Apr 1, 2020
On Blu-ray--3-D Rarities: A Collection of Ultra-Rare and Stunningly Restored 3-D Films
What struck me about Flicker Alley’s first edition of 3-D Rarities, a compilation of rare, vintage three dimensional films from 3-D Film Archive, was that the films were of such high quality that they were entertaining whether or not they were viewed in 3-D. I found the same to be true of the label’s second compilation, which in addition to offering a delightful and occasionally bizarre collection of beautifully-restored films includes two fascinating galleries of stereoscopic photography.
The shorts in the collection demonstrate a few different approaches to the medium. A Day in the Country (1941) is a rural patchwork of “coming at ya’” moments, with all matter of objects flying at the camera to the extent that it becomes comical. In a film more focused on artistic depth than novelty, The Black Swan (1952) features a series of excerpts from the ballet Swan Lake presented as seen on the stage; no pointed toes thrusting at the camera here.
The galleries of stereoscopic photography are a highlight of the set: one the relentlessly cheerful Mid-Century Memories in Kodachrome Stereo, presented with corny flair by Stereoscopic Anthropologist Hillary Hess and the other a series of images taken by silent film star Harold Lloyd, presented by his granddaughter and devoted historian Suzanne Lloyd Hayes.
Hess’ presentation reveals a tinsel-draped world of mid-century, middle-class placidity, for the most part snapped by photo hobbyists looking to capture everything from the kids by the Christmas tree to an every day trip to the gas station. It’s a fascinating look at a long lost world, where images that were once ordinary become fascinating decades later.
The Lloyd presentation was my favorite part of the collection, because I didn’t realize how varied the former silent star’s photography had been. While I knew that he had happily spent his retirement taking pictures of buxom starlets and increasing his expertise in photography, I didn’t realize he had also traveled extensively and in the process captured stunning images from around the world. Lloyd’s empathy is evident in the scenes he has recorded, which show the beauty of ordinary people and the simple elegance of daily scenes in city streets. Some of the shots are so well composed that they look like paintings.
Included in the set is a gorgeous 3-D Film Archive-produced 4K restoration of Mexico’s first full-length 3-D film, El Corazon y la Espada (AKA The Heart and the Sword or The Sword of Granada, 1953). It was a treat to see frequent Hollywood supporting players Mexican actress Katy Jurado and the American actor Cesar Romero take leading roles in this historical swashbuckler. As part of a Spanish team pursuing gold, fighting Moors, and becoming entangled with a captive padre and a graceful princess, the pair are charismatic, dashing, and lots of fun. The three dimensional effects are smoothly integrated into the story, with sword and spear jabs aplenty in the rousing action scenes.
This second set was as fun as the first. I can’t wait to see what the 3-D Film Archive comes up with for volume three.
Many thanks to Flicker Alley for providing a copy of the disc for review.