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The idea of exploration infuses the next release, Search For Paradise (1957) shot entirely in the rugged mountain ranges of Katmandu, where the crew was the first to run the rapids of the treacherous Indus River, with 5 times the flow of the Colorado at its flood. On the last run, cast member Jim Parker rode along but didn’t bother with a life jacket. The raft flipped, and both Jim and the camera were lost. Just days before, he had been heard to remark, “I wish I could spend the rest of my life here.” In 1958, what would be the last Cinerama travelogue was released. South Seas Adventure took a camera crew throughout the South Pacific on a sailing ship, recording colorful Polynesian life. On Pentecost Island, the production found a tribe who once a year had a day-long ceremony where the men would leap off a one hundred foot tower with vines tied around their legs as a test of manhood. This Cinerama sequence was the first recorded incidence of bungee jumping. Pentecost had been occupied by the Japanese during the war. They never found the tribe, but Cinerama did.
1958 also saw the release of a complementary format film, Windjammer, which followed the Norwegian tall ship Christian Radich around the world. It was filmed in CineMiracle, which used three Mitchell cameras converted to 6-perf pulldown, and photographed the side panels by reflecting them in mirrors. This handily evaded the Cinerama patents.
When TIC became the surprise hit of the 1954 Exposition in Damascus, completely eclipsing the Soviet exhibits, the Russians built their own 3-panel system, claiming the US had stolen it from them (of course). Kinopanorama was a huge hit both in the Soviet Union, where 15 films were made, and took prizes at later world fairs. In 1966, a compilation of scenes from these films was released here as Cinerama’s Russian Adventure. It only played for a short time in Chicago and was unseen elsewhere in the States.

The five-year contract with Stanley Warner had expired and Lowell Thomas hoped for a change in management – for the better. For a time, it seemed as though it might happen. The company was acquired by Nicolas Reisini, an import/export tycoon who had been entranced with Napoleon and had a real vision for the company.
His first idea was a good one – Itinerama. He put Cinerama on trucks, and took it all over Europe to the countryside where there was no theater nearby. A tent was put up, and 3,000 people could view a Cinerama film. And so it was that one memorable night in France, Abel Gance, who had the idea nearly 40 years before, was the guest of honor at a Cinerama screening.
Reisini also began an aggressive global building campaign. Over 200 purpose-built theaters were planned, to bring Cinerama to the world. When the Tokyo theater opened, it was such an event that even the Emperor came. Reisini’s second idea wasn’t bad, either. He made a co-pro deal with MGM for a string of traditional dramatic films. George Pal brought his special touch to The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm, a bio-pic interspersed with dramatizations of their fairy tales. It featured several visual effects and was moderately successful. But it was the classic How The West Was Won which would become the crown jewel of Cinerama, the last 3-panel film, and the highest grossing film of 1962, just as TIC had been 10 years before. HTWWW was a multi-generational story which followed the Prescott family as they headed West. Shot entirely on wilderness locations with several units, an all-star cast, and three directors over a two year period, it was a major achievement for director general Henry Hathaway, who studied the Cinerama process in depth and learned how to work around its limitations.
Hathaway proved that the process, thought difficult and expensive, could be effective with the right property. It is a taste of what might have followed. If only…
Unfortunately, Reisini’s vision had expanded faster than his revenues. His 360° consumer camera wasn’t selling, nor his home video tape recorder. The company, unfamiliar with studio accounting practices, had taken a bath in “overhead” charges on HTWWW. When the 70mm comedy It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World proved a success, he decided the 3-panel process was just too expensive and made all future films in either Technirama or Super Panavision 70, hoping to trade on the established marquee value of the Cinerama name. Of course, audiences weren’t fooled by this bastardization of the process – it was impossible not to notice that there was only one projector. Several subsequent films were advertised as being “in Cinerama” among them Khartoum, Grand Prix, and Ice Station Zebra. Originally contracted for 3-panel, 2001 was shot in 70mm when effects supervisor Douglas Trumbull saw the long, slender design for the Discovery spacecraft and knew it would kink badly at the blend lines. The Greatest Story Ever Told actually began production in 3-panel, but after a few days director George Stevens was talked into using Ultra-Panavision by ill-informed advisors.


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Copyright ©2002 Greg Kimble, HTML Transcription Copyright ©2003 The American WideScreen Museum