In the Dark

2—D or 3—D:That Is the Question

In 1953, I saw a three-dimensional film for the first time.  It was a André de Toth’s  House of Wax, with that perfect slice of ham, Vincent Price, playing the curator of a wax museum in New York City, circa 1910.  Having gone bats after a fire destroyed his original establishment, Price decides he can best repopulate his rebuilt museum by snatching beautiful women from the streets and transforming them into mannequins by spraying their comely bodies with molten wax.

At 11, I was entranced.  As I watched, the screen’s frame seemed to melt away, and I entered into the space of the narrative unfolding before me.  It seemed I might reach out and protect the lovely young women fleeing from Price through midnight streets, an illusion that definitely had its appeal.  Even more enthralling, objects were coming right off the screen.  In one scene, policemen attempting to capture Price in his laboratory rammed a poker through its wooden door, doing little to dislodge it but scaring up plenty of screams from the audience.  That poker came thrusting into the orchestra until it was right under my nose.  I knew instantly that this was my acid test for 3-D aesthetics: If things came off the screen, the film won my stamp of approval.

3-D films have been around for quite a while.  Some were made in the silent period, and a spate of them came out in the early 50’s...

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