By Susan King
9:00 AM EDT, September 5, 2013
The World 3-D Film Expo III, which opens Friday and continues through Sept. 15 at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, has lined up some of the well-known classics of the format's heyday 60 years ago, including 1953's "House of Wax" with Vincent Price, the 1953 musical "Kiss Me Kate" with Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel and Ann Miller, and 1954's "Creature From the Black Lagoon" with Julie Adams and the Gill-man.
The expo's producers and programmers, Jeff Joseph and Dennis Bartok, have also unearthed some real rarities, including the oldest surviving 3-D film: the 1922 short subject "Kelly's Plasticon Pictures."
"It has footage from Washington, D.C., and Times Square," said Joseph, who produced and programmed the previous 3-D expos in 2003 and 2006.
"On Sept. 14, we are doing a rarities show," Joseph said. "My plan was to run the best of Expos I and II, but we found some new stuff so about half the material has never been seen before."
The festival also features the Los Angeles premiere of the 1946 Russian 3-D version of "Robinson Crusoe" and the world 3-D premiere of the 1954 Korean War drama "Dragonfly Squadron" with John Hodiak.
"It was shot in 3-D but by the time they were ready to release it, the bloom was already off the rose," Bartok said. "So it was released flat."
"I actually bought an entire film library to get that one movie," Joseph added.
Though most of the films in the festival are 35 millimeter prints, the expo is also presenting several digital restorations, including the opening-night feature, the 1953 western "Hondo" with John Wayne; Alfred Hitchcock's only 3-D film, 1954's "Dial M for Murder," and 1983's "Jaws 3-D."
Fifty 3-D movies were made in the United States between 1952 and 1955 in an attempt to lure audiences away from their television sets and back into movie theaters. The craze began with 1952's "Bwana Devil" and Hollywood quickly began turning out horror films, sci-fi thrillers, musicals, film noirs, westerns and dramas.
Even such low-budget "B" movie studios as Allied Artists got into the 3-D act. Veteran Oscar-winning producer Walter Mirisch ("In the Heat of the Night") was at the studio when "Bwana Devil" exploded at the box office.
"I figured we needed to make one too," said Mirisch, who will be appearing at the expo with his only 3-D film, 1953's sci-fi horror thriller "The Maze."
The process was very expensive.
"I talked to a cameraman and an assistant cameraman who worked on the lot and they said they didn't think it was too difficult to put a 3-D system together in three or four weeks," Mirisch said. "It worked perfectly fine."
There were camera issues on "Jaws 3-D," which finds a hungry great white finding a new feeding ground at a water park in Orlando, Fla. The thriller was made during a mini-revival of 3-D three decades ago.
"It was a very complicated thing," said director Joe Alves, who was the production designer on the first two "Jaws" blockbusters. "We had to start shooting in October because 'Jaws 3-D' had to be released in the summer. But we didn't have any really good cameras. We had Aeroflex in the process of making us new cameras, but we had to start shooting with this old stuff."
When the new cameras arrived a week later, "We had to reshoot everything. Because that 3-D didn't work with this 3-D!"
Several actresses who appeared in these 3-D movies will be on hand at the screenings, including Adams, Piper Laurie and Pat Crowley, who starred in the 1953 Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin Technicolor 3-D comedy "Money From Home."
"It's the cutest movie," said Crowley, who plays Lewis' girlfriend in the picture. "They were just adorable and so much fun on the set."
As for her memories of working in 3-D, Crowley recalled that the "cameras were pretty darn big."
Bartok and Joseph said there probably won't be a 3-D Expo IV.
"This is probably the last time we will see a lot of these films projected in the dual 35-millimeter 3-D presentation," Bartok said.
"We are running into a world where there are less and less theaters who have 35-millimeter projection, let alone a dual 35-millimeter projection," added Joseph. "Next year, there will probably be less."
"In many cases these are the only existing prints," Bartok said. "It's incredibly difficult to get access to them and because they are so rare and unique, they can't travel at all around the world. I think if anybody did this kind of show in the future, it would have to be all digital. The flip side is that many of these won't be transferred to 3-D digital prints because there is not that much of an audience for them apart from this kind of an event."
World 3-D Film Expo III
Where: Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood
When: Fri. through Sept. 15
Price: $399 for festival pass; $18 for single tickets; discounts for American Cinematheque members.
Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times