Cinerama Holiday

 

Cinerama Holiday

Written by Otis Carney, Louis De Rochemont

Cinematography by Joseph Brun & Harry Squire

Art Direction: Joy Batchelor & John Halas and Herbert Andrews

Film Editing: Jack Murray, Fredrick Y. Smith & Leo Zochling

Sound Engineers: Richard Pietschmann, Rolf Epstein & Richard Vorisek

Technical Supervisor: Wentworth D. Fling

Music: Morton Gould

Produced by Louis De Rochemont

Directed by Robert Bendick, Philippe de Lacy

1955

 

Featuring:

John & Betty Marsh

Fred & Beatrice Troller

Art Buchwald

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Stanley Warner Cinerama Productions

Video: Flicker Alley

 

Video:

Aspect Ratio: SmileBox for 16x9 projection

Resolution: 1080p

Codec: AVC

Disc Size: BD50

Feature Size: 26.63 GB

Bit Rate: Moderate (25 Mbps)

Runtime: 129 minutes (including Overture, Intermission and Exit Music)

Chapters: 21

Region: A

 

Audio

English STS-HD Master 5.1

English LPCM 2.0

 

Subtitles

English (??)

 

Extras:

• 3 Deleted Scenes, with commentary - in SD (8:20)

Behind the Scenes with Cinerama Holiday - in HD (7:25)

• Bob Benedick’s 8 mm home movies on and around the set - in SD (15:10)

• 1997 Dayton OH interviews - in SD (22:00)

• Breakdown Reel - in SD (14:15)

• Betty Marsh York’s Scrapbook - in HD (12:10)

• The Digital Restoration - in HD (12:45), presented by David Strohmeier

• Beatrice & Betty Return to Cinerama Holiday - in HD (21:30)

• April 28, 2013 screening at the Hollywood Cinerama Dome - in HD (5:40)

• 28-page Booklet

• DVD copy

 

Presentation:

Sturdy Amaray Blu-ray case:  BRD + DVD

Release Date: November 2, 2013



Overview [Flicker Alley]

Unseen theatrically since the early 1970’s until earlier this year in Los Angeles, and never before broadcast or issued on home video, the picture now digitally remastered from its original camera negatives, is presented in the Smilebox® Curved Screen Simulation.


“Cinerama Holiday” was the second of the original, 3-panel Cinerama travelogues. Released in 1955, the motion picture crisscrosses two hybridized travelogues of the “Cinerama camera accompanied” vacations of two adventurous, real-life, married couples. We meet first, Fred and Beatrice Troller, from Zurich, Switzerland, who upon their arrival on the first transatlantic flight to ever land in Kansas City, unload their motor scooter and begin a panoramic tour of America, which begins with them driving up Fremont Street in Las Vegas and catching a casino floor show. Meanwhile, Betty and John Marsh, leave their Kansas City home to take off on the same plane the Troller’s arrived on, for a return flight to Switzerland where they take in an outdoor ice show in St. Moritz, and John rides a bobsled. The latter of which provides just one of the film’s obvious, immersive, “thrill” sequences accentuated by the three-camera/curved-view format.


     


The Swiss couple are awed by sights of the American west viewed from the “Vista-Dome” of a speeding California Zephyr train, ride a cable car in San Francisco, observe a New Orleans “jazz funeral”, a performance of “Tiger Rag” by Oscar Celestin and visit a New England county fair, and ride a ferris wheel. Meanwhile, the American couple ski the Swiss Alps with hundreds of fellow skiers and thereafter discover the joy of singing and “fondue” in a Swiss tavern, and then move on to Paris, where they take in the Paris Opera, the Louvre, High Mass at the Cathedral of Notre Dame, a Grand Guignol puppet show, see the spring line in a fashion show and a floor show in the famous Lido. Both couples meet up in New York City to finish their movie, so to speak, and are treated to a finale of the U.S. Navy’s “Blue Angels” performing near-supersonic aerial maneuvers and landing on an aircraft carrier. And all of that’s a Cinerama Holiday!


     

 

About Cinerama [Wikipedia]:

Cinerama is a widescreen process that, in its original format, simultaneously projected images from three synchronized 35 mm projectors onto a huge, deeply curved screen in a 146° arc. The trademarked process was marketed by the Cinerama corporation, and was the first of a number of novel processes introduced during the 1950s when the movie industry was reacting to competition from television. Cinerama was presented to the public as a theatrical event, with reserved seating and printed programs; audience members often dressed in best attire for the evening.


