A Man in the Dark!

April 2, 2014 | By

Watch out for that Ombra!

The first wave of 3D films occurred in the early 1950s, followed by a small burps during the 1960s and early seventies, after which another full wave occurred in the 1980s, and then a long period of stasis, during which many of these classic studio and indie films languished and in some cases deteriorated to the point of few original 3D prints being extant.

Several of these rare films – many likely getting their first playing after decades on the shelf – were seen by fans at 2013 World 3D Film Expo III, which included shorts and feature films in all genres, live-action and animated.

Columbia’s Man in the Dark (1953), not screened at the 3D Expo, reportedly beat the better-known House of Wax (1953) to the record books as the first studio-produced 3D feature film. Also screened at the Expo was the Soviet film Robinzon Kruzo (1946), originally filmed for a glasses-free exhibition format using a louvered screen. (The screened version was recomposed for 3D glasses.)

Whereas many of the 3D films from the 1950s have yet to receive the (pricey) restoration and 3D Blu-ray releases similar to House of Wax (1953), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), and Dial M for Murder (1954), the fact Man in the Dark now exists on disc is perhaps an indication that in addition to mastering classic catalogue titles in 2K and 4K, the studios are also going after 3D titles just in case 3D manages to return in a more gradual, less hyped, and qualitative wave (and one more affordable).

3D TVs were rebranded ‘smart TVs’ by retailers fearing a consumer backlash against the fad-prone format, but as many fans have argued, if better films – especially those originally shot in 3D rather than those hastily re-rendered Frankensteins – existed on disc, there’d be a bigger motivation to buy new gear (TV, amplifier, glasses, high speed HDMI cable).

Man in the Dark is a good sampling of what exists and should exist in greater variety on Blu, and although I reviewed the film in its flat version (maybe around Xmas I’ll spring for a 3D set-up), it’s a proper critical assessment of the film and some of the obvious shock moments designed by director Lew Landers to tease 3D audiences.

Twilight Time’s Blu-ray includes both 3D and flat versions, and maybe this release will be among the first wave of classic titles licensed to indie labels, taking advantage of recent studio restorations. As the variety of titles increases for consumers, and the technology to restore and reconfigure old anaglyph formats to 3D HD becomes more wide-used and (hopefully) less costly, maybe we’ll see rare indie films appearing on Blu, especially those of which maybe a lone faded print survives.





Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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