Part 1

Daniel L. Symmes


NOTE: This article is dynamic in that it will change over time as new or different information is found.
First published 13OCT06 - current revision 19FEB09

(Images from this article can be found at the bottom of this page)

In the summer of 2006, my good friend Jeff Joseph (www.sabucat.com) called to tell me he, with another friend (film researcher Jack Theakston), had located a one reel print of a VERY old 3D film.

The following is the technical detail of the restoration of this film and the discovery of what the film really is.

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On 24DEC1922, color film pioneer William van Doren Kelley (Prizma, Inc.), inventor of the Prizma two-color process, exhibited a 3D short using his color process to produce the anaglyph. It was well reviewed and played at NY’s Rialto Theater.

The Rialto four years earlier.


Depending on who you talk to, this film has historical significance as either the second or third theatrical exhibition of 3D in history. I believe it to be the FIRST. It is also believed there were anaglyph 3D films exhibited prior to 1922. The definition of what qualifies as “first” needs better defining. Most certainly there were prior experiments and private demonstrations.

The first confirmed 3D film exhibition to an audience in a commercial theater (versus a lab/private demonstration) was on 10JUN1915. Long believed to be a myth, the demonstration was produced by the legendary Edwin S. Porter and William E. Waddell and was seen at the Astor Theatre in NYC. As this was a demonstration (not advertised and likely no charge for admission), there apparently was no title, per se. A review claims it was composed of three reels, one of exteriors and the balance interiors, especially on sets of at least one film Porter was directing at that time, JIM THE PENMAN. The reviewer also described technical malfunctions.

The Porter demo is covered in another article: PORTER - 14MAR08

The next confirmed exhibition is THE POWER OF LOVE (POL), apparently shown publicly once in Los Angeles, 27SEP1922, and in private demonstrations in LA prior, and in NY in subsequent weeks. I regard LA as a demo screening since it wasn't advertised and apparently was an invited audience of "industry" people. What's remarkable about this is that it was a feature with an accompanying short! It also apparently was never seen publicly in 3D again.

THE POWER OF LOVE is covered here: POL - 12NOV06

By 1922, there were many people working on inventing the practical color film process. Practical is the key word, as a truly practical AND visually acceptable, full color process wasn't seen in a feature film until 1935 (BECKY SHARP, Technicolor).

Many of the patents for color processes would never work, were never developed, and/or weren’t practical. And many of the workable patents literally stole from other patents. So working through all this isn’t for the faint at heart.

The Prizma color process was the brainchild of William van Doren Kelley (1876-1934).

As most color processes have two basic aspects, camera and lab, we first look at the latter.

Projection prints of Prizma and some other color processes of the time were on duplitized film stock (emulsion on both sides of the film). The two-color Prizma process put a red-orange image on one side of the film, and a blue-green image on the other side.

Kelley anticipated two-color systems being capable of anaglyph imagery as early as the filing of a color process patent in 1916 (meaning he knew of this as early as 1915). I find it interesting he apparently did nothing about this for seven years.

He discovered this “side effect” because his color camera shot two, successive frames behind a rotating colored filter wheel, which produced "time" parallax which is seen in the final product as "fringes" on fast moving subjects. The fringes happened to be red and green. Such parallax was a nuisance to early color systems, and very visible in many, including the first successful color process, Kinemacolor.

Kelley would have not only been aware of POWER OF LOVE, but would have known of yet another stereoscopic system that also opened in New York only days after his first short opened. The Teleview process will be subject of another chapter.

It is my belief that Kelley caught on to the interest in 3D from one or both of the other two parties and that he decided to quickly get SOMETHING on the screen for the world to see.

What isn’t known is who the cameraman was for the first short. In a 1977 interview, William T. Crespinel (9JUL1890 - 19JUN1987), made no mention of MOVIES OF THE FUTURE. Crespinel was Kelley's primary cameraman for Prizma. Matter of fact, Crespinel mentioned Washington, D.C. filming, but with Ives-Leventhal, for the subsequent PLASTIGRAMS/STEREOSCOPIKS shorts of 1924. He also was in Italy on a project at least through NOV1922.  It's likely we will never know.

In any case, Kelley apparently modified an existing Prizma color camera and had someone shoot some footage in and around New York City.

Crespinel said a Prizma short (color, not 3D) shot at Arlington Cemetery (ca. 11NOV1921) was on the screen in NY (Rialto Theatre) “in 24 hours.” So shooting the 3D film could have been very quick, and getting it booked into the Rivoli could have been a simple phone call, since Kelley's color shorts had been on the Broadway screens from the first, OUR NAVY, in 1917.

The actual title of this first 3D short is open to discussion, but all written references say it was MOVIES OF THE FUTURE. More on this in a moment.

MOVIES OF THE FUTURE appears to be the first, commercially exhibited 3D film in history.

Kelley subsequently produced a second short, which is the film we have in hand. Its title is now easier to document. The film starts with KELLEY’S PLASTICON PICTURES. After introductory footage, the live action starts with a title card: THRU’ THE TREES WASHINGTON, D.C.

I feel the KELLEY’S PLASTICON PICTURES card was simply a production credit (such as FILMED IN CINEMASCOPE), with the actual title being the subject that followed.

I also believe Kelley could have derived his process name PLASTICON from a depth illusion technique called KINOPLASTIKON, which was very popular at the Scala Theatre in London in 1913-1914.

So, apparently the two Kelley 3D films are MOVIES OF THE FUTURE and THRU’ THE TREES WASHINGTON, D.C.

This is the 2nd short, and the print has odd aspects I will address as we go along.

While working on a previous 3D restoration, THE STEWARDESSES, I decided to give my restoration efforts a name: 20/20 PROCESS™. That came from my seeing my work as hindsight: I can see what is wrong with the original, and can correct it with today’s understanding and technologies.

While I can correct for many problems, I cannot change the amount of 3D in a given shot. That is determined by the distance between the two, 3D camera lenses (the interaxial distance, to be technical). The wider the distance between the lenses, the greater the 3D. Many of today’s 3D films have too much 3D (parallax), from too wide an interaxial.

Another aspect of 20/20 is to extract the left and right eye camera views from the single anaglyph (blue/red) image. This is a difficult process traditionally, but made much more effective with 20/20.

Part of this film was most certainly shot by Crespinel, who had shot a key event in Prizma at Arlington Cemetery, Washington, D.C., at the end of 1921 (as mentioned), along with many other Prizma films.

I have no confirmed theatrical playdate for this 2nd short though it was shown at a technical convention outside Cambridge, MA (Swampscott to be exact) on 27JUN1923, and at a Society of Motion Picture Engineers (now SMPTE) meeting in OCT1923 (both given by Kelley personally).

Film researcher Jack Theakston tells the story of how and where this print was found:

“Around February (‘06), when Jeff Joseph, Bob Furmanek, Dan Symmes and I were on the quest for lost 3-D films, I was busy doing research on a number of rolls of film in various color systems that had been discovered and subsequently ended up on a DVD later on.

“During a search of the usenet for the name of a book that had some information I needed about KelleyColor, I found mention by Jim Harwood of the Library of Congress having several 3D films. According to Harwood, a 3D film by Kelley was there at some point, complete with glasses. He said a black and white copy had been made (!?!).

“Flabbergasted, and obviously interested in finding out more, I contacted a gentleman who was (at the time) my contact at Library of Congress who was able to get me information of their holdings. He confirmed that a) Yes, PLASTICON was at LOC and that b) it was listed as having a pair of glasses (as Harwood said) and notes.

“I relayed this information to Jeff Joseph who then went through his contacts at the LOC to see if there was interest in restoring this title. He received a positive answer and soon enough the print was sent to YCM.”

The one reel print was sent to YCM Laboratories in Burbank, CA, where restoration expert Richard Dayton examined the film with our eager participation.

The nitrate print had obviously been projected a lot. There was about four feet where the nitrate had decomposed considerably.

The short is comprised of head titles and intertitles on B&W stock (1922 date code) with 3D live action scenes of Washington D.C. and New York City.

One of my primary curiosities is HOW a 3D film is made, i.e., the camera configuration.

Several two-color cameras of the time featured a single lens, behind which was a beam splitter mirror (or prism). The single beam of light would go through the mirror to one film, and reflect off the mirror to the second film. Red and green (sometimes cyan) filters would be in front of each film gate to produce the requisite color separations. One image would be reversed, and therefore compatible with contact printing.

