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Film historian Rick Mitchell sent me and some of his friends this write-up about the Dome’s recent screening of WINDJAMMER. Rick has given me permission to post it here for you to read.
WINDJAMMER: THE VOYAGE OF THE CHRISTIAN RADICH sailed across the screen of the Cinerama Dome Sunday morning, Sept. 5, 52 years and some months after it first sailed across the screen of the reasonably close by Chinese Theater, then from three synchronized panels of 35mm film, this time digitally from a 35mm anamorphic print combining all three panels. It had been filmed in CineMiracle, a rival process to Cinerama developed by National Theaters, the only film in the process, which was later bought out by Cinerama. The only real difference between the two processes was that the side CineMiracle cameras were aimed at mirrors, which minimized some of the problems with Cinerama. Projection was also done via mirrors and the projectors could be installed in one booth, as opposed to the three needed for Cinerama. (I won’t go further into technical details, which can best be found at widescreenmuseum.com.) Because of the similarities in the processes, most screenings of WINDJAMMER were held in Cinerama theaters.
WINDJAMMER was produced by Louis De Rochemont whom had been a producer for THE MARCH OF TIMES newsreels of the Thirties, which occasionally dramatized events or aspects of events that had not been recorded by motion picture cameras. In the mid-Forties he transformed this approach into a series of what came to be known as semi-documentaries, dramatizations of real life, usually crime stories, such as THE HOUSE ON 92ND STREET (1945), 13 RUE MADELEINE (1946), and WALK EAST ON BEACON (1951). This mixture of documentary and dramatization was apparently a key aspect of his approach to the second Cinerama film CINERAMA HOLIDAY (1955), which contrasted the adventures of an American couple in Europe and an English couple in the United States, and WINDJAMMER, dealing with a round trip voyage of a ship full of Norwegian cadets to the Caribbean and back, is clearly an expansion of that idea.
The film is in many ways a relic of its time and an interesting reminder of a peaceful calmer period, despite an interlude with the United States Navy, which does include a POV of a submarine diving and surfacing, which David Lean reportedly called the greatest shot he’d ever seen. THIS IS CINERAMA had of course set the pattern for these films and given the unavailability of others, it’s difficult to really put WINDJAMMER in perspective. TIC was essentially an experiment, to a large extent cobbled together. WINDJAMMER is more structured and many of the events depicted in the film are obviously preplanned, some clearly scripted, albeit likely the night before. The obviousness of these may be a problem for those who’ve grown up with the supposedly realistic “cinema verite” documentaries introduced in the Sixties, or worse, today’s reality tv. As in TIC, there are “human interest” bits that often seem a bit hokey today, such as when the ship’s mascot goes ashore on its own and has to be tracked down. And the cadet who is also a piano student who hopes to get a letter of commendation from Arthur Fiedler and ends up playing with him.
What really excites is the photography of the ship and the onboard activities of the cadets. Given the size and weight of the camera, it’s amazing the shots the crew, which included Gordon Willis, obtained, including shots from up in the rigging. And although they built sets for a few shots, it’s amazing the shots they did get not only inside the Christian Radich, but also inside the US submarine and a battleship. Interestingly, unlike with Cinerama as late as its last two films, composition and staging was not based around hiding the dividing lines but on the best composition for the shot. Like Cinerama, the exclusive use of 27mm lenses sometimes leads to awkward results when subjects get too close to the camera. But at other times, the images on a big wide screen have an impact almost never seen in contemporary films with their overuse of tight long lens closeups. And as the film is not sliced and diced, one is allowed time to really soak in the images. This is particularly noticeable in several songs, with the singers spread across the screen, all played out in a single shot and you don’t miss not having a cut within it. The only exception to this approach was a sequence celebrating New York City done by a famous cameraman of the time, Weegee. These were quick cuts done with an image in each panel as in a triptych in the manner that would become briefly popular after a version of the technique was later used in the World’s Fair film A PLACE TO STAND (1967).
WINDJAMMER may actually have been the most popular of the films shot in three panel processes, getting international bookings as late as 1968. And, aside from the dramatic Cinerama films, it was the one most likely to have a life beyond roadshow engagements. In response to requests for it, Pacific Theaters, which got the rights to the film when it bought Cinerama, Inc., considered a trial revival in the early Seventies, it might have been the first three panel film to play the Cinerama Dome, but there were technical complications. Instead, they booked a run using only the center panel at the Dome and the audience nearly rioted. However, there was interest in a 35mm anamorphic release in Europe and so Linwood Dunn, ASC generated an internegative for this by rear projecting a CineMiracle print using three Cinerama projectors. (Dunn had done the 65mm internegative of THIS IS CINERAMA; there is some debate about the chronology of this vs. WINDJAMMER, also the method he used. He told me personally that he had he had used rear projection for the TIC conversation but other sources claim he did that on an optical printer. However, prints were used in that instance as well.) A badly faded print from this internegative in the archives of the Swedish Film Institute became the source of this “reconstruction” supervised by David “Cinerama” Strohmaier.
The print was telecined and color corrected and cleaned up as much as possible by Dave and Greg Kimble. The seven track stereo master had been preserved in the late Nineties and had to be slowed down and pitch corrected to properly sync with the picture, which had been shot at Cinerama’s 26 fps but had been transferred at 24 fps. (This has been done for the tracks used for contemporary screenings of TIC.) They were able to get the 35mm prologue, which the Swedish Institute print didn’t have, from a collector, and the venerable Martin Hart of widescreenmuseum.com reconstructed credits that were missing. (This is a simplified condensation of a process that took an amazing six months!) The goal at this point is to ultimately release the film on Blu-Ray DVD in Dave and Greg’s patented “Smilebox” format, which recreates the effect of seeing these films on a deep curved screen, with a 5.1 stereo track, but…
The Dome presentation used an HD version which has also been successfully shown in Oslo and Copenhagen. A 2K projector was used, and given the source material, looked extremely good on the Dome’s huge screen. Jeanne and George Roper Performing Arts Center attended, including many from out-of-town and out-of-the US, quite a turnout for a screening advertised entirely by word-of-mouth! A digital cinema version is being made available for revival houses and other interested venues, meaning, after 52 years WINDJAMMER may finally sail across a screen in my hometown of Lexington, KY!
Why do some of you guys insist on referencing Rivest? It would appear you Rivest supporters have been hypnotized by the sheer quantity of information in his work and are oblivious to issues of quality. Haven’t enough people pointed out how flawed, plagiaristic and unreliable a resource it is? I mean, even Chuck, of all people, has pointed out on another page how unreliable Rivest’s work can be. How ironic is that??!!
I guess if you are going to continue to quote Rivest, or anyone for that matter, may I suggest at least showing readers the courtesy of citing the source in your comment instead of writing generic crap like “here’s what I found…” or “from what I’ve read….”
In my JAWS anniversary article posted a couple of months ago, I have a reference to an Alexandria Mall Cinema I & II. If this twin evolved into the sixplex being described above then it opened a lot sooner than the ‘80s as claimed in the intro.
CWalczak: Where did you get the GCC and mid-80s opening claim? Was that published somewhere, or was that guesswork? Or do you believe this is an entirely different theater than the one mentioned in my JAWS list?
Chief Jensen, I’m shocked you didn’t quote the Rivest material as you often do! :–)
It’s a good thing, Chief, you didn’t quote Rivest, in this case, as he has the theater name misspelled as Trylon and cites an erroneous 1975 closing date. It would appear the guy who wrote and submitted the intro write-up referenced Rivest, as so many CT contributors, unfortunately, have a habit of doing.
Now that the theater name has been corrected/updated, can we fix the closing date detail?
A triplex in the late-1970s? Really, Chuck? Didn’t I just state that a couple of comments ago?
<<< Trylon Theatre, Also known as Tryon Theatre>>>
Trylon? Any chance that’s a typo? I also suspect this theater closed later than 1975.
This was a triplex by the timeframe described in the intro write-up. Its location may have been in Gretna.
