t unusual to see Fox and Criterion laserdiscs selling for $65-$120. Clearly the costs have come down for small run, niche titles, but I guess there’s an expectation that all movies shouldn’t cost more than $25-$30.


Brian Jamieson: The tragedy with pricing is that it is all over the place – a situation that has been created by the Studios themselves to satisfy their short term bottom line. This has created an almost untenable position for the Boutique labels who are trying to bring some of the eclectic classics out, as the costs to actually release a title are a lot higher than consumers could ever know, or be willing to realize.

The real tragedy with the current pricing scenarios is that they have destroyed the real value of the asset itself – the film title in question. For example, where do you go with a title such as the Blu-Ray versions of The Big Country (1958) and The Magnificent Seven (1960), which were available in Wal-Mart dump bins for $7.98 about a year ago?  The asset value on both has been completely stripped away. It’s ironic in a way, as back during the Home Entertainment boom, the single biggest asset of any Film Studio or Film Entity was its library – not true today, unfortunately.

It is my belief that pricing should be in accordance with the economics of a given release, and in this regard I feel a $29.95 price point is more than fair, for the value of the product received.




MRH: Part of Twilight Time’s mandate is to offer an isolated score track when possible on its releases. Are there any unique music rights that need to be cleared, or are isolated music and music & effects stems negotiated as part of the audio elements from the studios?


Brian Jamieson: Twilight Time is unique in what they do – the isolated scores on Twilight Time releases are an exclusive signature feature of their release. Nick Redman has a way with music – I think it’s in his blood, and of course he has an incredible pedigree when it comes to Movie Soundtracks.

Nick has been the driving force behind film soundtrack restoration at 20th Century Fox for over 20 years, and Nick is a specialist in this field. As to the music for Holiday in Spain, I believe Dave Strohmaier worked very closely with Bruce Kimmel (a huge fan of this film) to bring the added CD Soundtrack both to fruition and inclusion.






MRH:  For myself, I became aware of Holiday in Spain under its original title, the Smell-O-Vision version Scent of Mystery, via the Medved Bros.’ Golden Turkey Awards, and I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised by the film’s quality – it’s not a disaster, nor an ineptly executed film. In many ways, it’s like an earlier version of Clue (1985), with its own gimmick, and the lure of an impending murder rather than a straight whodunnit. I wonder if you were also impressed by the cast, and the quality of the cinematography and editing?


David Strohmaier: I guess I always loved films with British character actors in them, so that always helps.  Other than that, the production values are pretty first rate overall; my first comments after seeing Holiday in Spain for the first time was ‘This ain’t that bad.’  I had heard all the negatives about the film over the years so it was a surprise to me as well.

I am basically an editor by trade who somehow got into saving these Cinerama films, after making Cinerama Adventure (2002), so I know that editing super widescreen films back in those days needed a slightly different approach.




MRH:  Because of the extensive reconstruction / restoration work, was this one of the more challenging titles with which you’ve been involved?


David Strohmaier: Not as challenging as Seven Wonders of the World, that was a real major, horrible mess. Holiday was unique in that it’s a patchwork quilt type reconstruction. Three sources were used to complete the film: used 70mm-faded-to-pink prints, and the original negatives. The original negs had lots of damage throughout, but we used them where we could. The biggest problem was cleaning up and getting some kind of usable color from the faded prints. It was crazy; every scene was different. Age can do very strange things to film when it is not stored properly.




MRH: It’s pretty amazing how much you were able to extract from the surviving 65mm and 70mm prints, but I wonder if you were shocked that a film with such an elaborate production schedule, lengthy location shoot throughout Spain, and the money spent on developing the Smell-O-Vision technology to work was forgotten for decades, and was in a near-terminal state?


David Strohmaier: Since it ended up being owned by a company that did not produce films anymore, it’s not that surprising. They were mainly a distributor for several years, then got out of that end of the business and became mainly a theater chain operation. So there was no studio policy for storage and archiving of the titles they ended up owning.




MRH: How invaluable was Bruce Kimmel to the project, and were you surprised by the wealth of material he brought, both souvenirs and his vivid memories of actually experiencing the film in Smell-O-Vision?


David Strohmaier: Bruce has been a friend for many years and I had always known he loved the Scent of Mystery version.  It was one of his childhood filmic memories growing up – those darn things stick with you for a lifetime.  I knew he was the natural choice for the audio commentary.  Mine was Around the World in 80 Days (1956) and Seven Wonders of the World; funny that I got to restore one of my childhood favorites.




MRH: When producing a release, are there sometimes-special features that can’t be included due to rights issues, production costs, or because of a maximum retail price that’s been pre-established? I ask this because Holiday comes with a great, high-quality reproduction of the original program book, which must be a specialty item that few home video producers are willing to offer.


David Strohmaier: Yeah, I think a lot of major companies have stopped doing it due to the production costs. We do it for hardly any money, and it’s most often all-voluntary; I do the editing and others help with shooting, sound, commentary, etc.




MRH: Even though the major studios are spending time and money transferring their valuable back catalogues to HD, they’re clearly focusing on releasing best-sellers and cinema classics rather than niche titles. Has a chunk of cinema history been given short-shrift, or do you think independent labels and producers can better serve the forgotten, lost, and abandoned classics and oddities studios either don’t have time nor patience to shepherd to home video?


David Strohmaier: Yes, sometimes it just takes a lot of appreciation for these old titles and people who care. We don’t always think of it as a business; it’s more of a passion. There is so much out there that needs saving and we don’t always need yet another restoration of a well known classic.




MRH:  And lastly, in producing the release of Holiday in Spain, did the project affect the way you may handle specialty titles, in terms of the way special features are proposed, researched, developed, and presented in a release? (I ask this because I get the impression Holiday was a project long in the making, especially in tracking down interview subjects, and what special features would work best in digital format and / or as physical ‘souvenirs’ of the film. The collector is still one that enjoys something tactile, and I readily admit it’s nice to both hold the film in its sleek Blu-ray format, have the music on an actual CD, and be able to peruse the booklet like a memento from a unique cinematic experience.)


David Strohmaier: Holiday was practically done over 2 years ago. We kept revisiting it, and improving it as new software came out while we waited for scans on the other Cinerama titles.  Funny, I was not ever really sure it would ever come out on Blu-ray, but we did it as an overall part of the 10 title Cinerama library grant.

The extras just came about as we worked and people heard about it. I met the lead actress Beverly Bentley because a friend of hers saw the YouTube trailer and contacted me; the result was a charming interview with Beverly.

I did not know I would ever be in Spain after working on the film – it just happened the Malaga Festival heard about the restoration and invited me to Spain, so I took advantage of that and did the video locations short.



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