With one lens, such cameras couldn’t be used for 3D work. But if two conventional cameras were put together using a mirror on one camera, contact printing would be fine.

But Kelley's Prizma cameras, at least into 1922, were single lens, using a rotating color wheel with successive (sequential) exposures to create color separations. This is not readily adaptable to 3D.

For shooting PLASTICON, Kelley specified: “Each lens is provided with a prism so that one lens sees about 1 3/8” to the right of center, while the other sees the same distance to the left. The same camera that is used for color pictures was utilized by making a new mounting for the prisms and lenses interchangeable with the color lenses. Two exposures are made simultaneously.”

Two lenses, "The same camera that is used for color pictures..." What I don’t know yet is if the camera was single film (two images side by side) or dual film (two films going through one camera body). As the print images are quite grainy, side by side “subframes” optically blown up is possible.

Focal length is unknown, but 50 mm would be a good assumption. The camera aperture width in those days was .906” (compared with .825” today), so the 50 mm lens would look a bit “wider.” If the images were smaller subframes, 50 mm wouldn’t be an appropriate focal length.

In my earlier research, I considered they would have used a dual camera configuration, as I had put the twin lens idea out of my mind since, by 1922, it was well known that color needed to be shot through a single lens to prevent parallax, and I assumed Kelley would have avoided parallax. Apparently he didn’t and Prizma likely had parallax. Likely, as I haven’t seen contemporaneous Prizma films. But my film researcher friend David Pierce says: ”I’ve seen the 1922 British Prizma feature, THE GLORIOUS ADVENTURE, and it is clear that parts of the film have fringing, and other sections have no fringing.”

This would be consistent with an adjustable lens system, and a requsite small lens separation. Properly staged scenes could be virtually fringe-free. Creative use of depth of field would also cover fringing. Yet...I doubt this is quite right.

Not the smoking gun, but pretty close.

I’ll take the 3D interaxial to be exactly what Kelley said: 1 3/8” x 2 = 2 3/4” which is reasonable based on studying the film. We also don’t currently know the distance between the basic lenses on this mysterious Prizma camera. So I will take the maximum interaxial (including the basic interaxial) as 2 3/4” for now.

Tellingly, in OCT23, Kelley said “This type of camera, however, does not permit photographing close-ups. This (sic) separation of the lenses is too great.” Interesting, and true, especially for a non-converging system. He could have shot close-ups had they removed the prisms. I find it odd they didn’t do so.

Not shooting for color, colored filters were not needed for photography (color separation not apparently considered), the left and right views were exposed on conventional B&W film (ortho or pan).

Again, the Prizma print film started out as Kodak duplitized B&W positive (type 1509). Duplitized means there is an emulsion on both sides of the film. This film type dates back to the 1910’s, but by the early 1920’s was a predominant method to produce color film prints.

For Prizma color, two pictures were shot, one through a red filter, the other through a green or possibly “blue-green” (cyan) filter. This produces two, color separations (with “color values” as they said at the time).

The red-filtered image was printed on one side of the duplitized film. The cyan-filtered image was printed on the opposite side. The film was developed and one side was coated with a varnish (typically Zapolin). The film was then run through a dye bath for a red-orange toning (versus tinting) of the blue-green image. The varnish protected the other side of the film from the dye. The varnish was removed and applied to the toned side. The remaining side was then toned cyan.

Kelley had two years earlier patented a technique that might have been used at the time. Instead of using a varnish (or other “resist”), the film would be toned, one side at a time, by virtually floating the film on the surface of the dye, using the liquid’s surface tension to keep the upper side dry. Amazing considering the era. This method was to be in use well into the late 1940's.

The result was a color image that worked fairly well, so the reviews tell. Several such two-color systems were seen in the 1920’s and 1930’s, such as Harriscolor, Multicolor, Cinecolor and the most famous, two-color Technicolor.

For 3D, the process was not for the production of color, though as we now know, it could have been BOTH color and 3D! Instead of printing color separations on either side of the film, a left eye view is printed on one side, a right eye view on the other, and after appropriate toning, an anaglyph. Simple.

