Coming right at you: The gimmick that would not die


In the early 1950s, movie audiences, beguiled by television, deserted theaters in droves. Hollywood, in the greatest state of upheaval since the

advent of sound, grasped at stereophonic pictures and widescreen processes for salvation. Nearly every studio launched a 3-D program, and close to 50 features were completed before the novelty turned into a passing wonder (by 1954, 3-D was on its way out and a few films were only released in “flat” versions).

Film Forum’s invaluable series consists of 11 restored 3-D Columbia films—nine features and two shorts, mostly entertaining low-budget genre fare. One of the highlights is Raoul Walsh’s handsome western Gun Fury (1953). The core of the plot is Civil War vet Rock Hudson’s progression from a morally uninvolved man to an action hero standing up for his ideals. A mesmeric Phil Carey steals the show as the loony outlaw who abducts Rock’s lady. Another rescued gem, Lew Landers’s Man in the Dark (1953) is a black-and-white thriller about a criminal (Edmond O’Brien) who, after a brain operation, forgets where he has stashed his loot. This seems to be the 3-D flick that most exploits the short-lived medium. An endless array of stuff comes whiffling at your face—a lit cigar, a repulsive spider, scissors, forceps, fists, falling bodies, and a roller coaster. The prolific Landers may not have been a great director, but he was a pretty good pitcher.