Richard Daybell – Novels, stories and short humor
We don’t often go to movie theaters; we usually wait to watch them at home in the comfort of our recliners and our cocktails. There are however certain movies that you must go to a theater to see – movies that require the screen to overwhelm you. Like Lord of the Rings, for instance. In addition to a screen that makes you feel like a Hobbit, another prime reason for hitting the theater is 3-D, in its latest revival — Avatar, Alice in Wonderland, and Hugo, directed by Martin Scorcese no less. Okay, I’m a sucker for 3-D. Always have been.
I was there for the first 3-D movie, back in 1952. It too was quite an experience. 3-D was an attempt by desperate movie studios to pry people away from their television sets and get them back into theaters (along with Cinerama, Cinemascope and the other deadly Cins). This 3-D movie could certainly have used the Scorsese touch. It was called Bwana Devil, a title that certainly doesn’t conjure up Golden Globe or Oscar thoughts. The film required, along with a twenty-five-cent admission, sitting through an opening lecture on just how this modern marvel worked. A very serious scientist in a lab coat delivered this lecture. He described the 3-D process in numbing detail while we chewed through our Necco wafers and stared at him through our special glasses, wondering why he remained flat as a pancake in a lab coat.
As you’ve probably guessed from the title (and from the great big poster above), Bwana Devil was a jungle flick, obviously chosen so that it could feature lions and tigers and elephants and giraffes leaping from the screen onto the unsuspecting audience, causing most of us ten-year-olds to pee our pants. “Let’s see your 15 inch, black and white TV do that,” Messieurs Metro, Goldwyn and Mayer snickered. And they continued to do that, with westerns, in which Indians would shoot flaming arrows indiscriminately into the audience – one of them right into the forehead of the kid sitting next to me. Or creepy horror films in which a mad scientist reached into the audience plucking a kid just two rows in front of us by the throat, pulling him out of his seat, and sucking him into the screen never to be seen again. And Hitchcock’s The Birds — parakeets pecking out the eyes of people in the aisle seats, droppings everywhere.
Let’s see your 40-inch high definition TV do that.