8 January 2006 | theowinthrop
How to Properly Use 3 - D
In the history of motion pictures only two ideas (as far as I know) failed to catch on in improving the movies we see. One is the laughable "Aroma-vision" that was tried out in the late 1950s with a film that Peter Lorre and Desmond Elliot made called SCENT OF MYSTERY. People just don't like certain odors that can be on the screen in films. But the other was an 3-D, which should have succeeded. If you want to have a more realism in movies, then you should have a movie where depth adds some degree of reality. But 3-D was not used properly. The best recalled uses are in grade z films like ROBOT MONSTER. The best uses of the process were in Alfred Hitchcock's DIAL "M" FOR MURDER, in the Vincent Price horror classic HOUSE OF WAX, and in INFERNO. But while Hitchcock's and Price's films are well remembered (and seen frequently), INFERNO has been generally ignored.
It stars Robert Ryan, Rhonda Fleming, William Lundigan, Larry Keating, and Henry Hull. Ryan begins the film in one of his typically negative characterizations - a millionaire married to Fleming who treats everyone around him as a servant to do his bidding. Sort of like a follow up to his Smith Ohlrig in CAUGHT, only with a new bride. He is going on vacation, and he is accompanied by his wife and a guide played by Lundigan. But Fleming and Lundigan are having a love affair, and when Ryan is injured they realize that they can get rid of him, collect his fortune, and then marry. They leave the obnoxious millionaire in the desert with just a six shooter and a canteen with water. He also has a broken leg. They figure they can report he wandered off, they could not trace him, and in a week the police can find his corpse.
Ryan fools them. Always intelligent in his roles, he growls as soon as he is alone, "They think I'll drink up all my water!" He starts an enforced rationing. He also makes a crutch. Finally he shows his patience in becoming a careful hunter - carefully using his gun to kill game only when it is available. Soon he is able to start following the stars to get back to civilization. And his disappearance is not being casually dismissed by the discovery of his body by the authorities led by Carl Betz. And Fleming and Lundigan are beginning to get nervous - and a bit less lovey-dovey with each other.
But the best part of this film, aside from the careful script and performances, was director Roy Baker's brilliant use of 3-D. He wanted the size of that desert Ryan is marooned in to be really evident to the audience, and his shots of the miles of mesas and sand are deeply impressive. It adds to one's realization of just what Ryan is up against to survive. Actually it was the best use of the process in Hollywood movies, and it makes one regret that John Ford did not think of using the process in say THE SEARCHERS or TWO RODE TOGETHER. Ford's use of "Monument Valley" was always brilliant - imagine if it too had been in 3-D.