The Bubble (1966)
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The Bubble (1966)

Although the current generation of film aficionados would like to believe 3-D movies is a technology that belongs to them, they would be wrong. While there is no doubt that the current ‘Real 3-D’ utilizing polarization method is most conducive not only the theatrical presentations but home viewing as well, 3-D films were quite popular in the mid-50s. Some of the older 3-D movies utilize the appropriately derided Anaglyph method that most often utilized cheap cardboard glasses with two different color cellophane lenses, quite advanced methods very similar to today’s 3-D techniques were utilized. A few of the classic 3-D movies have already been updated to moderate methods, a prime example is Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Dial M for Murder’, is an inherent enjoyment factor in appreciating how the illusion of depth was utilized back then. It was an attempt to revive 3-D in the mid-60s but it never caught on in only a few films actually made. One example of the film in the interim period between the Golden age of the 50s and the current modern techniques is ‘The Bubble’. True, it is far from being a classic of the sci-fi/horror genre but the historical significance for the discerning cinephile is burned this film, or at least his current release, a place on the shelves of your library. The method used for this film employed a single strip of film with a specially designed adapter placed on the lens that’s with the image capturing the parallax between right and left eyes. This produced an over/under dual frame. Those with 3-D setups at home this format may still be used by some cable providers. One advantage of this is that it permitted a widescreen image equivalent to Cinemascope. Marketing tag line used in promoting the film was "filmed in space vision, in four dimensional living color". Back in 1999, Rhino released a version of the film using Anaglyph and including two pairs of cardboard glasses. The release that this consideration pertains to is in the current 3-D Blu-ray form and released by Kino, UPC: 738329132224.

Mark (Michael Cole) and his pregnant wife Catherine (Deborah Walley) are taking a little trip in a small plane owned and piloted by their friend, Tony Herric (Johnny Desmond) when suddenly they encounter a turbulent storm. Tony is forced to make an emergency landing, making their way to a nearby small town. The brush with danger sent Catherine into the first stages of labor. While Mark looks for hospital so Catherine and give birth, Tony reacts to the experience by heading off to the nearest bar to get drunk. Although the town extensively looks normal, the behavior of the inhabitants is anything but. There is nothing natural about the way they or speak. Their actions are more mechanical than organic and the only thing they are able to say appears to be preprogrammed phrases set on a loop. You might think that this should be immediately noticeable to anyone experiencing such circumstances. After all, when a similar motif was used in a Twilight Zone episode, the ones caught in this conundrum realized immediately that something was terribly wrong. Mark and Catherine apparently have absolutely no deductive abilities whatsoever. When they make it to the hospital and try to elicit help from the robot-like staff, they just ignore the obvious and help themselves to what they need. I realize from first-hand experience that your wife giving birth under emergency conditions as a tendency to dominate your focus but being surrounded by people reminiscent of the Stepford wives should have made some impression. The only reaction is to just take what they need without any real effort to communicate with the automatons inhabiting the town. Most people would be quickly upset about finding themselves in such a situation but these three individuals pretty much concern themselves to their fate and go about the business. Initially they think they may have been taken to another world and decide all too quickly to make this exceptionally odd town home. There were plenty of supplies and homes to just move into, and there is no evidence that any of the townsfolk are going to complain. In an odd way this is about a safe place to raise a child, although normal socialization would be impossible.

During the exploration of the new surroundings they come upon a horrifying discovery. They find that there is a barrier, like a pane of glass preventing them from leaving. At this point I had to wonder whether a young Stephen King is a managed to see this flick. If they have helped spark his imagination guiding him to a novel with the strikingly similar theme, ‘Under the Dome’, which understandably at a significantly more complex story and unlike this film was character driven. King’s novel became the basis for successful television show about to go into its third season. The story here is stretched at only 91 minutes. Apparently there was a longer cut originally made the director, under pressure from critics in the studio re-edited the movie to improve the pacing. If this is the quickly paste version I have to wonder what the original addition was like. The removed segments were discarded and have now been lost forever.

The idea of making a strange place their home is soon shaken when the sinister side of their predicament is manifested. Suddenly, without warning, a giant hand descends from above. Apparently at random, it picks up one of the townsfolk and drags them up into the sky. They now see the barrier more like a mischievous little boy keeping a colony of blogs under jar, and on a whim pulling one out to experiment on. They now feel as though there’s some Supreme Being constantly watching them. They come to refer to this unseen deity of the sky as ‘The Keeper’. The doctor in the hospital (Kassie McMahon) has brief moments of being a lucid. During one of these times he manages to one the couple, "go to the station." Tony wanders off on his own attempting to make sense of what’s going on. He comes upon a cave on the outskirts of town and decides to explore it. He somehow triggers some sort of device that momentarily transports him to what he can only perceive as his death. Admittedly, 3-D effects used here are fairly close to contemporary standards. Understandably shocked by the experience, Tony keeps repeating "I gotta wake up, I gotta wake up."

Mark and Catherine wind up in the cave where Mark decides to tunnel out. And amazingly brief time, Mark fashions a tunnel of what appears to be incredibly well-designed specifications.

There is no getting around the fact that the film is a mess. It’s attempt to resurrect a type of movie beloved in the 50s but just didn’t seem to translate as well when moved up a decade in time. Perhaps watching something like this on a Saturday afternoon as kids allows us permission to be more forgiving than adults were seeing many more films are far better quality. I’ve always been able to attempt to put myself back in the mindset of my younger self as I sat in the theater or Saturday matinee. After watching this movie with such a frame of mind I come to the realization that my friends and I would be doing a lot of laughing. That’s okay, the purpose of the film like this is to be entertaining and it is, just not in quite the way the filmmaker expected. I mentioned previously that this movie does have some historical significance was cinematic perspectives. The writer/director Arch Oboler, was a pioneer in 3-D cinema. His 1952, horror flick ‘Bwana Devil’ was also not considered a great film that is significant as the first 3-D feature film that ushered in the Golden age of the format. ‘The Bubble’ was the first to use this particular 3-D format described earlier. It does come across fairly well when translated to the modern 3-D presentation. Unlike many directors attempting 3-D today, Mr. Oboler was able to minimize the gimmicky shots of trusting objects out of the plane of the screen. He does have a few examples of this but they do seem to work better in context of the plot. One example is flying always building so that it seems to trust upward to the audience. Another is when Catherine extends arms to receive a child. The gimmick quotient of the shot is greatly lessened by the familiar sight of a mother wanted to hold the new child.

Audience members who remember the plastic Polaroid glasses used to watch films like this will receive a trip down memory lane with this film. It also reinforces something I commonly note with movies from our youth; they want the greatest but they were fun to watch and Spock the lifelong love of film.

Posted 01/07/2015

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