An exciting new kind of movie opened in New York City on February 18, 1953, and quickly took the entire nation by storm. It promised each and every theater patron the cinematic excitement of a lion in his or her lap. It was the latest attempt by desperate movie studios to pry people away from those insidious television sets that had popped up in living rooms everywhere, to get them back into theaters. In a frenzy they had tried to beat the little box with Cinerama, Cinemascope and a host of other Deadly Cins.
The new kind of movie was of course 3-D, complete with those funny little glasses (sadly lacking a big nose and mustache), and this first film was called Bwana Devil. Not only did audiences have to sit through a newsreel and a featurette about folk dancing in a remote Himalayan village to get to the good stuff, they also had to endure an opening lecture on just how this modern marvel worked. A very serious scientist in a lab coat delivered this lecture. He described the 3-D process in numbing detail while the antsier members of the audience chewed Necco wafers and stared at him through those special glasses, wondering why he remained flat as a pancake in a lab coat.
Bwana Devil was a jungle flick (in case you wondered), obviously chosen so that it could feature lions and tigers and elephants and giraffes leaping from the screen onto the unsuspecting audience, causing most of the ten-year-olds to pee their pants. “Let’s see your 15 inch, black and white TV do that,” Messieurs Metro, Goldwyn and Mayer snickered.
And they continued to do that, with westerns, in which Indians would shoot flaming arrows indiscriminately into the audience – one of them right into the forehead of a kid sitting in the third row. Or creepy horror films in which a mad scientist reached into the audience plucking a comely teenager by the throat, pulling her out of her seat, sucking her into the screen never to be seen again. And Cat-Women on the Moon — sexy moon maidens in black tights leaping into the aisles and luring ogling men into the lobby for who knows what? Hollywood had struck back.
To experience the sheer terror of 3-D, tape red cellophane over your left eye and blue cellophane over your right eye. Then look at the picture below and Omigod! Look out for the tiger!.
Born on this day in 1745, Italian physicist Alessandro Volta, inventor of the electric battery (What is a flashlight? A place to store dead batteries.) for whom the volt was named. And in 1838, Ernst Mach, an Austrian physicist who gave his name to to unit of speed. And way back in 1516, English physicist Mary Tudor, who gave her name to the popular cocktail, the Tudor.
When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That’s relativity. – Albert Einstein