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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Filmmaking > Travelogue > History > Comedy > Oceans > Islands > Music > Large Frame Format > Cinerama Holiday (1955) + Cinerama South Seas Adventure (1958/Flicker Alley Blu-ray w/DVD Sets)

Cinerama Holiday (1955) + Cinerama South Seas Adventure (1958/Flicker Alley Blu-ray w/DVD Sets)

Picture: B & C+ Sound: B- & C/B- & C+ Extras: B Films: B

After not being seen by hardly anyone worldwide, Flicker Alley and the current Cinerama organization continue to save, restores and rerelease the huge big screen format films that put their name on the map and made widescreen filmmaking a permanent feature of worldwide cinema. This time out, we get the Robert L. Bendick/Philippe de Lacy co-directed Cinerama Holiday (1955, the second-ever Cinerama film) and Cinerama South Seas Adventure (1958, the fifth-ever (and last regular stand-alone) Cinerama film with five directors, working out much better than the 1967 comedy version of Casino Royale, which also had five directors and bombed).

Cinerama Holiday imitates some of the same things that made This Is Cinerama (see link below) a success from the black and white monophonic opening piece to visiting traditional places to the grand big-land ending trying scenes with amusement park ride-like thrills. However, it is when it is trying to do something new from some new humor to amazing footage of Switzerland, Las Vegas, San Francisco, New England, New York City, the original Mona Lisa at The Louvre in France and we some skiing sequences ht are so terrific that their influence cannot be overstated.

The story (complete with flat acting from fun couples) is that a Southern U.S. couple goes to Europe and a European couple comes to America. That MacGuffin works just fine, but the real star is the ability to see the world in a way we never did before and to be honest, really never have again because even with 70mm, IMAX 70mm, Vista Vision and other great large frame formats, along with really Ultra High Definition HD video, Cinerama is a one-of-a-kind experience that has no equal and captures things like nothing else. That is why these films are all classics, more than worth saving and long overdue for revival.

Not to be outdone is Cinerama South Seas Adventure which arrived the same year as the competing Cinemiracle film Windjammer and the hit Todd-AO 70mm hit version of the musical South Pacific (reviewed on Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) so 1958 was a big year for ocean-going escapism. Going to places like Hawaii, Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia and Fiji, nature is explicitly captured here like few films ever did (I wondered how clean many of these locales still were; how unspoiled might they be or are we destroying them) and this comes with a history lesson that includes some parts by Orson Welles.

By this time, the cinematographers figured out the best compositions for the format after every visual angle and trick they could come up with had been done in the early films. Their influence on widescreen filmmaking is also hard to overestimate and are all exercises in pure cinema that endure and will hold up for centuries to come.

Both films run over two hours and are must-see experiences for any serious movie fan, though those who love travel, nature, history and documentaries should add these to their must-see lists as well.

The 1080p 2.59 X 1 digital High Definition Smilebox (capturing the shape of the 180-degree screen) image transfer comes from the original 35mm 6-perf-per-strip camera negatives that have almost completely faded (Eastmancolor stocks) and were originally processed by Technicolor labs. Though dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor versions of the film in 70mm or 35mm reduction prints might have been produced somewhere in later reissues (1962 or later), that could not be confirmed for any market and no prints exist openly (meaning they are in lost vaults, private collections or forgotten storage) so both films had to be painstakingly reconstructed from the fading negatives.

This time around, both were scanned digitally by Image Trends, who did the same for Warner Bros. on the 1962 MGM hit How The West Was Won whose original negative and camera materials were in great shape from proper storage. Like This Is Cinerama (1952) and Windjammer (1958, see links below) previously restored and rereleased by Flicker Alley and the current Cinerama Company, these are orphan films and the fact that any image was left after over a half-century is amazing.