     


The Cinerama projection screen, rather than being a continuous surface like most screens, is made of hundreds of individual vertical strips of standard perforated screen material, each about 7/8 inch (~22 mm) wide, angled to face the audience so as to prevent light scattered from one end of the deeply curved screen from reflecting across the screen and washing out the image on the opposite end. The display is accompanied by a high-quality, seven-track discrete directional surround sound system. The original system involved shooting with three synchronized cameras sharing a single shutter. After the first seven Cinerama movies this was abandoned in favor of a system using a single camera and 70mm prints. This latter system lost the 146° field of view of the original three-strip system and the resolution was markedly lower.


     


You might enjoy this extensive historical and critical notation HERE.


FYI: Only these films are the genuine 3-strip article:

This Is Cinerama (1952)

Cinerama Holiday (1955)

Seven Wonders Of The World (1956)

Search For Paradise (1957)

South Seas Adventure (1958)

The Wonderful World Of The Brothers Grimm (1962)

How The West Won (1962)


     

 

The Movie : 8

Critical Reaction:

New York Times

By far, the most dazzling experiences visualized on the giant screen—once the Cinerama spectacle is opened with a breathtaking airplane view of alpine terrain—are some grand and exhilarating moments of skiing on the slopes above Davos and a heart-thumping plunge aboard a bobsled down the whole long, white, zig-zagging chute of the famous Cresta Run. This latter episode, with its accompaniment of sounds of screaming runners and rushing wind, is something to put the now familiar roller-coaster ride of "This Is Cinerama" in the shade. It is notable in this program that the outdoor action invariably registers with most effect, conveying a sense of participation that the indoor scenes do not always have. For this reason, the first half of the program, which is photographed almost entirely outdoors, is the more vivid and entertaining, since it includes not only the Swiss alpine scenes but some lively views of tripping across America and a beautiful sequence of a typical New England country fair.


     


The second half of the program, which follows an intermission, is devoted largely to sight-seeing in Paris, much of it indoors. . . A Petit Guignol puppet performance of the fable of Red Riding Hood, done before an audience of rapt youngsters, is an exceptional incident here because of the interesting incongruity of the intimate show on the giant screen. In contrast, an elaborate view of a performance of the ballet, Les Indes Galantes, and a long recount of a plushy and hackneyed night club show are tedious to the point of distraction. The second half of the program is picked up with a thrilling, climactic sequence, taken from the cockpits of jet fighter planes doing aerial acrobatics and landing on an aircraft carrier's deck. Musically, this present program is interesting and distinguished for some brilliant individual numbers and a good score by Morton Gould. Most notable are a swingy rendition of When the Saints Go Marching In by a New Orleans band returning from a local cemetery and the music composed by Mr. Gould for the skiing scenes. Conglomerate and random though it may be, "Cinerama Holiday" is a dandy show. – Bosley Crother


     

 

Image: 7

After watching David Strohmeier’s superb piece on the digital restoration of this film and seeing just how poor the original Eastmancolor camera elements they had to work with, I feel rather abashed at offering any criticism, but this I must do, with the advisory that you watch his bonus feature before you see the video to help keep matters in perspective. I grant that this is a judgment call, and mine is different from David’s: the outdoor scenes often strike me as too bright. The first aerial shots over the alps seem to me thin, lacking in contrast and density, though the color is about right. The bobsled run that follows is so bright that the snowscape lacks texture except for the banked turns where the snow is packed differently or where the shade from the occasional tree shadows the snow - moreover, the color balance is a tad greenish, as it is on a few other occasions; though most of the time, it is spot on. Resolution is spectacular at times.


       


Without the actual deeply curved screen there is a decided thinning and lengthening of people and objects at the sides, particularly if they are also closer to the camera than those in the center, but this is nothing compared to the fact that Smilebox is unable to deal with anyone or anything that moves toward the camera and passes at either side, as they appear to turn sharply away from the camera instead of passing alongside. This does not appear to happen in anything like that degree when we have a curved screen with three projectors crossing beams. I’m not sure if Smilebox could have corrected for this anomaly in the digital domain to any useful extent, but it’s possible that the disc producers either didn’t notice or didn’t want to spend the money. In any case the fault is only noticeable in the circumstance just described. Otherwise, things look pretty good - and compared to what the restorers had to work with, I’d say downright incredible.


     

 

Audio & Music: 5/8

Here’s one I haven’t seen before: “English STS-HD Master 5.1 - a restoration created from the original 7-channel mix.” Is “STS” a misprint? And, in what sense is compressing 7 channels into 5 a “restoration? I found no explanation. Does it matter? Probably not much. Alas, as was the case with Flicker Alley’s Blu-ray presentation of This is Cinerama, there is no bass to speak of - and I don’t mean just no LFE. Bass just rolls off quickly into oblivion after about 200 Hz. The oft-touted bobsled ride is striking for how the sled’s runners cut through the icy snow, but there’s no sense of weight, which my memory says was there 60 years ago. But memory aside, how could it not be there? The whole movie is absent bass. Even the orchestra lacks heft and chest tone. As good as my audio playback is, it cannot begin to compare with the theatrical experience of fifty or sixty years ago; but if you want an instant comparison of what this should sound like go directly to the start of chapters 2 and 3 on Flicker Alley’s South Seas Adventure; the sound of the orchestra and the ship’s steam whistle with power to induce near G-forces makes clear what I can only infer in the written word.


