Preview: Creature from the Black Lagoon 3D restoration at the Wex

  • Photo courtesy Universal Pictures
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From the January 3, 2013 edition

The gimmick of using 3D technology to lure audiences to movie theaters was used long before blue aliens were a sparkle in James Cameron’s eye. The trick had a heyday in the early 1950s, as Hollywood struggled to attract movie-goers away from the fuzzy lullaby of their television screens.

Monster and horror movies were particularly appealing to 3D filmmakers. “Creature from the Black Lagoon” is an example. A scaly, lovelorn monster obsesses over a beautiful woman swimming in his marshy midst in this 1954 classic.

“Unlike a lot of the films that are released now where 3D is just tacked on, that film was made with 3D in mind,” said Dave Filipi, the Wexner Center’s director of film and video.

Other made for 3D movies in Creature’s class are “Kiss Me Kate” and “Dial M for Murder.”

“When most people think of 3D,” Filipi said, “you think of things flying out of the screen at you, but in ‘Dial M for Murder,’ Hitchcock used depth of field and staging of the set in such an interesting way.”

The fad faded as theaters had trouble employing the cumbersome technology needed to show the 3D movies.

As movie studios now digitally restore a list of classics, including several made in 3D, the Wexner is showing them through its new 4K digital projection system.

“Creature from the Black Lagoon” shows this weekend, as does Criterion Collection favorite “Heaven’s Gate.” On deck is “Dial M for Murder” and “Lawrence of Arabia.”

“For most people [seeing Creature is] fun and nostalgic,” Filipi said. “It’s just kind of taking advantage of one of the reasons people go to movies — for spectacle and fun.”

And for interesting film history lessons.