New Cinerama Releases
Today, November 15, 2016, shows the release of two new Cinerama blu-rays/DVD combos from Flicker Alley, Russian Adventure, and The Best of Cinerama. Cinerama is one of the precursors to the ultra-wide screen features of the 1950’s and 60’s. It features a gigantic curved screen with three separate projectors timed and spaced correctly to provide a unique road-show experience.
What we have are two glorious adventure films with little to no traditional narrative. The Best of Cinerama is a compilation of previous releases and is as a stop-gap measure before their early narrative features to keep the brand relevant. It is important to remember that at this point in time home media was almost non-existent and this was a way to re-monetize some of their properties.
The first Cinerama picture I watched was the previous Flicker Alley release of Seven Wonders of the World and I was immediately transported to old Disney and Looney Tunes cartoons in which we would be offered a glimpse into the “future”, sort of a hype film for a World’s Fair. The pictures are travelogues of sights around the world which would be incredibly difficult for everyday people to experience.
It is a little challenging for me to rate as I typically would since these are very peculiar films. Are the restorations masterful? Absolutely and both released have short features about the reconstruction which highlights this. Is it perfect? No, unfortunately it is not. Please do not let this change your mind as any imperfections are part of nature of this format. Since there are three separate cameras filming at the same time there is a pretty clear seam between the projected films. This is typically not distracting but it is noticeable.
Second, and I saw this only a few times during Russian Adventure, the center frame would jostle differently than either frames on either side. This is distracting but when you consider that I noticed this while they were filming downhill skiing it is impressive that it was not worse with three cameras filming different angles. Distracting, yes, a turn off, absolutely not. I feel it is necessary to mention that there is a scene, in Russian Adventure, of the capture, kill, and slaughter of a whale. The scene is graphic and not very pleasant to watch. Also, these are relics of a different time, a misogynistic time, heads up.
I have to mention how packed these are with additional supplements. The Best of Cinerama includes, a feature commentary and four additional short Cinerama films. There are also two features on the restoration and reconstruction, theatrical trailers and a few slideshows. One slideshow, “Show Places of the 1950’s” was a wild collection of photographs and promotional memorabilia of Cinerama tours. Tara and I paused and inspected all of the documents regarding Cleveland’s Palace Theater. I am grateful to have these artifacts together. On Russian Adventure include two short subject Cinerama features as well as features on the restoration, slideshows, and trailers. If you are looking for bang-for-your-buck these two discs will give you several hours of visuals.
If Cinerama interests you, or historical documents of early aspect ratios, then I absolutely recommend this to you. Passive film lovers will find enjoyment but the unavoidable visual flaws may be a turn off.