Chuck…I can understand how you were misled, but the fact is the drive-in you looked up on drive-ins.com is different than the one Rogers submitted. Rogers' submission opened in 1969 and was located on Reidville Circle off I-26, whereas the one you described was built in the 1940s, was located on U.S. 29 Greenville Highway and had previously operated as the Scenic Drive-In.
Didn’t “The Other Side Of Midnight” get released in 1977? Perhaps you meant “The Other Side Of The Mountain”?
Opened in 1985??? That sounds like typically questionable Rivest data.
I don’t have an exact opening date, but I do have data from 1977 indicating it was operating then (as a three-screener). So, it opened at least eight years before the 1985 claim. (I wonder if Rivest’s 1985 claim is actually a typo for 1975?)
<<< Highway 99, Woodland, CA >>>
Highway 99 does not run through Woodland.
The name Circle South 29 Drive-In is an unnecessary blending of two different theater names. Circle Drive-In is the correct name (as Mike Rogers originally submitted) of the theater for which this page was created. The South 29 Drive-In is a different theater.
By the way, the Circle Drive-In opened on June 27, 1969. Debut attraction was a Paul Newman double feature of “Cool Hand Luke” and “Harper.”
Source: Spartanburg Herald-Journal, various 1969 and 1970 issues.
Don’t encourage him, Chief. :–)
Is proof-reading a lost art?
Isn’t this, like, the fourth duplicate entry you’ve created in the last few weeks?
Was this the Budco Vineland Twin during the 1970s? I ask because I notice the intro mentions a record run of “Jaws,” yet in my JAWS retrospective article I cite the Vineland booking as being at a “Vineland Twin” rather than a “Demarco Cinemas.” Is Demarco a later name, or is this a different theater?
<<< *I wonder if the GREEN BERETS had a world premiere at a Columbus theatre since it was filmed at Fort Benning. * >>>
I believe the world premiere of “The Green Berets” was held on July 4, 1968, at the Fox in Atlanta.
IA: Why do you believe Buena Vista was never equipped with 70mm projection capability? During what timeframe did you work there? Are you familiar with the theater’s entire history? And why do you list (in the comment above) that El Dorado was equipped with a Dolby CP100 when they opened in 1967 (they got the CP100 in 1979)?
IA, please email me if you’d prefer to discuss in private rather than clutter up this page with a bunch of back-and-forth chatter.
<<< The text must have been edited by a moderator after Michael Coate’s comment was posted. >>>
Joe, I copied-and-pasted one of your intro sentences for context when I made my posting of Oct. 5, 2009, so if it’s true that a moderator edited your intro, then it would mean they also edited my comment. Can a moderator explain this?
The CT staff really ought not make revisions to the introductory write-ups without making a note of such revisions. A date and time stamp for revisions would be ideal.
Regardless of whatever editorial monkey business has taken place, it would appear that I was mistaken about Buena Vista being equipped for 70mm upon its construction and grand opening. I’m still under the impression, though, that it had 70mm capability later on in its life despite claims by IA to the contrary.
<<< Many, many big pictures played here exclusive. “Sound Of Music” for almost a year. >>>
Yep, 45 weeks to be exact. And I imagine that’s the all-time record for Tucson. The 39-week run of the original “Star Wars” at El Dorado is probably number two.
<<< One area local recalled that this was the theater to see “Star Wars” during its initial run. >>>
This is NOT the theater in which “Star Wars” played during its original 1977 release. The first-run Nashville market bookings were at Cinema 4 North (27 weeks), Cinema 4 South (36 weeks), and Hermitage 4 (8 weeks).
<<< Opened Febuary 6, 1973 by Mid-States Theaters with 5 screens? >>>
Northgate opened as a three-screener as mentioned in the intro write-up. The expansion to five screens took place in 1974.
The broadcast premiere dates given in raysson’s July 9 post are not correct. The “Empire” premiere American broadcast was held on November 22, 1987. “Jedi” was first shown on American network TV in March of 1989.
(And before anyone goofs up the date of the network premiere broadcast of the original “Star Wars,” I may as well cite it now as February of 1984.)