Cinerama South Seas Adventure


Cinerama South Seas Adventure

Written by Charles Kaufman, Harold Medford & Joe Ansen

Cinematography by John F. Warren

Art Direction: Daniel B. Cathcart & Eric Thompson

Film Editing: Fredrick Y. Smith

Sound Editor: Warner E. Leighton

Music: Alex North

Music Editor: Richard C. Harris

Produced by Carl Dudley

Directed by Carl Dudley, Richard Goldstone, Francis D. Lyon, Walter Thompson, Basil Wrangell



Narration: Orson Welles, Ted de Corsia & Walter Coy



Theatrical: Stanley Warner/Cinerama Productions

Video: Flicker Alley



Aspect Ratio: SmileBox for 16x9 projection

Resolution: 1080p

Codec: AVC

Disc Size: BD50

Feature Size: 30.57 GB

Bit Rate: Moderate~High (30 Mbps)

Runtime: 125 minutes

Chapters: 23

Region: All



English STS-HD Master 5.1



English (??)



• Audio commentary with Cinerama historian David Coles & actress Ramine Seaman

Renault Dauphine - Smilebox HD (6 min)

The Wake of Captain Cook - in SD (23 min)

• The Digital Restoration - in HD (19 min), presented by David Strohmeier

• 1999 interview with the daughter of Carl Dudley - in SD (11 min)

• 1999 Interview with production staff member Saul Cooper - in SD (30 min)

• Behind the Scenes Slideshow - in HD (6 min)

• Smilebox trailer for South Seas Adventure - in HD

• 28-page booklet

• DVD copy



Sturdy Amaray Blu-ray case:  BRD + DVD

Release Date: November 2, 2013

Overview [from Flicker Alley]

In a new digital reincarnation, “Cinerama transports you to lush tropic islands…adventure-splashed with a thousand excitements!”


Cinerama South Seas Adventure proved to be the fifth and last of the original, 3-panel Cinerama travelogues. Released in 1958, and four months after the 3-panel competitor, Windjammer: The Voyage of the Christian Radich, it is at moments similar, although overall an entirely different tale than previously seen in the format.  Five separate stories are dramatized, woven out of a series of theoretical, island-hopping voyages that start en route to Hawaii and, after traversing the South Seas as far as Australia, end up flying back home from Honolulu.



In between, through an adventurous shipboard passenger, a returning American WWII veteran and the enthused narration, we're taken island hopping to stops in places lush, tranquil and inviting, like Tahiti, Tonga and Fiji, then on to the even more exotic, primitive Pentecost Island.  Native dancing and song are celebrated alongside cultures and customs spanning thousands of years. Sailing onward to New Zealand, we're reminded it is also an island, two – in fact, with an unexpected geography including volcanoes and snow-covered mountain ranges. From there we travel on to Australia, where we follow the arrival of a European immigrant and his young daughter as they get accustomed to native animals like koalas and kangaroos, then settle in for a new life in the "outback". There, they become integral in stories illustrating life in that country’s more isolated areas: the "School of the Air", a classroom conducted over the radio and the Flying Doctor Service, similarly radio-dispatched. With a partial narration by Orson Welles, the movie may be the first to chronicle primitive bungee jumping



This home video production on Blu-ray and DVD of Cinerama South Seas Adventure is the original road show version of the picture, complete with overture, intermission and exit music, now newly presented in the Smilebox® Curved Screen Simulation. Digitally restored from the original camera negative, the picture shines bright emitting a panorama that is at times breathtakingly colorful and a sparklingly clear. A 5-channel sound track completes the immersive experience, a fascinating time capsule of 1950’s innocence and quaintness.



About Cinerama [from 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 their 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.

. . . as well as links to numerous news clips HERE.


N.B.: 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:


South Seas Adventure, the fifth and final of the Cinerama travelogues, sets out from Hawaii, traveling towards Tahiti, Samoa, Australia and New Zealand. The format, for those unfamiliar with the idea, is very similar to a dramatised documentary. A narrator guides us through what we are seeing, whilst a mixture of on-screen actors and real-life island inhabitants interact in various scripted processes. Hawaii, for example, is introduced to us through the medium of Kay Johnson (played by an actor, Diane Beardmore) whilst a narrator (stunningly, Orson Welles) tells us about both Kay's home-life and the history of the island, all seen whilst Ted (Tommy Zahn, a real-life expert surfer) tries to woo her.



If this sounds odd then the effect is actually much less jarring than it might appear. The vintage quality of the narration and the images has a relaxing effect, as the mixture of directors (there are five credited in total) keep the locations moving and the scenery lush. The new restoration, overseen by Dave Strohmaier and Randy Gitsch, has given a new saturation of colour to the film and with Welles booming out politely funny anecdotes it is easy to sit and let South Seas Adventure wash over you. It says something that, despite this being a film made in 1958, I still learned new things about some of the locations and saw sights I've not been privy to elsewhere.



The Cinerama format is, obviously, a huge selling point and the aerial shots - sweeping over outback, pirouetting between mountain tops - are a sight to behold whilst subtle uses - capturing more dancers than usual in a crowd scene for example - also add depth and worth to the final product. The second half of the film, after the intermission (yes, there's an intermission) is far less interesting than the first, mainly because the Australian segment is so badly dramatised, but even that isn't enough to break the spell of romantic nostalgia the film holds. If you can find a way to see it at a Cinerama cinema (if you're in England, that means Bradford) then seek it out. If not, a DVD and Blu-ray release, which attempts to replicate the format, is currently in progress. – May, 2012



Image: 8

Whatever my complaints of the previous Cinerama travelogues issued by Flicker Alley, they are rarely in evidence here. From the extended Restoration bonus feature, we see that the original camera negative of Cinerama South Seas Adventure was subjected to much the same distress as the previous movies, perhaps not to the same extent. In any case, the restoration is in every way more successful, with truer color and better judged contrast (in my opinion.) Some outdoor shots are a mite thin and a shade bright, but nearly as frustrating as with the Blu-ray of Cinerama Holiday. No less important, the Smilebox process offers a more coherent triptych where the three panels are more seamlessly integrated. Horizontal dislocations that abound in any 3-projector theatrical presentation of Cinerama are somehow made linear and contrast discrepancies between the panels due to variation in the degree of fading from one reel to another are less in evidence.



