DIRECTOR: David Strohmaier
May Contain Spoilers!
Cinerama premiered in New York on September 30th 1952 with the aptly named “This Is Cinerama”. This Is Cinerama was basically a show-reel demonstrating the new technological marvel that was the three-panel widescreen system, which along with its seven channel surround sound and curved screen, would kick-start the wide-screen revolution which would quickly spawn the many widescreen format which we enjoy today, let alone IMAX theatres.
So, as covered in this blog, 2012 saw the 60th anniversary of the process, which also saw the first home video, though be it DVD/Blu-ray releases of the Cinerama three-panel films, after the Smilebox curved screen simulator debuted with the penultimate three-panel Cinerama movie, How The West Was Won (1962) in 2008. This is Cinerama (1952), which went on to be the largest grossing film of 1952 remarkably, and the Windjammer (1958), the one and only Cinemircle production which was later adopted and re-released under the Cinerama banner, were the two titles released by Flicker Alley that year, the company who have since gone on to release the full restored collection of Cinerama travelogues from the 1950’s.
David Strohmaier is the man behind the restorations and a pioneer of the Smilebox format which allows us to watch 146 degree curved screen films in the next best way on a traditional flat screen TV. It is not perfect but it a damn sight better than normal widescreen for these movies as they are shot in way the only really works on a curved screen. To be honest, the travelogues are very dated and pretty boring by today’s standards and only really appeal to nostalgics and those fascinated by the process like myself. I have only ever seen ONE real life Cinerama presentation as I am only 36 and that was at the Media Museum in Bradford, England, not long after their screen was installed back in 1993.
In The Picture is about as good as it was ever going to be, to be honest. Strohmaier, who I admire for his work on restoring Cinerama movies, has gotten hold of a Cinerama camera, restored it and wanted to play with it. So in 2012, he and small crew, presumably consisting of his mates, decided to film a 30 minute short subject set in Los Angeles, basically following two couples around on a sight-seeing trip, in the style the second Cinerama film, Cinerama Holiday (1955) and Windjammer (1958) and casts a child actor from How The West Was Won (1962), Stanley Livingston, to star as the elder tour guide.
It is a clever little homage to Cinerama with several geeky in jokes that I must admit, I DID get which must make me a real Cinerama geek, but I was also cringing. Let’s face it, those of us that have sat through a Cinerama Travelogue spend a lot of time cringing, though at least they have the excuse of being dated or of their time, but this is trying to fit into the mold of these period movies which are hardly classics, whilst making a modern homage to the format for the 60th anniversary festival at the Cinerama Dome in L.A.
His succeeds at that and for this I will give him credit. The photography is good and at times, particularly the wide shot from the Griffith observatory is spectacular, but the poorly synced, I presume ADR, dialogue, what you might laughingly call acting and the contrived script let this project down. Though the contrived script does meet the “standards” of the 50’s travelogues, so I might let that pass.
This is nothing more that an in joke, a geeky show reel to present to like-minded friends at a convention which is fine but as anything more, it is not good. In fact it’s pretty bad and not in the I would recommend this to seen “bad”. I hope that this is not the last time that Strohmaier uses this camera though, as the visuals were good if not very good at times, but I feel that this was rushed and that with a little more thought and money, Cinerama could live again and I hope that it does. Strohmaier is the man to do it.
Points for effort but Cinerama Holiday was defiantly NOT the best choice for a model.
In The Picture is ONLY available on Flicker Alley’s Search For Paradise (Cinerama) Blu-ray/DVD set.