Thursday, May 8, 2008
Alfred Hitchcock had more or less lost interest in the 3-D gimmick before he even finished shooting Dial M for Murder. Before it was done, he was telling people it might be released as a "flattie." In the end, it played in a few big cities in 3-D, but for the most part it was shown in 2-D, much like Hitchcock's earlier films The 39 Steps and Suspicion.
It was rereleased a few years back in all three glorious dimensions, but my DVD copy, sadly, is rendered in only two. It's certainly minor Hitchcock, with a rather draggy second half, and not enough Grace Kelly (speaking of flatties), although I think you could say that about every film ever made, that it didn't have enough Grace Kelly. What most interested me, though, was how it could so easily be switched from 3-D to 2-D: Was there some process whereby the two strips of 3-D film, shot binocularly, were overlaid to create a single image? Or, more deliciously, did Hitch shoot takes in 2-D to later be assembled into a regular flattie? I bet if he had done that, the two versions would have been virtually indistinguishable. (You know, when he did his 1930 film Murder!, they brought a bunch of German actors onto the set at night and shot the German version at the same time.)
It turns out the answer is much more prosaic than that. Theaters could simply show one of the two 3-D strips of film, and it would pass for 2-D, without any degradation of the separated colors or any off-kilter point of view. Sometimes even a good question has an answer that's just not very interesting.