Friday, September 28, 2007

It's Free, It's 3, It's D!

Baltimore's Free Fall Films in 3-D Bonanza

These are the salad days for 3-D film fans.

On 7 p.m. on Wednesday, October 3, the programming gods at the Maryland Film Festival are presenting a one-time free screening of Alfred Hitchcock's DIAL M FOR MURDER in dual-projector 3-D at the Charles Theatre!

Here's a capsule review (courtesy of Midnight Movies author J. Hoberman) from the Charles' website:
Dial M for Murder was by far the most visually compelling of studio stereoscopic movies— rivaled only by Jack Arnold's half-underwater Creature From the Black Lagoon. Taken from a hit Broadway play, Dial M is a genteel thriller. A reptilian ex tennis champ (Ray Milland) decides to eliminate his wealthy, unfaithful wife (Grace Kelly), and blackmails an old schoolmate to do the job; when Kelly unexpectedly dispatches her attacker with a pair of scissors, Milland shifts gears to have her framed. Perhaps 90 percent of the action is confined to the couple's cramped, incongruously dowdy living room, but Hitchcock made no attempt to open the piece up. While other 3-D productions assaulted audiences with hurtling tomahawks or Jane Russell's bosom, Hitchcock positioned his actors behind a fussy clutter of monumentalized bric-a-brac and made visual jokes out of rear-screen projection. The lone use of the proscenium-breaking projectile effect is reserved for the murder sequence.... Hitchcock's canny restraint allows the stereo image to assert its own uncanny characteristic.

The Charles promises more free 3-D films throughout October, including THE MAD MAGICIAN (10/10) and HOUSE OF WAX (10/17) - both starring the King of 3-D, Vincent Price (who made four 3-D films in his illustrious career), and previously presented by Sun film critic Chris Kaltenbach at Maryland Film Festivals past - and the 3-D musical KISS ME KATE(10/24). The latter was directed by George Sidney, one of the earliest experimenters with 3-D technique, having directed an MGM "Pete Smith Specialty" short called THIRD DIMENSIONAL MURDER back in 1941.

Of course, the "Warnercolor" HOUSE OF WAX is considered the quintessential stereoscopic film. Ironically, one-eyed director Alex de Toth couldn't see 3-D, but he overcame his monovision with an uncanny sense of framing and perspective. Meanwhile producer Jack Warner's insistence of filling the film with 3-D gags resulted in the famous paddle ball scene with Reggie Rymal. And the black and white print of THE MAD MAGICIAN (an obvious but enjoyable knock-off of HOUSE OF WAX) that the Maryland Film Festival screened two years ago is outstanding.

Not to be outdone, the Enoch Pratt Free Library will present two free 3-D films at the end of October and the first week of November at its Central Library location on 400 Cathedral Street. And why not? This past July, so many people showed up for Pratt's 3-D screening of THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1953) - considered, along with HOUSE OF WAX, to be one of the greatest 3-D films of all-time - that they ran out of 3-D glasses. The people have spoken, and Pratt is answering their call (with extra supplies of 3-D specs this time around!).

On Saturday, October 27 at, the Pratt screens the 1961 Canadian cult horror rarity THE MASK for its Halloween treat. Here's the program description from the Pratt's online film events calendar:
THE MASK (1961) IN 3-D
(Directed by Julian Roffman, Canada, 1961, 83 minutes, b&w with color 3-D sequences)

Though it shares the same title as the 1994 Jim Carrey comedy, this little-known 1961 low-budget Canadian horror movie - parts of which were filmed in 3-D - is far from a comedy.

When a young archaeologist commits suicide after wearing a mask that causes weird hallucinations and possibly murder, the mask falls into the hands of his psychiatrist Dr. Barnes, who is soon plunged into the addictive nightmare world of the mask. Whenever the narrator instructs you to "Put the Mask on now!", put on the provided 3-D specs to see some truly eerie nightmare sequences.

This cult film provided the cover illustration of V. Juno's Incredibly Strange Films book and has been called a metaphor for drug experimentation, with the surrealistic color dream sequences anticipating such 60s drug culture films as The Trip and Psych-Out.

Then on Saturday, November 3 at 2 p.m., Pratt presents a free 3-D screening of Jack Arnold's IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE (1953). Here's the description from Pratt's online events calendar:
(Directed by Jack Arnold, 1953, 81 minutes, b &w)

It Came From Outer Space is one of the classic 1950s sci-fi films. Based on a story by Ray Bradbury and directed by Universal Studios veteran Jack Arnold (The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Incredible Shrinking Man), it was unusual among sci-fi films of its time because it portrayed alien invaders as non-threatening creatures – this at the height of '50s Cold War nuclear paranoia. And, despite being filmed in gimmicky 3-D, it was an "A" production with good special effects and a solid cast of Richard Carlson, Barbara Rush, Charles Drake, Kathleen Hughes and a young Russell Johnson (who would go on to play The Professor in Gilligan’s Island). The film has been interpreted as a metaphorical refutation of the xenophobic attitudes and ideology of the Cold War.

So if you think Baltimore's a one-dimensional town, think again. And get a good center seat to enjoy these stereoscopic cinematic treats!


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