As the featurettes on each release will show, the 35mm materials had all kinds of problems and to say the age of the materials used was in bad shape is being nice. Nevertheless, all parties involved did an amazing job of cleaning, repairing and saving both films against the odds and color was brought up to the range and look you would get from Eastmancolor of the time. Despite some painstaking work to remove additional flaws (fading, scratches, misalignment of the three panels and much more), you still have some issues with both films, but the scanning is so good that you cannot see the seam lines all the time. Hard to believe these were almost lost films, but now they are saved as well as they can be. The anamorphically enhanced DVDs on both do not look bad for the format and work, but are no match for their Blu-ray counterparts.

The film stocks were slowly becoming faster with each film and as an example from Cinerama Holiday, the Vegas footage has massive range and captures the original adult playground Vegas before its fall as captured in Scorsese's Casino (1995, reviewed on Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) that happens to feature the last great footage of the original Vegas. The other Blu-rays to compare to are the amazing releases in high definition of the 1963 Elvis Presley vehicle Viva Las Vegas! And 1971 Technicolor James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever, which are both 35mm anamorphic Panavision shoots of the town with the best color of the four films discussed here.

The differences show the slight limits in the color on this Cinerama version of Vegas, yet you can still see details, depth and character the other films (Casino was shot amazingly well in the Super 35mm format which uses less negative frame than Panavision) that also gives a sense of the now lost version of that place that no other format could ever deliver. The comparisons are worth your time and study.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes on both films on Blu-ray sound as good as they are likely ever going to sound, sourced from the original 7-channel stereo 35mm magnetic sources. There were some matching issues since the soundtrack runs 24 fps (frames per second) and all early Cinerama films ran their image at 26 fps, but that has been corrected and further digital work done to help out. Only thing that still sounds slightly off despite their best efforts is the Orson Welles voice-over on his parts of Seas, but it is clean. The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 and lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mixes on the DVD versions are not bad, but no match for the DTS-MA lossless on the Blu-rays.

With that said, Holiday is slightly weaker, especially on DVD, but both have traveling dialogue and sound effects recaptured properly in these upgrades and music in scores (Morton Gould (who later scored Windjammer) on Holiday, the legendary Alex North on Seas) and sung music on location also come on strong and wide-ranging.

Extras with both releases include high quality reproductions of the original pressbooks of each respective film, shrunken down to fit into the Blu-ray cases and the DVD versions, while the actual discs add Behind-The-Scenes Slideshow presentations for each respective film and Restoration Featurettes on each film that shows what the Cinerama format is, how bad the shape of the negatives for each film were in, the special situations in fixing each film and how they were saved.

Holiday adds its own 14 minutes Breakdown Reel that was played when the system would break down, Return To Cinerama Holiday (2013, 6 minutes) clip, Betty's Scrapbook (11 minutes) has star Betty Marsh looking at and discussing the content of a lost archival volume on the film, 1997 Cast Interview (22 minutes) with the cast when the film was re-screened for the first time in eons, Never Before Seen Deleted Scenes from the film from the documentary Cinerama Adventure and 15 minutes of silent movies shot in Kodachrome on the set in dubbed Bob Bendick's 8mm Home Movies. Seas adds a terrific feature length audio commentary track with Cinerama historian David Coles and actress Ramine Seaman, The Wake Of Captain Cook (23 minutes) showing behind the scenes of this film by Director Dudley, Family Interview (11 minutes) with Dudley's daughter Carol Dudley Katzka, Crew Interview (30 minutes) with Saul Cooper, rerelease trailer and a restored version of a advertisement (4:38, lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo only) for the automobile, the Renault Dauphine.

Shown in the three-panel Cinerama format, it takes us to the factory in France where the it is made and shows us the process from hot metal to the final build of the car in a truly great ad. Those familiar with the car and its famous black & white TV ad where Renault shows off its two different car horns (one for the city, the other for the country) should note that feature is never shown or discussed here, but fans will want to see this piece too.

For more Cinerama classics on Blu-ray, try these links:

This Is Cinerama (1952)


Windjammer (1958, originally in Cinemiracle)


How The West Was Won (1962, MGM)


- Nicholas Sheffo


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