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This is Cinerama – Blu-ray/DVD Limited Edition / Not rated but would be G by today’s standards

This is Cinerama is the first Cinerama film to be released in Blu-ray format for home viewing. While many anomalies still exist, really fine work was done to bring this film to the home screen. The original three camera format is a problem when the image is flattened out to any flat screen TV format. The original TIC was a three screen, three projector film. The screen was 35 feet high and 146 feet wide. While not as high as the current popular IMAX format (typically 80 feet), Cinerama is a lot wider.

After Cinerama ran from 1952 to 1962, the three screen process was reduced to a widescreen print and TIC was shown nationwide in 1972/73 as a re-release. This is the print that was used to create the BR/DVD release. Prior to this, only two dramatic films made with the three camera process were available for home viewing: How the West was Won and The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm. If you have ever seen these films on DVD, VHS or a TV broadcast you know all about the distortion that results from flattening the three images onto your TV set.

By reprocessing TIC and doing a lot of clean-up work, the DVD’s creators have produced a Technicolor presentation that, while not perfect, is acceptable considering what they had to work with. It is time the public (that’s us) had a chance to see this film – and possibly others – at home for the first time.

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TIC premiered on September 30, 1952. Co-produced by Lowell Thomas and Miriam C. Cooper, it pioneered Fred Waller’s Oscar-achievement process in film projection. LT was a world traveler, writer, adventurer and broadcaster. He is the on-camera narrator of the Cinerama features. MCC was also a pioneer who made the original King Kong movie. TIC features a great score by Max Steiner (King Kong, Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, etc.) but due to his contract with a major studio, his name does not appear in the credits. We assume it was a cash deal.

The film opens with a segment showing the development of movies and includes The Great Train Robbery (released in 1903), which was the first dramatic storyline movie to appear in the USA. It only ran about four minutes. All the films leading up to TIC were “small” screen presentations in monophonic sound. TIC broke ground for all future widescreen films including Cinemascope, Vista Vision, Panavision, Todd A-O and others.

After the small screen intro, the curtain opens and the famous roller coaster sequence (shot by Michael Todd, JR. for a reported cost of $33) is seen. TIC was an instant sensation. A few short demo sequences are shown and longer segments of aerial scenery follow, including a long sequence at Cypress Gardens in Florida as well as an opera finale shot in Milan, Italy. The last 30 minutes features an aerial trip around the scenic wonders and National Parks of the US. Considering that jet travel was still in the future, this was the first time most people saw these wonders from the air or any way at all. The multi-track stereo also adds to the experience. In 1952 standard stereo recordings were still three to four years from reaching the market through Long Play records.

If you are a fan of any big screen process, this film is a pioneering look at what you have been seeing in films for the last 60 years. The Blu-ray/DVD also has a number of great bonus features. Watch them all. They range from a short on the TIC reconstruction project to the Lowell Thomas “breakdown” film that would appear whenever one of the three filmstrips broke during the show.

All the aerial photography, including flying under the Golden Gate Bridge, were shot by Paul Mantz from his B-25. His aerial segments alone are more than worth the cost of the set. Paul was one of the great aviators of the 20th century. He died piloting the plane created for Jimmy Stewart’s film The Flight of the Phoenix (1965).

Available at Flickeralley.com

Rated 4.0 out of 4.0 big stars. NEWS ALERT Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will be broadcasting the television world premiere of the restored version of This Is Cinerama on October 18th along with How the West was Won.

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