As 3-D makes it’s great comeback, movies.ie looks at the other great cinema gimmicks which could be due for revival.
24 minutes of James Cameron’s 3-D sci-fi epic Avatar was recently screened at the CinemaExpo International in Amsterdam and has been described as revolutionary. The subsequent waves of excitement within the industry seem to suggest that there is some promise to the suggestion that the future of cinema lies with 3-D technology. So far though, 3-D has only really made an impact in the world of animation and cynics are claiming that rather than being an artistic choice, it is just the latest security measure used to tackle cinema piracy (not to mention an excuse to raise tickets prices!). Audiences though seem enthusiastic and are flocking to 3-D versions of all the new animated hits – from Bolt, Monster Vs. Aliens to Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.
What was essentially a cinema version of the sideshow attraction, 3-D is now being taken very seriously – it is all a far cry from the day’s of Jaws 3-D! All this leads movies.ie to wonder what other gimmicks from cinema’s past could be due for a comeback and how they could be used on some of today’s blockbusters.
You’d probably be forgiven for thinking your average multiplex is well equipped with Smell-O-Vision technology but no, I’m afraid that’s just the nachos. Smelling along to a film was never all that much of an attractive prospect and didn’t last long even in the heyday of cinema gimmicks. The 1959 film Behind the Great Wall pumped smells through the air-conditioning units to make the audience feel the full Asian experience…which didn’t really work. Scent of Mystery (1960) meanwhile, vented smells relating to the various characters to vents directly under the patrons’ seats. Again the amorphous nature of scents meant that smells didn’t necessarily meet the nose at the right times. Today though maybe a bit more technological know-how could improve things! Imagine the earthy large mammal smells of Ice Age 3! The blood and oil for Terminator Salvation! The crime scene stench of Sunshine Cleaning? Maybe not.
On Screen Warnings a la Chamber of Horrors
Chamber of Horrors was a 1966 horror film: “A film with many scenes so terrifying, a built-in audio-visual warning system has been devised.” These were, to be specific, the “Fear Flasher” and the “Horror Horn” which would be activated to warn if something particularly grisly were about to happen. So, this sound be a little over the top but when you think about it, a system of audience warnings has many more application outside of the horror film. For My Sister’s Keeper, a nausea alarm: “Warning! Cameron Diaz is about to shave her head. Prepare for maximum schmaltz!” For Year One: The “Brace yourself for another bad joke” klaxon and the “Christian Bale isn’t making any effort!” warning: This would probably be running non-stop during Public Enemies and Terminator Salvation.
William Castle was the cinema’s version of Barnum and Bailey; a master showman whose publicity tactics were notoriously eccentric. For The Tingler, a 1959 horror film starring Vincent Price, he piled on the gimmicks; he positioned nurses in the foyer of the larger theatres, ambulances outside and planted fake audience members to scream and faint. Meanwhile, he took the plot of the movie right out into the cinema auditorium – the tingler was a spinal parasite which had to be killed by screaming. In the middle of the screening the lights would go way down, Vincent Price’s voiceover declared that the tingler was loose in the cinema and vibrating buzzers placed in some of the seats would be activated! Definitely not your average trip to the cinema! This kind of thing would definitely liven up some recent cinema releases; imagine the spectacle of Transformers coupled with rumbling, buzzing chairs! Surely it’s only a matter of time before Michael Bay ventures down this kind of road?
After movie lecture a la She Shoulda Said No!
We often think to ourselves here at movies.ie, we could really do with some moral guidance. While we sit there stuffing our faces with popcorn and nachos we’re learning nothing! A wasted opportunity surely? In the late 40’s and early 50’s cinema had much more concern for the welfare of its patrons and wanted particularly to warn them of the evils of the demon weed. Enter She Shoulda Said No! a morality tale about a sweet young girl, Lila Leeds who became embroiled in the shady world of marijuana. Rather than making this a titillating trip into this world, Lila would often show up after showings of the film to lecture the audience and make sure they got the message. Yes, cinema with a side of lecture is probably just what we need. The local gardai turning up after Public Enemies to tell us that crime doesn’t pay? “It may look glamorous kids but it’s straight to the ‘Joy you’ll go!”