There were 50 English-language features produced for polarized 3-D exhibition between 1952 - 1955,
the "Golden Age" of stereoscopic cinema.
The first was BWANA DEVIL which began filming on June 18, 1952 and premiered on November 26, 1952. The last, REVENGE OF THE CREATURE, began production on July 9, 1954 and premiered on March 23, 1955.
The remaining 48 features were all filmed between January and October, 1953.
There were many titles announced for 3-D production during 1953 that were ultimately filmed flat. They include Captain Kidd and the Slave Girl, Carnival Story, Conquest of Space, Escape from Fort Bravo, Fireman Save My Child, Highway Dragnet, The Kid from Left Field, Knock on Wood, Lucky Me, New Faces, Red Garters,
Riot in Cell Block 11, Silver Lode, A Star is Born, Them and Ulysses.
There is a great deal of wrong information printed in books and online.
If it is not listed on this page, it was not filmed in 3-D.
THE COMMAND was the only 3-D feature to be filmed twice. Using the Warner Bros. All-Media camera, one version was photographed for standard 1.85:1 widescreen 3-D and the other for 2-D anamorphic CinemaScope 2.55:1 presentation. The 3-D version was never edited and WB still has all of the original left/right footage.
THE 3-D FOLLIES was announced as a "five-unit variety show in color" that began production by Sol Lesser at RKO-Pathe Studios on January 9, 1953. It was to be the "first musical feature in 3-D." Photographed with the Stereo-Cine camera and slated for release on May 23, 1953 as a 90 minute feature by RKO, the film was never completed.
CARMENESQUE with Lili St. Cyr and Hamil Petroff was directed by Val Raset and photographed by Karl Struss, a veteran cinematographer who was an expert on stereo photography.
On March 4, Jimmy Starr, Motion Picture Editor of the Evening Herald and Express, wrote: "Lesser has well planned routines and numbers that are especially effective in the third-dimension medium. I saw the Lili St. Cyr sequence and it was truly amazing...startling, in fact."
CARMENESQUE was eventually shortened to one reel and released flat. Only one side is known to exist today.
William Cameron Menzies directed the next two segments.
Filming began February 16 on ACROBATIKS with the Apache dance trio The Appletons in a Paris rooftop setting. They performed their popular nightclub act with knife-throwing, breakaway props and mayhem.
FUN IN THE SUN - a "sports subject presenting ace athletes in action" - began filming in Palm Springs on February 24. The cast included tennis player Gussie Moran, golfer Ben Hogan, Olympic swimmer Pat McCormick and Olympic athlete/comic diver Harold "Stubby" Kruger.
POLLY WOLLY DOODLE, a "novelty comedy" with Lovebirds, Macaws and other parrots, was directed by Irving Brecher and started production on February 27.
CARIBBEAN NIGHTS would mark the screen debut for the Lester Horton Dancers, the first major interracial dance troupe. According to a March 11 mention in Variety, "Twelve dancers will be fronted by Carmon de Lavallade and James Truitte in three Latin numbers set to music by Les Baxter." Filming began on March 16 with Lester Horton directing. Jet reported on April 2:
The Director of Photography for these four shorts was John Boyle. His next assignment behind the stereo camera was filming training camp footage for the Marciano/Walcott fight on April 2.
An additional segment called UNDERWATER ADVENTURE was "a story of marine life to be shot beneath the sea around Florida." On March 19, Variety reported, "Victor Young and Jack Brooks were signed yesterday by Sol Lesser Productions to write melodies and lyrics, respectively, for four songs for the currently shooting 3-D FOLLIES. Tunes will tie-in with the underwater segment of the stereo feature."
There is no further mention in the trades on the filming of this short. John Boyle would not have been available and it's very possible this photo of Ray Wolff at Marineland was taken in late March/early April during production. It makes sense they would have used the dual-16mm Stereo-Cine rig for portability purposes and later create 35mm blow-ups for use in the feature. If you have any more information, please let us know.
Walter Wanger joined the project as co-producer on March 9. Other names mentioned for the film between January and August 1953 were singers Dorothy Dandridge and Connie Haines; husband and wife comedy team Peter Lind Hayes and Mary Healy; singer and Broadway actress (KISS ME KATE) Lisa Kirk and the "Two Sophisticated Simians" Tippy and Cobina. Variety reported on May 6 that Lesser had sought Milton Berle as host.
