One of the most influential productions of all time was this 1952 extravaganza, which ushered in the modern era of widescreen film exhibition. Invented by Fred Waller, Cinerama cinematography employed three synchronized cameras sharing a single shutter; the cameras’ images were projected from three synchronized projectors onto an oversized curved screen that stretched 146 degrees deep, while stereophonic sound engulfed viewers.
“This is Cinerama,” the first feature released in this format, was a plotless collection of nonfiction episodes designed to show the audio-visual brilliance of the system. Sequences filmed from the front seat of a roller coaster and from an airplane zooming over the Grand Canyon created a visceral thrill for audiences 60 years ago.
Needless to say, it is impossible to expect any small screen adaptation to recreate the experience of seeing Cinerama in a theater – and the 1952 film, with its travelogue views of a Cypress Gardens water skiing show, aerial tour of Niagara Falls and sampling of European tourist offerings, can either be seen as quaint or dismally dated, depending on personal tastes.
However, this home entertainment release is important because it preserves the historically significant production in a handsome digitally remastered version (presented on a Smilebox curved screen simulation). And the real tonic here are the special features that celebrate the medium, particularly a documentary short on the laborious work that went into remastering of the film and a tribute to the efforts of the New Neon Movies cinema in Dayton, Ohio, that helped revive Cinerama films for theatrical presentation in the late 1990s.
Kudos goes out to all involved in making long-elusive title available for contemporary viewing. Hopefully, some enterprising theater exhibitors will reconfigure their cinemas to allow the three-camera Cinerama films another chance on the very, very big screen.