Cinematic Firsts: The First 3D Film - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Cinematic Firsts: The First 3D Film

Don't need money, don't need fame...
As Huey Lewis and the News would later tell you, the power of love is a curious thing. Not only can it make one man weep and another man sing, it can also give you blinding headaches. That is if you're viewing the first ever 3D feature film which happens to have also been titled The Power of Love.

Filmed and released in 1922, The Power of Love received its premiere on September 27th that year at the Ambassador Hotel Theater in Los Angeles. The silent drama, which is now lost with no prints known to be in existence, utilised the red-and-green anaglyph system for the 3D experience. If you have yourself a pair of those cheap red-and-green 3D glasses then the anaglyph example image below will 'magically' appear to pop-out from the screen in crude brain-trickery 3D glory...
The Power of Love was shot using the two-camera, two-projector Fairall-Elder stereoscopic format developed by the film's director Harry K. Fairall and his business partner Robert F. Elder. Despite creating a lot of positive buzz after its premiere, no-one seemed interested in exhibiting the film in 3D and it was only screened one other time in this version for exhibitors and press in New York City. Because of its failure to find an audience and turn a profit, The Power of Love became the only film released in Fairall-Elder stereoscopic format.
The plot of The Power of Love saw Don Almeda promise his daughter Maria to Don Alvarez because of his financial trouble. Maria does not love Don Alvarez and falls in love with Terry O'Neal. He is a stranger who has been wounded by robbers associated with Alvarez and later he takes Alvarez's place at a masquerade ball. Alvarez robs an old padre of some pearls and stabs him with O'Neal's knife and accuses O'Neal of the murder. Alvarez tries to shoot him, but wounds Maria instead, because she has thrown herself in front of him. Maria recovers and after proving that Alvarez is a thief and a killer, marries O'Neal.

The Power of Love also gave the audience the option of viewing one of two different endings to the film by looking through only the red or green lens of the spectacles (although, of course, this would only be in 2D), depending on whether the viewer wanted to see a happy or tragic ending. Which is quite a cool example of the use of blink-o-scope.

Although the 3D version of the film was only viewed by a very limited amount of people, in July 1923 The Power of Love was acquired by the Selznick Distributing Corporation and widely distributed in 2D until the title Forbidden Lover. The still image at the top of the page is from Forbidden Lover, but sadly the 2D print is also missing and considered a lost film.

The red-and-green stereoscopic 3D effect would make a few cinematic comebacks over the years, most notably in the 1950s when a range of b-movies utilised the gimmick. The 1980s then saw the similar polarization 3D effect gain some traction with the likes of Jaws 3-D arriving in cinemas. And, of course, the last 15 years have seen most big-budget Hollywood productions opening in both 2D and 3D versions to the point that it's become almost expected by cinema-goers. But the '3D experience' began almost 100 years ago with The Power of Love. It's a shame we'll never likely know how headache inducing this cinematic first was.

View all our Cinematic Firsts articles here.

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