     

 

Extras: 9 

As the saying goes: “There’s something here for everyone!” Bonus Features includes the original Cinerama Holiday breakdown reel, new interviews with original participants, original 8 mm home movies, a demonstration and comparison of the film’s restoration, a video scrapbook of images made during production, and a booklet reproduction of an original program. Of these I want to single out three: Betty Marsh York’s Scrapbook, a 12-minute trip down memory lane as Betty shares her reflections on looking through her scrapbook of that historical movie making adventure after decades in storage. In “Beatrice & Betty Return to Cinerama Holiday” Betty and Beatrice (in separate interviews) give us the lowdown on how some of this movie was put together - interspersed with lots of clips from the movie. Nicely done and a relief from the usual chatter we get on such exercises. Then there is, without a doubt, THE BEST technical discussion of restoration I’ve ever seen on video. David Strohmeier walks us through the elaborate process, detailing every step, clearly and in language even non-technical folks can understand, mentioning all the software involved and exactly how they were used, with lots of before- during- and after-comparisons.

 

Comment & Recommendation: 8

When you click “Play” the first thing that comes up is this:


     


Well, that just ain’t true, is it. I saw this movie in 1955 and I can say unequivocally that it was not shown in a Smilebox simulation. It was the real deal: 3 projectors blasting away in unison onto a real curved screen. No simulation required. And no digital interface either. Kinda makes you wonder about anything else these guys have to say. But wonder no longer. I watched a print of This is Cinerama in the mid-1970s, already faded beyond belief. More years, more fading, and worse. The original negative for Cinerama Holiday has been subject to a lot more than fading over the decades. And this remastering is another universe altogether.


     

     


Last year I traveled to Los Angeles for the 60th anniversary celebration of the first Cinerama experience, This Is Cinerama! - a movie I saw in 1954 in New York City. It was the first time in God knows how long the film had been shown in the U.S., now restored and shown in its original 3-strip, 3-projector format in all its awesomeness and foibles. A week later I watched the same movie transferred to Blu-ray from Flicker Alley. Sorry, fans, it was not even close to the experience. Size and shape notwithstanding, the sound was thin and the color balance was off, especially noticeable in the Coral Gables sequence. On the other hand, Flicker Alley’s Smilebox presentation straightened out the seams between the strips, which made for a considerably more relaxed presentation. The Blu-ray of Cinerama Holiday fares better.


     

 

Though I also saw Cinerama Holiday in New York shortly after its debut, the film didn’t impress me as much as the first Cinerama feature – and no wonder, after that impressionable roller coaster ride. On the other hand, there were long stretches of This Is Cinerama! that were simply too static, like the La Scala presentation of the Triumphal Entrance from Act II of Aida. In Mr. Crother’s review, amply quoted above, we see that he had the same complaint about the second half of Cinerama Holiday “tedious to the point of distraction.” I don’t share that view of the second movie.

 

When I was in L.A. I saw only the first and last Cinerama movies, but not this one, so I can’t say how it compares. Back then theatrical sound was a lot more dynamic than films since, IMAX and Dolby Atmos excepted to some extent. All the same, there was a musicality to those huge tube amps that makes today’s solid state presentations sound plastic and tizzy by comparison. The audio system at the Hollywood Cinerama Dome sucks, let me tell you. So I was looking forward to the kind of dynamics and nuance typical of good Blu-ray transfers. Not so, here.


     


And I’ll be damned if I’m going to assert that I know anything about color balance compared to the original. I can say there are fewer problems here than appear on the Blu-ray for This is Cinerama! so there’s that going for it. I can certainly understand the appeal of Smilebox and its illusion of a curved screen. The difficulty for flat screen home video is that it seriously diminishes the image area in the center half of the film, which is, after all, where our attention is largely focused. Nor can I sit close enough to my 110-inch screen to simulate the theatrical experience without seeing video instead of film. The movie would doubtless benefit from a 4k transfer and video output. To end on a positive note, I love the curtain effect as the old B&W 35mm image gives way to super widescreen SmileBox Cinerama. If you’ve never seen a 3-strip Cinerama movie then this Blu-ray is as close as you will get short of a trip to one of the few theaters in the world that make that a reality.

 


Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

November 1, 2013


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