Continuing their series of Cinerama releases, last week Flicker Alley released the second and fifth/final Cinerama travelogues ever produced (Cinerama Holiday (1955) and South Seas Adventure (1958)) on home video for the first time ever in Blu-ray/DVD Combo Editions. As with Flicker Alley’s previous releases of This is Cinerama and Windjammer, both Cinerama Holiday and South Seas Adventure are a must for any film history buff. In fact, I’d contend that you should most certainly not own any one of these four films without the others.
As you’d expect from films shot in the three-camera process of Cinerama, Cinerama Holiday and South Seas Adventure are absolutely visually stunning. The visuals are at their best when simply capturing nature. Not the least of these images is the first three-screen shot of Cinerama Holiday has us soaring over the Alps, which is truly breathtaking in this, the widest of presentation formats. In fact, depicting nature is how Cinerama travelogues manage to keep you engaged. Although there is a wealth of stationary shots depicting one dance routine or another, or seemingly endless parades of people just passing by the cameras, there’s nothing like a sweeping, aerial landscape shot to keep you invested in the experience. Of course, both films also echo This is Cinerama’s format-defining roller coaster shot as Cinerama Holiday hurls us down a bobsled run at breakneck pace and South Seas Adventure drops us in the front seat of an amusement park ride called the Dive Bomber.
I emphasize the visual component of the films here because these travelogues are admittedly a bit shallow otherwise, especially where narrative is concerned. The blatantly scripted scenes that string these images together are framed as documentary (in this, I can’t help but draw comparisons to the work of Robert Flaherty), and they provide only the bare minimum of motivation to string together these showcases of the most exciting destinations around the world. That said, some of these scripted sequences are howlingly funny and entertaining, especially when they highlight long-out-of-date, 1950s values. One scene in Cinerama Holiday, for example, finds an American couple in Paris telling another American that they want to see the “real” sights, go somewhere they won’t find any other American tourists. The man tells that “The only place you won’t find Americans is the Soviet embassy and the garbage dump.”
You’ll also be able to marvel at how seedy Las Vegas was in the 1950s thanks to Cinerama Holiday, and South Seas Adventure affords you the opportunity to do a bit of good old-fashioned othering as you “oo” and “ah” at south sea natives in their native attire. South Seas Adventure also boasts oddities such as a koala riding a dog and features narration by Orson Welles! As excited as I was to have Welles aboard on this adventure, I do wish there had been much, much of him here, as other narrators take over after only brief interludes with Welles to provide that Flaherty-esque, pseudo-documentary tone that motivates the titular adventure.
Flicker Alley once again preserves the wraparound presentation of these films as they appeared in theaters through the three-camera/projector process of Cinerama, which immersed audiences in the action by engaging even their peripheral vision with a massive, curved screen. To do so, Flicker Alley employs their trademark Smilebox Curved Screen Simulation, which offers an image curved on the top and bottom so that it’s taller on the ends than in the middle. To get the most out of the Smilebox presentation, I recommend viewing these films on the absolute largest television or projection screen you can find.
Each release is impressively jam-packed with special features and accompanied by a 28-page booklet featuring reproductions of the original theatrical programs not seen since their first theatrical screenings. Special features on Cinerama Holiday include:
- the “Breakdown Reel,” featuring 14 minutes of footage originally projected interstitially during interruptions of any Cinerama performance;
- Return to Cinerama Holiday (2013), a brand-new documentary by Harrison Engle and Signal Hill Entertainment featuring cast members Betty Marsh and Beatrice Troller reminiscing about their Cinerama experience;
- A featurette following Betty Marsh as she rediscovers memories of the film with a newly uncovered 50-year-old scrapbook of the production ;
- Interviews with Leonard Maltin, Betty York, and Beatrice Troller, as well as cast members Betty & Jim Marsh, Fred & Beatrice Troller and Waring Jones;
- Director Bob Bendick’s 8mm home movies shot on the French and Swiss locations during the filming of Cinerama Holiday;
- A restoration demonstration;
- A Behind-the-Scenes Slideshow
- & Never Before Seen Deleted Scenes.
Special features of South Seas Adventure include:
- Feature Length Audio Commentary with Cinerama historian David Coles and actress Ramine Seaman;
- A rare Cinerama promotional film for the car company, Renault Dauphine;
- “The Wake of Captain Cook,” a behind-the-scenes look at the making of South Seas Adventure by Director Carl Dudley;
- An interview with Carol Dudley Katzka, daughter of Carl Dudley;
- Crew interviews;
- & a Behind-the-Scenes Slideshow.