[Rue Morgue contributor and 3-D expert Jason Pichonsky checks in with a look at the latest tech treat for 3-D fans, 3-D TV, to see what it offers horror fans. This time: a 3-D restoration of a silent horror classic.]
For horror geeks and 3-D nuts, Carl Hernz’s upcoming stereoscopic release Le Fantôme de l’Opéra: Version Stéréoscopique is monumental. While exploring a film archive, the 3-D enthusiast stumbled upon a stereo image pair (that’s both the left- and right-eye views needed to create a 3-D image) separated and concealed from the public within two different prints of a classic silent horror film. The film in question was The Phantom of the Opera starring Lon Chaney Sr., released in 1925 and again in 1929. Hernz’s discovery led him to search all prints of The Phantom that he could get his hands on. Two years later, he’s released a work-in-progress of the 3-D restoration project.
Was The Phantom of the Opera shot with the intention of being the first feature film released in 3-D? Historians have known for years that silent era movies were shot with two cameras as a way for producers to safeguard their investment, but dismissed the possibility of these films being shot for 3-D release. Hernz also believes his find to be a happy coincidence, and never intentionally designed for a 3-D film. But when watching with a 3-D presentation in mind, the scene in which Christine unmasks the Phantom suggests through its staging, featuring an enraged Chaney raising his hand out towards the cinema audience, that director Rupert Julian had depth photography in mind. Unfortunately, the scene is absent from Hernz’s current version and instead presented flat.
Phantom is a film that experimented with new technology, featuring some of the earliest Technicolor sequences and re-released in 1929 with a synced sound track, so it’s conceivable that 3-D was abandoned in post-production. A full digital restoration release is planned for 2013, but for the rest of November you can view an anaglyph version (that’s the red and blue glasses) of Hernz’s work in progress online here.
Or check out this highlight reel: