Of the five travel-oriented Cinerama movies actually filmed with the three strip camera, Search for Paradise was the next to the last released. It was in theaters in September 1957 and was followed by South Seas Adventure in 1958. There were two dramatic films shot in this method: The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm and How the West Was Won (both in theaters1962). Other films were shown in Cinerama theaters but were filmed using other widescreen camera systems.
SFP is now available on DVD and Blu-ray for the first time. It is mastered from the original camera negative, and displayed on TV sets using the “Smile Box’ technique. Like the films that preceded it in theaters, it uses first person visuals to demonstrate the widescreen, three-panel wonders and the stereo soundtracks. Lowell Thomas once again narrates. It opens, as did the other films, with a full musical overture. That’s followed by a shot of the small screen, 1:33 to 1 ratio. Then the curtain opens to reveal the film in all its majesty. As each of these films been recreated for DVD and Blu-ray, they have looked better and better.
There is still a small distortion due the fact that this film is on a TV with a flat surface, instead of the three-panel theatrical screen that surrounded the audience with images and sound.
This time the two-hour visit – plus a 15 minute intermission – takes us to the Himalayas, where we visit the highest region on the planet and see breath-taking landscape that hasn’t changed much in 60 years. SFP was filmed in summer to take advantage of the weather and give the people who lived there opportunities to be part of the show.
The mighty snow covered mountains, white year-round due to the elevation, provide backdrop to the adventure. The elevations below 20,000 feet are beautifully flowered and look a lot like Shangri-La. A river ride on a raft with the Cinerama camera mounted aboard makes for a thrilling scene; albeit less than would be created in the large format theaters.
Thomas’ radio ready voice takes us through the scenes and adds to the imposing effect, along with Dimitri Tiomkin’s majestic score. (Tiomkin visited this area before composing the score for Frank Capra’s Lost Horizon (1937).) While the sound mix makes it a little overbearing, Tiomkin’s score is emotional and dazzling.
The Blu-ray release from www.Flickeralley.com also includes a DVD version. Hardcore movie fans will enjoy the accompanying 28-page booklet that includes a reproduction of the original theatrical program. Plenty of other extras make this a special treat for film historians and armchair travelers of the world. Not to be missed.
Rated 4.0 out of 4.0 reasons that I have hopes the releasing company will be able to obtain the MGM master negatives and release The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm and How the West Was Won in the near future.