Kino Lorber restoration 3D Color, 1953 Starring Fernando Lamas, Arlene Dahl, Francis L. Sullivan
Kino Lorber continues its positively invaluable contribution to the posterity of film history by restoring and making publicly accessible one of the very first of the 3D movies from the 1950's, “Sangaree”.
Starting off this review to the uninitiated who may not have been reading past reviews at Films In Review by this reviewer, Kino's restored 3D films are not presented in the corny old red/cyan wrongly associated with the time period of the 1950's, but in full color, modern-technology 3D requiring one of the many 3D TV's still available, often used for a fraction of their original price and well-worth purchasing, for the growing line-up of the Kino library of 3D movies, restored by the impeccable 3-D Film Archive company, without question the last word in 3D motion picture restoration. Gathering the “right eye” negatives of the original releases, 3D Film Archive put grueling effort into presenting restorations from original negatives so absolutely crisp and pristine that the films are worth the modest purchase price even for the 2-D versions, alone.
Sangaree is of particular historical value for preservation as it contains a significant number of important film history firsts: It was Paramount Studio's first 3D production, it was the first Technicolor feature to be made in 3D, it was the first 3D feature with what was then an A-List cast of actors and it was the first 3D feature to be based on a novel.
Based on a popular novel of the time, and boasting impressive old Hollywood-style production values, Sangaree is the early-American story of the adopted son, fully grown as played Fernando Lamas, whose dying wealthy plantation owner father leaves to Lamas the plantation, a situation at odds with the father's seemingly scheming daughter, played by Arlene Dahl, who, naturally, wants the control and power of the sprawling estate, Sangaree, for herself.
The motion picture starts off admittedly unpromising as Lamas agrees to take possession at his dying father's bedside and is soon spied upon by Dahl, barefoot and simply dressed, pretending to be her own servant on the small steamer which takes Lamas to Sangaree. The story itself, however, builds up an impressive amount of dramatic steam as it unfolds and this reviewer was genuinely drawn-in and ultimately captivated by the interpersonal suspense punctuated by some extremely good fight and action scenes for the time. Of particular note was a barroom fight scene in which most of his character's stunts appeared to be acted-out by Lamas, himself. This production was originally 10 days into shooting in the conventional manner when the studio decided to produce it in 3D which took considerable time readjusting the production all the way around.
It must be noted that Lamas, early-on, grabs and forces a kiss upon Dahl's character with such seething violence, in a manner certain to be treated as a genuine act of assault today, that he makes Jack The Ripper look like Charlie Chaplin. What makes this scene particularly interesting to watch in a sort-of ambulance-chaser kind of way is that Lamas and Dahl were married the following year, which makes one wonder about the natural habits of both off-screen. Years later Dahl said, "Fernando and I has a wonderful time filming it and a great time promoting it." Hmmmmm. We just bet they did. “Actually, Fernando directed the love scenes.” confirmed Dahl in an interview with the 3-D Film Archive. “Before we shot the scene in the morning, the night before, we would rehearse and decide what we would do, and how we would do it, so we came prepared with each scene, much to the director's delight and chagrin..." .... Uh-huh.
While the romantic virtues of the story are predictable from the opening frames, happily for the audience, the road to the conclusion is not. There are plenty of interesting and unexpected twists and turns involving honor, schemes, confrontations, back-stabbing (one of which is literal) and logical action scenes which play out quite naturally, springing from the development of the story itself. These action scenes are unusual for the time insomuch as they do not feel forced or situations created to exploit them. This positive is doubtless due to the story being derived from a popular and likely well-written novel if the filmed screenplay is any indication.
The intensely saturated early-1950's Technicolor which many of us love is on spectacular display here, and an unusual variety of color schemes in art-and-costume direction for the year was thought-out and executed by the production, so Sangaree is often an unexpected colorful feast for the eye.
The cast is good with Dahl showing particular range of as her attitudes about the situation for which she is partially to blame unfolds.
As a 2-D film on its own merits, this reviewer can recommend Sangaree as a story well-worth watching which will entirely engage devotees of the golden age of Hollywood, action movie buffs and fans of romantic period dramas.
The 3-D version is extremely well-handled for the time, with 3-D Film Archive doing its usual first-rate, four-star job of correcting what one must assume were the invariable 1950's 3-D misalignments, otherwise the films original cinematographers were dead-straight-as-an-arrow on the handling of the 3D, which is also possible. The 3D is both fascinating and almost entirely without eye strain. Indeed, and funnily enough, the only genuine eye strain occurs outside of the actual production, on the 3-D Paramount Studios logo which opens and closes the film. The rest of the 3-D of the movie is beautifully handled, and such a lack of eye strain has to do with the shooting of the film, so credit for that aspect must be given to the production crew.
Candidly, this reviewer expected not to like Sangaree, which initially impressed this reviewer prima facia as an outdated chick flick for grandma. Instead, Sangaree treats its audience, then and now, to a wide range of thrills and dramatic situations. Needless to say, the aforementioned bar fight scene does include things thrown at the camera, and well-handled those moments are, too, allowing for the thrill and yet somehow not feeling like a corny exploitation of the process. The 3-D in Sangaree is outstanding in the manner in which it has been utilized and integrated into the story. Sangaree was a hit when released in 3D in 1953 and for good reason.
Sangaree comes recommended. It can be purchased very inexpensively from Kino Lorber and is well-worth the price for any motion picture collection, in 2-D or its outstanding 3D, both versions of which come in the same inexpensive package. Get it today.