On July 1, an update in Variety said, "Lack of a
suitable emcee may torpedo Sol Lesser's feature-length 3-D FOLLIES and send the
already completed sequences out as shorts. Five parts of the color revue,
lensed in Stereo-Cine process, have been completed. If Lesser can't get a
suitable name to act as emcee, he'll break up the film for release as five
shorts, probably with the sequence starring Lili St. Cyr leading the way."
On February 20, 1953, Adolph Zukor was filmed in 3-D with the Paravision rig. This trailer does not survive.
summer of 1953, as THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS was roaring to boxoffice success throughout the
country, special-effects master Ray Harryhausen shot test footage for a
proposed animated 3-D feature in color, THE ELEMENTALS.
Producer Jack Dietz advanced the money and the results showed the concept was difficult, but not impossible. Among other technical challenges, extra care would need to be taken with background plates.
In a 1973
interview for Cinefantastique, Harryhausen
recalled, “I made quite a number of shots to prove the feasibility of it, including
some three-dimensional shots, because at the time everybody wanted to do 3-D
projects. I also used the Rhedosaurus in a 3-D test. But it just got so
cumbersome. It would’ve taken an eternity to do the film in three dimensions.
Not only do you have to set up so that the image is right in both cameras, you’re
limited in other ways. Regular process photography – the standard studio
back-projection – renders only a two-dimensional image.”
In 2003 for Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life, he wrote, "Although this was how I animated these scenes for THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS this was in fact a test for the later proposed project THE ELEMENTALS to try and establish if 3-D might work in stop-motion animation. I am glad to say that the process didn't really work and the idea was dropped."
If the 35mm left/right test footage survives, please let us know. We'd love to restore it!
Stop-motion animation in 3-D and color could be done quite effectively as evidenced by the superb work of animator Herb Price on THE ADVENTURES OF SAM SPACE. Using puppets 8-inches tall, it took three months to animate the 9 minute short. For Ray Harryhausen and Jack Dietz in 1953, producing a feature-length animated film in 3-D and color was simply too costly and time-consuming.
"adult entertainment" features were released in 1953 with red/green
anaglyphic 3-D segments.
Marie Wilson almost made a 3-D film. On June 8, one day before the start of principal photography on MARRY ME AGAIN, producer Alex Gottlieb entered into an agreement with M.L. Gunzburg to film in Natural Vision. One week later, plans for 3-D were dropped. Wilson was a little perturbed and told Variety, "After all, how will it look - conditions being what they are - if Marie Wilson is seen in a you-should-pardon-the-expression flat picture."
Director Frank Tashlin added, "Don't worry, after all, it will be in widescreen."
Selected 3-D Short Subjects
TRI-OPTICON aka STEREO TECHNIQUES' 3 DIMENSION aka ROYAL FLUSH was a 45 minute collection of five shorts originally produced for the Festival of Britain and distributed in the U.S. by Sol Lesser:
Now Is the Time, Around is Around, A Solid Explanation, The Black Swan and Royal River.
TRIORAMA was a 36 minute collection of four shorts filmed with the Bolex 16mm stereo attachment:
Sunday in Stereo, Indian Summer, American Life and Bolex Stereo.
3D JAMBOREE premiered in the Mickey Mouse Club Theater at Disneyland on June 16, 1956. Wraparound scenes of The Mouseketeers and Jimmy Dodd were shown along with the cartoons MELODY and WORKING FOR PEANUTS. The new footage was directed by William Beaudine, written by Larry Clemmons and photographed by Lester White using a Natural Vision camera. White had been Director of Photography on a number of 3-D features and shorts for Columbia, including FORT TI, SPOOKS and GUN FURY.
There is a great deal of mystery about the 3-D production of THE TELL TALE HEART. Some sources claim that UPA President Stephen Bosustow suggested the 3-D treatment and it was part of the project from day one. Lee Bosustow has said that his father went to England in order to research stereo animation techniques, possibly with John Halas and Joy Batchelor, producers of the 1952 3-D cartoon THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT. Others claim the cartoon was nearly finished in May 1953 when the decision was made to adapt the animation to 3-D.
Either way, in the early months of 1953, Columbia Pictures was very proactive with 3-D production and had a large number of features in the pipeline, as well as several comedy shorts.
Screenwriter Bill Scott was interviewed in 1982 by Jim Korkis. “I worked with Fred Gable on that one. It was my job to adapt the Edgar Allan Poe story. I’d pick a phrase here and there and write Poe-like stuff to bridge the gaps. Ted Parmelee (an animation director who later worked for Jay Ward) and (designer) Paul Julian really did a superb job. Paul was into this Daliesque thing.”
When asked about 3-D, he replied, “We first shot it in 3-D; however it was never released in this format.”
In When Magoo Flew; The Rise and Fall of Animation Studio UPA, author Adam Abraham quotes designer and color artist Paul Julian about painting more backgrounds. “I stayed up all night on a couple of occasions working out positive parallaxes.”
On May 30, 1953, an article in Boxoffice on upcoming Columbia product reported, "The two 3-D shorts are SPOOKS, a Three Stooges black and white two-reel comedy with conventional sound, and THE TELL TALE HEART, one-reel cartoon in Technicolor from UPA, also with conventional sound."
Boxoffice also listed the short for 3-D release in a chart on June 6, 1953.
According to reports, UPA ran the finished film for employees and their families at their Burbank screening room and the comments from those in attendance were very positive.
Columbia was apprehensive and on September 8, Variety reported on the uncertain release of MISS SADIE THOMPSON in 3-D. “Col execs have been holding back on a final decision anent ‘Sadie’ pending analysis of market trends pertaining to the other dimensional pix. Although the 3-D b.o. has been falling off generally, it’s figured a strong likelihood that the Col film still will go out as a 3-D entry.”
DOWN THE HATCH, a 3-D comedy short produced by Jules White in August was pulled by Columbia and released flat on December 30. It’s not known whether the decision to pull the plug on THE TELL TALE HEART in 3-D was made by the studio or the producer. Based on the available evidence and the apathy toward 3-D at the time, it's very likely that Columbia made the final call.
Motion Picture magazine - perhaps working from an older press release - had a paragraph about upcoming UPA product and mentioned the cartoon as a 3-D release in their October issue. That is the last reference to a 3-D version of the film.
Here is the pressbook cover and a November 28, 1953 ad in Boxoffice.
The world premiere at the Carthay Circle Theatre in Beverly Hills on October 2, 1953 was a charity event for the City of Hope. Boxoffice reviewed the cartoon on October 24 and it went into general release on December 17. It was later nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film of 1953, but lost to Disney’s CinemaScope production TOOT, WHISTLE, PLUNK AND BOOM.
In 1966, Columbia offered home viewers a black and white 8mm version, available in 8mm Ultrasonic Sound.
In 1994, animation historian Jerry Beck published The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals and THE TELL TALE HEART was voted #24. In 2001, the Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.
Tee Bosustow recalled in 2006, “I saw it in 3-D myself, as a teenager, and have my dad on tape, in an interview he did on KCET saying that it was originally in 3-D, and he even talks about how he went to England to learn more about the technical end of it. The problem is that no one has been able to find the original 3-D masters.”
Grover Crisp, Executive Vice President of Asset Management, Film Restoration & Digital Mastering at Sony Pictures has done a thorough investigation of the 35mm elements. There is no designation for either left or right on the surviving material. Apparently, when the negatives were turned over to Columbia in 1953, UPA did not identify the leaders so there is no way to know which side survives.
3-D for Television and Industrial Films
Daily Variety reported on February 5, 1953 that executive producer Henry B. Donovan of Telemount-Mutual Productions had "perfected a 3-D process on which he's been working for the past year." Beginning mid-March, 13 episodes of his syndicated color western COWBOY G-MEN with Russell Hayden and Jackie Coogan would be filmed in Bolex stereo for future broadcasting in the third-dimension. Donovan's ambitious plans for the first 3-D television show were eventually dropped.
Bernard Howard of Academy Film Productions Inc. in Chicago produced the following industrial films in 16mm Bolex stereo: PACKAGING - THE THIRD DIMENSION, a promotional short for the Stone Container Plant; a training film for Sears, Roebuck and Company; footage of the Chicago Cubs playing the Milwaukee Braves at Wrigley Field on August 14, 1953 (to be shown at the Wisconsin State Fair beginning August 22) and several 20-second commercials for the Atlanta Baking Co. and Holsum Bread that were shown at a sales managers meeting in Atlanta on June 22, 1953.
