Actually, 3-D has been the future of movies for almost a century, but the supposed golden age of 3-D didn’t begin until the 50’s. As it turns out, focus groups are nothing new, and the very first 3-D reels were shown to a test audience at the Astor Theater in New York City in 1915. The test audience clearly find these shorts to be retarded and wanted nothing to do with them. Those responsible for the test screening gave up on 3-D completely, and while there were others attempting to make the process work, no one really cared. THAT, however,was all about to change…in 38 years.
Welcome to the golden age of 3-D cinema: 1953. Here we see Vincent Price in the first 3-D release from a major studio: House of Wax, from Warner Bros. This movie had a lot of things going for it: It was a horror movie, which were all the rage, it starred Vincent Price (And is responsible for typecasting him), it was the first movie released with stereophonic sound, and, most importantly, it was full of ridiculous 3-D gimmicks like ping pong games as pictured above. You see, even in 1953 producers realized that total immersion into the movie experience isn’t what the viewing audience wants. What’s the point of making incredible technological advancements in cinema if they can’t be exploited at every turn to actively pull the audience out of the scene by needlessly throwing random shit at their face? As House of Wax director André De Toth famously said, “Who put this fourth wall there? I didn’t pay for this wall! Not my wall, not my problem.”
In 1954, Universal Studios released their second 3-D movie, and what would become the most famous and successful 3-D movie of the generation: The Creature From the Black Lagoon. This was the only 3-D movie to actually spawn a sequel, also in 3-D. And even that movie spawned a sequel! That one wasn’t in 3-D though. Much like James Cameron thinks today, movie makers of the 1950’s thought that 3-D was the future of movies. They would live to see the day when all movies were in 3-D, it would rain chocolate, and Hitler would rise again. Alright, maybe Walt Disney was the only movie maker hoping for that last part, but whatever. There was just one little problem with this theory, however. While the 3-D in these movies was actually very good, the projection process was a little complicated. It required two reels running simultaneously, and if the minimum wage projectionists were unable or indifferent to make sure they were perfectly synced, then the audience would experience headaches and eye strain. Basically, 3-D movies were like the 1950’s version of the Virtual Boy: “It seemed like a good idea! And that’s when the seizures started…”
After a four year glut of 3-D movies, the craze was finally laid to rest for all eternity. Until the 80’s. Sure, there WERE 3-D movies in between, but no one noticed or cared. I mean, there were 3-D movies in 1922, and that timeline perfectly fits my thesis, but no one gave a shit about those movies so they’re not worth mentioning. Anyway, the 1980’s brought us a bunch of awful 3-D movies, mostly horror. The highlights of this time period include Amityville 3-D, Friday the 13th III, The Man Who Wasn’t There, and Captain EO. That’s right, these are the highlights. I don’t dare list the really bad movies from that era for fear that you’ll do independent research and willfully subject yourself to that shit. Again, though, filmmakers were convinced that 3-D was the future and that all movies would soon be in 3-D. As much as I want to say how stupid a notion that is, I’ll let Marty do the honours:
So here we are again. As has happened every 30 years for the past 90 years, though only relevantly so for the last 60 years, 3-D has once again become the future of movies. There’s always a 3-D movie here and there, but 2010 saw a surge in them, and 2011 promises to have dozens of 3-D movies. Having just seen Resident Evil, I have to say that it’s not going to happen. The technology for 3-D movies has come a LONG way since the first patent was filed for 3-D projection in the late 1890’s, however simple minded directors have not. I just saw Resident Evil last weekend and much of the 3-D looked really nice, but they still insist on throwing crap at the screen . Maybe once directors learn how to incorporate 3-D into movies so that it strictly adds to the experience, not detracts, then there’ll be a chance for it to become the industry standard.
Or maybe Nintendo just have to figure out how to get their 3DS technology to work on a large screen so we don’t have to wear those ridiculous 3-D glasses. More likely, however, I’ll see you all again in 2040.