Kelley wasn’t the first to realize this. Some sources indicate such a process might have been tested perhaps thirteen years earlier, though there is currently no evidence to support any exhibitions. I am convinced anaglyph film experiments were produced prior to 1922, but not commercially exhibited to the public (here’s that definition thing again).

I have to pause for a moment and relate the fact I was really taken up not only with the historical significance of this film. When I held it, and examined it on an editing bench, I realized this film was made only 27 years into the history of motion pictures, with reference to 1895 (Lumiére). I felt very privileged. And to be “chosen” to restore it…a dream come true. A mighty big dream, since I would have been happy simply SEEING it. But to TOUCH it?

The Library of Congress required a film duplicate of the original to be made before any other restoration effort.

Richard Dayton (YCM) first cleaned up the nitrate damage. Such deterioration, I am told, can’t be stopped or reversed. It can be slowed down. He also repaired splices and perforation damage permitting the delicate print to go through the optical printer. He first made a new negative, then attempted to produce color separations. I say attempted, as this procedure can’t adequately deal with the unique color dyes of such color processes.

Anaglyph films weren’t meant to be “taken apart,” nor do they copy well.

With film “backups,” the original print was then moved to International Video Conversions (IVC, www.ivchd.com) in Burbank. They are one of (if not THE) leading HD labs and general manager Scott Call has been more than up to the many challenges we’ve brought his way—he almost dares us to bring him impossible problems. Almost.

Colorist Mary Kay Miller rolled her eyes at this one, as it was not nearly as easy as other 3D restorations we've done.

From the beginning, the film’s condition gave the DataCine (and Mary, and myself) heartburn.

The DataCine is almost a sproketless design. There is ONE wheel needed to keep track of the position of the film so scene boundaries can be marked.

This print at first kept slipping (jumping) by one or more perforations, so Mary would have to stop, adjust the film, back up, and pick up the process. This likely due to print splices and shrinkage.

As time went on, we found there were two particular places, one near the head, one near the tail, which would reliably jump out by less than one perforation. Apparently the frame lines changed on some cuts, caused by misaligned camera aperture (still common then) or printing error.

Because of this, we subjected the print to many more journeys through the DataCine than any of us wanted and in fact original splices broke three times. Fortunately, no picture was lost. But it was a scary sound when it occurred.

I also made sure we captured not only the image, but the frame lines and a little of the perfs so the technically-inclined can in later years make observations.

We needed to make:

  1. Archival Master – representing the print as it is, though with improved color quality.

  2. Separated Left and Right masters.

As the film is composed of color and B&W stocks spliced together, and observing the trouble of the film getting through a run without messing up, and being concerned about running the print though the system more than necessary, I decided it was best to lay all the B&W segments down in one pass as just B&W (no color corrections) which went rather easily.

We then used a system setup I developed on a previous restoration to produce the left and right separations.

Separations should (in theory) be easier to obtain from such a color system as Prizma, but I found the dyes, while perhaps less-degraded than “color coupler” film, to also be spectrally impure. Thus, we had the same problems of getting “clean” separations—that is, with the least amount of cross-talk (ghosting).

On this print, I found the dye, especially the cyan, to vary considerably in some shots. Sometimes it’s a very good cyan, other times it was simply blue. And this variation can be seen across a single frame. At first I thought maybe they tried to do a color anaglyph. But it apparently is just imperfections of the printing process and/or aging.

While I am not a film dye specialist, I will say I believe the dyes to be very much the same as they were in 1923. Why? When you make a two-color anaglyph print well, the overall impression of the image is that it is B&W with cyan and red “fringes” (misregistration). If the image is “colored” or tinted looking, then either one image was exposed differently or it was printed wrong, or at least now, the dyes have changed.

The Prizma sections of the Washington scenes in this print generally have good to very good gray scale. I believe this can only be if the cyan and red-orange dyes are chromatically balanced.

A significant oddity is that there are two segments on a very different-looking film stock. From a distance one can think it is color negative film—with the orange base look. Being a positive image, one now thinks interpositive. This specimen is reddish-brown.

One suggestion was that it is Kodachrome (not like the current version) which was coincidently reintroduced in 1922. It too was duplitized, color-toned film. And this stock is Kodak (1922).