There remain a few issues that seen to come with the territory – for the time being, at any rate: 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, since they appear to turn sharply away from the camera instead of passing alongside. This does not appear to happen to nearly such a distracting 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 find it nearly as bothersome as it does me or didn’t want to spend the money. In any case the fault is only noticeable in the circumstances just described. Otherwise, things look very good – and, compared to what the restorers had to work with, I’d say downright incredible.



Audio & Music: 8/8

Perhaps not to the same extent as the improvement in image quality over the previous Blu-ray Cinerama travelogues, the audio mix is also more agreeable. It now has sufficient huevos, utterly lacking in the other releases. Bass is far less rolled off, and there is some vigor as well as spaciousness to the orchestra whose tenor instruments now have something to say. The original separate seven tracks were on hand for a remix into a 5.1 “STS” HD (whatever that is) in a convincing, fairly seamless front to back integration. Surround channels are immersively in play, not only for the music – from the Overture onward, this time around – but for anything that passes the traveling camera, or vice-versa – and there’s a great deal of that, as you would expect.


Extras: 10

Flicker Alley supplies a superb collection of Bonus Features for their home video of South Seas Adventure. Even though there are some overlaps, each of these offers interesting, even entertaining, insights into the Cinerama process and this movie in particular.


As with Flicker Alley’s presentation of This is Cinerama, a feature length audio commentary accompanies the movie, though as often as not, it is independent of it.  Cinerama historian David Coles is in the driver’s seat and he is something of entertainment all by himself.  I could, and did, listen to his talk with my eyes closed. He is a gold mine of factoids and history about this unique and influential cinematic process. Ramine, who is featured in the Tahiti segment, joins Coles for a brief time to reflect on her experience making the movie.



I was surprised to learn that 3-strip Cinerama was employed for a commercial. The French automobile manufacturer Renault used it in 1959 to advertise their Dauphine economy car, popular from 1956-67. Here it is, looking great in full Smilebox HD – all six minutes of it. By contrast, the only feature in need of a restorative is the 23-minute The Wake of Captain Cook, a history lesson on Pacific Ocean exploration.


Two interviews are included: One with Carol Dudley Katzka, the daughter of the producer, who reminisces about her father, himself an adventurer. A half-hour interview – or, more precisely, excerpts from - with Saul Cooper, who worked in locations publicity for this movie. In this 1999  interview he reflects on the historical context of this novel cinematic process and the technical and cultural significance of Cinerama. Cooper also talks about his involvement in South Seas Adventure. You can imagine how important and interesting his job was, not only from the point of scenic beauty and interest, but photographic opportunity and cultural acceptance of a film crew. The articles in the booklet are informative and interesting but appear in a font so small I found it uncomfortable to read them.



Comment & Recommendation: 9

Cinerama South Seas Adventure is the fourth of the true 3-strip Cinerama movies to be transferred to Blu-ray, following This is Cinerama, Cinerama Holiday and How the West Was Won. A fifth movie, Windjammer: The Voyage of the Christian Radich was released on Blu-ray by Flicker Alley last year. Windjammer arrived in theaters just months before South Seas Adventure. It was made in a competing 3-strip format called “Cinemiracle”, a decent looking movie in its original form but, as a narrative, put the lie to the title as it should have been called The Landfalls of the Christian Radich: Except for a very few minutes footage on board that could have been shot while docked, the movie follows the crew at various ports of call. Very folksy but there’s not an exciting moment to be had, and certainly not at sea. My recommendation is to give the Smilebox Blu-ray of Windjammer a wide berth.



This is Cinerama is important for its being the first Cinerama movie, and sports a few good moments, especially the opening roller coaster ride. The aerial finale across the U.S. is beset with horizontal mismatches between the three panels and makes for an unintentionally dizzy ride. Moreover, the Blu-ray is beset with color errors and the sound lacks deep bass. Cinerama Holiday is better in all of these respects and is a better travelogue as well; the Blu-ray is decent and worth having for fans of the medium. South Seas Adventure is a decided step up and is the best looking and best sounding of all the Cinerama films on HD video save How the West Was Won which was transferred by Warners from significantly better elements to start with.



Cinerama Holiday was the last 3-projector Cinerama movie I saw theatrically in its initial run. As for South Seas Adventure or any of the others, despite my excitement about This is Cinerama, I never responded to their call. Can’t say why exactly. When I was in L.A. last year I saw only the first Cinerama movie and Windjammer, but not South Seas Adventure or Cinerama Holiday (reviewed HERE.) Going only on present evidence, what South Seas Adventure lacks in thrills, compared to the first two Cinerama movies, it more than makes up for in consistency and interest. As a home theatre experience, the restoration is far more successful in respect to purity of image and depth and breadth of sound. Colors are richer and more accurate. Skin tones are more naturally portrayed. Primary colors are truer to the best in Technicolor. Scenes in dark shadows, of which there are only a few, offer little detail, as before, but this is overall my only serious criticism. The Smilebox blending is surprisingly successful, with horizons of the three panels lining up so well so often – and in some tricky areas, too - we tend to forget about them.



A successful and rewarding title in this format. Warmly recommended.

Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

November 3, 2013

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