The 3-D craze of nineteen fifties cinema was incredibly brief. 1953 was its banner year with at least thirty 3-D pictures released to the hordes. Although it quickly became associated with all-things juvenile and a ready replacement for the Saturday afternoon serials, the 3-D onslaught produced a few highly unlikely and decidedly mature little gems.
Take for instance Inferno starring Robert Ryan and Rhonda Fleming in multiple dimensions (skip your Rhonda Fleming joke, please). The premise was not for the kiddies. Fleming and a virile new man enjoy a torrid affair behind husband Robert Ryan's back. They scheme a way to get rid of him. Rhonda and Robert take a jaunt to a remote desert. Rhonda abandons him when he isn't looking. Rhonda speeds off and poor Robert is left to fend for himself amid heat and vultures. The rest of this incredible movie consists of Ryan's struggle to get back, griping and plotting his revenge, a sweaty, agitated internal monologue that drives the rest of the picture. Along the way he breaks his leg, nurses an infection and watches as an old prospector's house burns down, burning him alive, a grisly scene of a charred codger's corpse. Oh, and it's all in eye-popping 3-D.
Inferno is just one of several films being screened this September at the World 3-D Expo. It is not an annual event. To the contrary, it is as rare an event as some of the films themselves. Sure, plenty of rep cinemas around the world have a week or two where they showcase House of Wax with its obvious overwrought paddle-board-flying-in-your-face 3-D sequence. And sure, you may have attended a midnight screening of Friday the 13th 3-D, in which a group of teenagers hand the joint they're smoking right to you through the screen. However, any 3-D film you may have seen in a theater before was not projected as they will be this September, unless of course you were there in the nineteen fifties to catch 'em the first time round.
It took more than a pair of flimsy cardboard glasses to make 3-D movies work. It took two simultaneous projectors beaming two simultaneous images to create that original 3-D look. The World 3-D Expo - September 6 through the 15th - is projecting the films with dual projectors. Sound insufferably nerdy? Sure, it is, but attendees gave up the prospect of getting laid a long, long time ago. It's a unique experience and among some typical 3-D films come many you had no idea were meant to be viewed with cardboard eyewear. There'll be plenty of robot monsters and creatures in lagoons, but there's also the comedy team Martin and Lewis 3-Ding their supperclub shtick and a number of Looney Tunes cartoons you had no idea were originally shown in theaters in 3-D.