However, as Kodachrome was in direct competition with Prizma, I cannot see Kelley putting it into his “demo” film.

In reviewing his patents (he had MANY), Kelley was very aware of developments in his industry (pun unintended) and devised many methods of producing color films and other effects. One process was described as having a brown tint to the film base, but I don’t think that’s it.

Interestingly, as these odd segments seem to have different dyes, we could get better separations, though image definition wasn’t as good as Prizma footage.

The short is composed of two sections: the first part is of Washington, D.C. exteriors. The date code for this footage is 1923. The second part is of New York, possibly from Kelley’s first short—supported by 1922 date codes. The NY footage seems to have been tacked on as there are no intertitles, and the visual quality is very different (inferior).

The Washington segments were shot by William T. Crespinel, who apparently did other 3D work in those days, though normally uncredited. He was 32 at the time. In 1921 he was the cameraman on the first Prizma feature, THE GLORIOUS ADVENTURE.

In the early 1930’s Crespinel was at Multicolor, which morphed into Cinecolor (another two-color process based on the Kelley patents) and was a Cinecolor consultant on numerous films. He worked with Alan M. Gundlefinger, who I met in the late 1970’s.

I corresponded with Crespinel in 1974, but could never arrange to interview him (he died in 1987). One tended to assume there’s always next week. He had also worked with Jacob Leventhal (? - 1953), a noted 3D practitioner in those days. In response to my request to interview him, he replied “What do you want to interview me for? All we did was put some prisms on the camera.”

Ah the stories he could have told.

The Washington (Crespinel) scenes are well composed for “stereo,” with trees used for framing, etc. My impression is that Crespinel was making stereoscopic still shots as, for movies, the scenes have little moving.

The NY footage has THE gimmick shot of the film – a hotdog on the end of a 20’ pole sticks right into the lens. Extreme 3D, and hard on the eyes. Made worse with one eye focused, one not focused the same. This tells me the focus of the two lenses on their camera wasn’t always coupled.

On two frames from the roller coaster scene, one can with a lot of squinting just make out writing on a wall:


Seems likely it was shot at NY's Coney Island LUNA PARK, and Pryor did "time" at Coney and other resort locals at that time.

Without seeing the first film I cannot be sure, but it seems this one has the world’s first 3D film animation, as a graphic illustrating 3D at the head of the film. As this section is dated 1922, it is very possible it was in the first film as well.

A segment with a picture of Lincoln is actually a “blinky,” where you see a portrait of Abrham Lincoln with one eye, and a portrait of George Washington with the other. This too could have been in the first film (also dated 1922). So degraded was this effect on the original print, we didn’t notice it at first. After a lot of arguing with it, we managed to bring Washington back to life.

A long scene of a girl dancing on a stage caught our attention because of a metronome-like device at the bottom of the frame. As it turns out, J. F. Leventhal patented that very device in 1922 and therefore may well have been around during the filming of that scene. This raises the distinct possibility that Leventhal was involved in making this short. Not confirmed, but very interesting.

Having given all the facts and many theories consideration with a lot of collateral study of that time, I feel this print is not a theatrical copy. The first red flags are the excessive chemical stains and uneven toning. Kelley would not want to show the public something this flawed. I don’t believe these kinds of stains are from storage or handling.

Next, the NY segments seem slapped on. No titles, inferior quality. Again, doesn’t seem in keeping with the quality of the head of the show (nice titles, pro qualities).

Lastly, the film finishes with a short THE END title. Oddly, this is on DuPont-Pathe tinted stock (#6 - yellow). Totally inconsistent with the head.

I have found no reference to either film or other PLASTICON shorts ever, anywhere. I tend to believe the NY playdate was it, theatrically. So maybe one print was for the playdate, and one or two at most for “other purposes” means this film is extremely VALUABLE (not meaning money). It is beyond “rare.” It’s likely unique.

Overall, I think the film is very good. Simple, and it works pretty well. Seen in 1922 by people not having previously seen 3D, you could expect a positive reaction. I find it amazing that this seminal venture into stereoscopic moving pictures works as well as it does.

Kelley led the way, and was a likely reason for F. E. Ives and J. F. