It’s been a long and wild journey that first began on a spring
day in New York City 39 years ago. Fate, timing and sheer luck have all played
a role in this crazy story. Let me take you back to that fateful day and tell
you how it all happened.
THE EARLY YEARS
It was May of 1973 and my dad had taken me into New York City
for my 12th birthday. We were waiting for a train to the American
Museum of Natural History and a huge poster on the subway platform caught my
eye. It announced “THIS IS CINERAMA IS BACK” and pictured an audience watching a huge
wraparound screen with the image of a roller coaster. I was very curious,
especially with the bold proclamation, “Puts YOU in the picture!” Now I knew a
bit about film, I had been around it all my life. My dad was an avid home movie
buff and we even had an 8mm projector and screening room in our basement, but I
had never heard of Cinerama and wanted to know all about it. My dad told me all
that he could remember and also mentioned seeing 3-D movies back in the 1950’s.
He recalled BWANA DEVIL and HOUSE OF WAX and having to wear special glasses for
the 3-D effect. The immersive aspect of these movies fascinated me and I wanted
to see those films too.
I had a very limited knowledge of 3-D. I owned a View-Master
set at the age of five and must have looked at the Batman reels hundreds of
times. When I was 9 years old, I read an article about 3-D horror movies in
Famous Monsters of Filmland, and there were ads for a couple of films in the
Columbia 8mm home movie catalogs. For whatever reason, none of these had made
much of an impression on me at that time. But suddenly, I found the audience
participation concept most intriguing and I was eager to learn more.
There were no books on 3-D so I began going to the library
and looking through film journals for more information. The real technical
details, which I was most anxious to discover, were frustratingly elusive.
Finally, two years later, I spotted a small ad for a publication on the history
of 3-D and immediately mailed one dollar to Texas for a copy.
In addition to my growing fascination with 3-D movies, I was
a huge Martin and Lewis fan. I had just watched the ABC television premiere of
MONEY FROM HOME on June 15, 1975. The very next day, I received the magazine,
“Everything You Wanted to Know About 3-D But Were Ashamed to Ask.” It was
written and published by Paul E. Adair, a man who (I was later to discover) had
been the first person to ever undertake the difficult task of searching for
original 3-D prints.
As I read through the magazine, I was amazed at the amount
of 3-D movies made in the 1950’s. I knew of the horror films but had no idea
there had been so many westerns, comedies, musicals and even a travelogue in
the process. I turned the page and saw ads for MONEY FROM HOME. I thought “Wait
a minute, the movie I watched last night was originally in 3-D?” I now wanted to see it that way! Having just
watched it flat on TV was disappointing, to say the least.
I was able to find a used copy of Columbia’s 8mm red/blue
anaglyph version of THE MAD MAGICIAN and ran it repeatedly for my friends and
family. The 3-D effect was somewhat diminished in the anaglyph format but I
didn’t care, I was finally able to see something
in 3-D! I convinced the teacher in my 8th grade class to let me show
it as a special end of school presentation. At that time, 3-D movies were
extremely hard to find so the kids had never seen anything like it. That was my
first public exhibition for an enthusiastic audience and I was hooked.
Just a few months later on October 16, 1975, I was finally
able to see my first vintage 3-D movies on the big screen. The Paramount
Theater on Columbus Circle in New York was showing a double feature of IT CAME
FROM OUTER SPACE and CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON. Even though they were
presented in the converted anaglyph system (they were originally shown in
Polaroid) I was thrilled to finally see them. I sat through the double feature
two different times, not knowing if I’d ever have the chance to see them again.
Once again, my classmates were exposed to my three-dimensional
obsession. For my 9th grade English class, I submitted an 8 page
article, “A Look at 3-D Motion Pictures.” As part of my presentation, I brought
in the 8mm projector and ran SPOOKS with the 3 Stooges. They loved it, and that
was the only time in Junior High School that I got three A’s for one report!
In January 1976, Monarch Releasing Corporation in New York
began distributing the controversial feature film SNUFF. The hype concerning a
supposed on-screen murder generated a ton of free publicity and Monarch made a
fortune. They looked to acquire other properties a bit more mainstream and
wound up buying the rights to Arch Oboler’s 1966 3-D feature, THE BUBBLE. They
were planning a re-issue under the more sensational title FANTASTIC INVASION OF
PLANET EARTH. Being an aggressive 15 year old and not terribly shy, I called
Allan Shackleton, President of Monarch, and somehow talked him into giving me a
private screening. On the afternoon of June 30 1976, I saw my first Polaroid
3-D film and it knocked me out. I left the screening room and thought now more
than ever; I want to see those films from the 1950’s in their original
Just a few years later, I finally had my chance. I was
working weekends at a record store in New York and the Thalia on 95th
Street was showing a revival of MISS SADIE THOMPSON, SPOOKS and MAN IN THE
DARK. I asked my boss if I could take an extended lunch break and go watch a
little bit of one film. He reluctantly said yes, but told me not to stay too
long. When I saw that first dual-strip 3-D presentation on November 25, 1978, I
was hooked. I wound up staying for both features and when I finally got back to
the store three hours later; my boss was not terribly pleased with me. He
understood that I had my priorities.
Throughout 1979, I was able to see several dual-strip
revivals at the Thalia, including an original 1953 left/right pair of IT CAME
FROM OUTER SPACE on New Year’s Day. The print had some wear but it was a
revelation seeing it in the original Polaroid version. I never wanted to see
the anaglyph again. In March 1980, I had my first professional gig in the world
of 3-D. I was helping Steve Hirsch at the 8th Street Playhouse put together a major five week 3-D retrospective. It was the first
festival of its kind ever attempted and we premiered DIAL M FOR MURDER in New York in 3-D. (Contrary to what the ad claimed, it had played NY flat in 1954.) I quickly got my initial taste of
studio apathy. We tried to book the same print of IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE that
I had seen just a year earlier at the Thalia. The booker at Universal told me,
“Oh that was an old print, we junked it. But we do have a brand new print and
you don’t need two projectors for this one.” I was livid! How could they have
destroyed what might have been one of the last surviving prints of the original
dual-strip version? Sure, it had some
wear and there were lots of black frames inserted to keep the prints in sync,
but it was such a vast improvement over the headache inducing red/blue
anaglyph. I was angry and frustrated.
For the same festival, we tried to get some of the rare
Paramount titles, such as SANGAREE, FLIGHT TO TANGIER and MONEY FROM HOME. We
were told that
left/right prints were available so we announced them for the
festival and put them on the advance poster. Just a few days before the
opening, we were notified that only one side could be found in the vaults so we
could not run them in 3-D.
It was then I knew that something had to be done. It was
clear the studios were not concerned or taking the proper steps to preserve
their 3-D libraries. The seeds for 3-D Film
Archive had been planted..
THE WORK BEGINS
The unique and irresistible opportunity to work for a living
legend took me to Hollywood in 1984. My boss was now Jerry Lewis and with his
connections and influence within the industry; doors began to open for me.
There was a renewed interest in 3-D at that time, and various stations around
the country were getting high ratings with anaglyph broadcasts of some vintage
titles. The studios began digging into the vaults to see what they had and what
they could sell. Time had not been kind to those 30 year old elements.
Negatives had not been preserved and the few remaining prints were in terrible
shape. The films needed attention and I was in the right place at the right
I began poring through studio files and laboratory records.
Some of my discoveries were heartbreaking. While doing research at the old
Consolidated Film Industries laboratory in Hollywood, I learned that all of the
elements for the 1953 Lippert Pictures short COLLEGE CAPERS (left/right 35mm
negatives and fine grains) had been destroyed ten years earlier. They were
stored under a closed account (Jezebel Productions) and were placed in an
outdoor trailer on the parking lot. One of the major archives was supposed to
pick up the materials but after several un-returned phone calls, the films were
junked. I have often wondered what other rare films were destroyed in that
trailer. Thankfully, we have since located an anaglyph print of this entertaining comedy short.
Sometimes, important elements survived just by sheer luck. I
had become close friends with Bud Abbott Jr. and he shared the following story.
He was working as an optical technician at one of the film laboratories. He
went to work one morning and found the master 35mm right side fine grain of THE
MAZE sitting outside on the loading dock. He asked why it was there and his manager
said “That’s just a duplicate element and the distributor said to junk it.” Bud
was savvy to 3-D and informed the manager that it was the opposite eye of the
other fine grain that was still in the vault. Thanks to Bud, the distributor
was contacted and the master fine grain was saved.
My research continued for the next several years but it
wasn’t until 1990 that I began my quest to seek out original left and right
side prints. It happened quite by accident. I was doing work at a film storage
facility and was looking through some vaults on my lunch break. Sitting way up
on a top shelf and covered in dust were three reels marked MONSTER FROM MARS. I
had never heard of the film but what really got my attention was the word
“right” on the reel band. It was a good ten to twelve feet off the ground and I
didn’t have a ladder so I had to balance myself on adjoining shelves to reach
the top. The effort paid off because it turned out to be a complete right side
35mm print of ROBOT MONSTER, a film that had not been seen in good quality 3-D
I began digging though the vaults in the hope of finding the other
side. Sure enough, several days later, I found another print that was also
sitting on a top shelf covered in dust and dirt. The reels had not been touched for forty
years and the account had been closed for decades. Upon inspection, I was
thrilled to discover it was a complete left side. Had I not found those six
reels at that time, they would have eventually been destroyed when that storage
facility went out of business.
ROBOT MONSTER does not have a good reputation for quality so
I was not expecting to be impressed with the 3-D cinematography. I put both
prints through a synchronizer and painstakingly replaced any missing footage
with black film to keep them in perfect sync on projection. My screening room
was not set up for 3-D so I took the prints to a facility in New York. When the
film finally hit the silver screen, we were shocked. The quality of the outdoor
stereo photography was as good as any of the major studio films from 1953.
I discovered that Medallion TV Enterprises did not have
complete elements when they created the red/blue anaglyph version in the early
1980’s. On their video master, entire sections of the film went flat and that’s
the way it’s been seen ever since. However this 1953 print (with the exception
of a few minutes of flat stock footage) was entirely stereoscopic. I realized
then the importance of tracking down original release prints as they might be
the last available record of the complete 3-D versions. The search was on!
THE ARCHIVE IS BORN
For the next 13 years, I combed through vaults, basements,
storage units, laboratories, warehouses and theaters. I reached out to
collectors around the world to locate a
ny original left or right side 35mm
prints. It was an immense undertaking but it had to be done.
My efforts paid off: by 2003, the 50th
anniversary of 3-D’s breakthrough year, my 3-D Film Archive held the world’s
largest collection of vintage stereoscopic film materials. I had found and re-combined thirty dual-strip
features and two dozen shorts, trailers, tests and cartoons all dating from
1922 through 1955.
Among my earliest discoveries were the lost comedy shorts
HAWAIIAN NIGHTS with Pinky Lee and STARDUST IN YOUR EYES with Slick Slaven. 3-D
researchers and historians had never even heard of these obscure titles. The
Pinky Lee film was never released in 3-D. While doing research for an Abbott and Costello book that I co-authored, I found a passing reference to the short
in Universal-International’s 1953 Daily Committee Meeting notes. Further
research confirmed that the left/right 35mm negatives did exist but had never
been printed. The Slick Slaven short was found in a closed storage account at
Movielab in Hollywood and was originally intended as an opening short to ROBOT MONSTER. It would have
eventually been destroyed.
By the end of the decade, I was ready to begin sharing my
discoveries. On July 27 1999, I was honored to present the UK 3-D premiere of
Mickey Spillane’s I, THE JURY at the National Film Theatre in London. (It had
opened flat in the UK on its original 1953 release.) Mickey Spillane was there
for the special event and expressed his surprise and delight that a 3-D print
had survived. He was so pleased with the discovery; he took me to dinner at
Rules, London’s oldest and one of its finest restaurants. He could not have
been nicer. He treated me like an old friend and it was a delight spending time
In November 1999, the Archive was
profiled and I was
interviewed in the Big Reel. (The full interview is at the conclusion of
this article.) That same month, I received a very special phone
call from London.
Director Roy Ward Baker was preparing his auto-biography
“The Director’s Cut: A Memoir of 60 Years in Film” for publication in March
2000. He was quite proud of his subtle
and dramatic use of stereoscopic cinematography on the 1953 classic INFERNO and
lamented the fact that no original 3-D Technicolor prints had survived. (The Dinard
British Film Festival saluted Mr. Baker in 1993 and was reduced to showing a
flat black and white 16mm print.) When his editor Tony Sloman told him that I
had found original dye transfer Technicolor 35mm left/right prints, he had the
publisher stop the presses so he could modify the text! He called personally to
express his gratitude and appreciation for my preservation efforts. We spoke
for 20 minutes about his work on the film and he asked many questions about my
work on the Archive. It was quite an honor.
For three weeks in May 2000, I had the great pleasure of
providing eleven features and four shorts to David Packard for screening at his
beautifully restored Stanford Theatre in Palo Alto, California. Seeing those
original prints on the big screen in a beautiful movie palace with a large and
appreciative audience was a tremendous thrill. The discovery and restoration of
each print had a story and Mr. Packard encouraged me to share those with his
audience. It was a wonderful experience.
In June 2003, I found the only surviving 3-D footage from
TOP BANANA, a 1953 comedy starring Phil Silvers and Rose Marie. The film was
never released in its stereoscopic version and no 3-D elements are known to
survive. The discovery of this brief footage was an important find. More details on the history of this film can be found on our Lost 3-D page.The Archive’s collection formed the basis of the World 3-D
Film Expo held at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood
in September, 2003. I provided
twenty-one of the thirty-four features screened at that event. Surviving cast
and crew members as well as film buffs from around the world came to see these one-of-a-kind prints and it was a tremendous success. The second Expo was held in 2006 and I
also contributed rare films to that festival. Some of the special guests who attended were Rhonda Fleming, Kathryn Grayson, Tommy Rall, Ray Bradbury, Julia Adams, Jane Russell, Richard Fleischer, Herbert L. Strock, Stan Freberg, Kathleen Hughes, Pat Hitchcock, Biff Elliot, William Schallert, Pat Crowley, Gene Barry, the Bell Sisters, Lorenzo Lamas, Warren Stevens, Ray Evans, Paul Picerni, Slick Slaven, Leonard Maltin, Joe Dante, John Landis, Bob Burns, Quentin Tarantino and many more.
Some writers have suggested that both events, with so many Hollywood movers and shakers in attendance, formed the nucleus for today's 3-D renaissance. Who can say for sure, but I can personally state that it was the crowning achievement for all my years of work in putting the Archive together.
THE ARCHIVE TODAY
Over the past 22 years, I've had the good fortune to do 3-D work with NBCUniversal,
Paramount Pictures, MGM/Park Circus, 20th Century Fox, Warner Brothers, the Dryden
Theater at George Eastman House, the British Film Institute, the Stanford
Theater Foundation, UCLA Film & Television Archive and the Academy of
Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
The Archive's preservation work is ongoing. Most recently,
I helped to ensure preservation of the 1954 United Artists feature GOG and have
provided important research materials and documentation to Warner Brothers and
NBCUniversal on their 3-D libraries.
It’s been a long and bumpy road these past 39 years with
many surprising twists and turns along the way. I’ve made some mistakes but
overall, I’m very proud of what’s been accomplished.
Thank you very much for allowing me this opportunity to tell
my story. This new chapter of the Archive has begun and I’m very excited to now
share these stereoscopic treasures with you. With the contributions of my good friends and fellow 3-D historians Greg Kintz and Jack Theakston, I'm very optimistic for our future.
Please keep an eye on this website, our Facebook and YouTube pages for important updates and other information about our ongoing preservation
Better yet, keep BOTH eyes on the site and don’t forget to
wear your Magic Glasses!