Howard stated in the August, 1953 issue of American Cinematographer, "3-D films will revolutionize sales training, sales promotion, indeed the entire field of business films."
Other industrial 3-D films include THIS
IS PROGRESS, made for General Motors by Raphael G. Wolff Studios. Shot
on location with the 16mm Stereo-Cine camera at
GM's proving grounds in Phoenix, it showcased the new models including
the XP-21 Firebird. The 13 minute film was featured in the touring
Motorama shows throughout the early months of 1954 and the dual-16mm prints were
shown on two interlocked
RCA arc-light projectors.
Loucks & Norling Studios also made a promotional film for the 1954 Buick, FIRST IN FASHION FOR '54.
3-D movies had sporadic exposure in the decade following the release of REVENGE OF THE CREATURE. In late 1957, Universal-International tried some test engagements in Syracuse and Wichita of CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON and IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE. Business was better than anticipated so both films were put into general release and available for 3-D bookings.
In March 1958, Warner Bros. did good business with a limited re-issue of HOUSE OF WAX and PHANTOM OF THE RUE MORGUE. In September 1959, an independent distributor picked up rights to RKO’S SECOND CHANCE and DEVIL’S CANYON and the double-feature had some 3-D playdates in the last few months of the year.
Seeing there was still some interest and several thousand theaters equipped for dual-35mm projection, producer Edward L. Alperson began production of THE GIRL IN THE RED BIKINI on location in Mallorca, off the coast of Spain in August 1959. Using Natural Vision cameras, the film was shot open-matte with the plan to extract a 2.35:1 image for release in dual-35mm 3-D and Cinemascope.
With the new title SEPTEMBER STORM, it did well enough in early test engagements to encourage 20th Century Fox to give it a full-scale 3-D release in September 1960. Shown with "Special viewers scientifically designed by master craftsmen," it was the last 3-D feature released in a dual-35mm format.
Despite what many people believe, the July 1960 release of William Castle’s 13 GHOSTS in Illusion-O was not 3-D but utilized a red/blue “Ghost Viewer” in order to allow viewers the option to see or filter out the ghostly images.
The Canadian horror film THE MASK was released in October 1961 and featured three very effective sequences filmed in Depth-Dimension, a dual-35mm process developed by Britain’s National Research Development Corporation and converted to single-strip anaglyphic 3-D. These segments are generally regarded as the finest examples of anaglyph ever put on film.
With the growing popularity of the “nudie-cuties” in the downtown adult and art theaters, it wasn’t long before some producers used 3-D to exploit their productions.
January 1962 saw the first release in this genre, THE BELLBOY AND THE PLAYGIRLS. Originally a flat black and white German production from 1958, it was enhanced with an 18 minute 3-D color finale written and directed by an up and coming talent, Francis Ford Coppola. Filmed with a dual-16mm Auricon rig and blown-up to single strip 35mm, exhibitors had the option to project the segment in either a red/blue anaglyphic version or a full-color polarized 3-D print. Most theaters showed the lesser quality anaglyphic version.
In February, PARADISIO - called “The best nudie movie to date” by Playboy - was released with several poor quality Tri-Optique anaglyphic segments. Produced for under $100,000, it brought in a respectable $260,000 in its first six months of distribution and was still playing the grindhouse circuit three years later.
Natural Vision rig, used on such 3-D classics as HOUSE OF WAX and THE CHARGE AT
FEATHER RIVER, was put into service one last time on ADAM AND SIX EVES.
Ironically, the film was released only flat in August 1962.
In 1966, Arch Oboler wrote, produced and directed THE BUBBLE; the first 3-D feature to be presented on a single-strip of 35mm film. For the full story on that production and the work that began in the 1940's to project polarized 3-D from one print, please read The Bubble
To see what 3-D movies were released in the U.S. after THE BUBBLE,
go to 1966 - 1997
To learn why 3-D movies died so quickly in 1953, please read What Killed 3-D?
More information on the anaglyphic shorts released in 1953 can be found in
Golden Age Anaglyphic Releases
In total, 30 of the 50 Golden Age 3-D features were composed for widescreen. More information can
be found in The First Year of Widescreen
We are looking for prints or elements to save and restore these lost films.
Please read Lost 3-D for our complete want list.