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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Three Coins In The Fountain

Three Coins In The Fountain


Picture: C+     Sound: B-     Extras: B-     Film: C+



Jean Negulesco was a CinemaScope director, a format he brought to life like few others and his 1954 hit Three Coins In The Fountain is a flatly written film by writer John Patrick from the John H. Secondari novel, which is brought above the expansive melodrama that it is.  He was an innovator with Milton Krasner, A.S.C., who did the then-amazing cinematography that is still a superior use of scope, especially as compared to the TV safe junk we are used to seeing today.


The film itself gives us one of the more archetypal stories about three women going to Italy for fun, work, and a search for happiness.  Three couples meet and magic hopefully happens.  Jean Peters is paired with Rossano Brazzi, Maggie McNamara is paired with royalty played by future James bond villain Louis Jordan, leaving Dorothy McGuire is stuck with Clifton Webb.  The chemistry between the couples is often choppy, making this a colder film than expected, even cutting into the camp.  The narrative is booklike and safe, but if this were not a big budget stereo/color/scope feature, you could forget it.  Nevertheless, it has aged in amusing ways making it worth seeing at least once.


The anamorphically enhanced image has a few issues, but is one of the early few CinemaScope films in the 2.55 X 1 format.  Despite the extensive restoration that is a huge improvement from the awful 1990 letterboxed LaserDisc print, color is at issue here.  The film was shot with three black and white strips for dye-transfer imbibition Technicolor presentation, as identified in the film credits.  However, all the teaser/trailer promotion says Color by DeLuxe.  They are contradictory formats and the film was being produced for Technicolor, but Fox was buys establishing its own DeLuxe labs, so it had little interest in promoting the soon to be rival lab.  Unfortunately, this extensive fix-up could not be in the true three-strip it was intended to be in, but still looks good with a few issues.  There is a strobing effect in some shots, some of the damage was irresolvable and the rear projection is not as fake as in the awful 1990 transfer but is still phony enough.  It is also a sad contradiction to all the beautiful location footage from Italy.  Calling this travelogue material is always problematic, but no one seems to point that out.


The sound fares better, with a Dolby Digital 4.0 discrete stereo mix based on the original 4-track magnetic discrete stereo sound issued on film prints for the best playback in the best movie palaces.  Victor Young did the instrumental score, but not the title song as performed by Frank Sinatra in a wordless, actorless pre-credit sequence that almost works like some kind of music video by today’s perception.  The song was a hit and an award winner.  Extras include four trailers for other classic Fox titles, the original theatrical teaser, two original theatrical trailers, Oscar ceremony footage, a comparison of the 1990 LaserDisc transfer with the digital High Definition restoration done for this 2004 DVD, and an older audio commentary from the 1990 LaserDisc by Jeanine Basinger.  One of the studio’s early attempts to do the kind of audio commentary the Criterion Collection had invented, she talks about the credits of each of the major behind the scenes and on-camera talents in an age before Internet Movie Database arrived and the Internet was common.  However, these early cases often offered details that site still does not supply.  Though it is a rough start, she eventually gets the hang of talking about the film and offers some exceptional thoughts on CinemaScope that should be mandatory for all new cinematographers to hear.  It makes watching a campy film such as this a more pleasant experience.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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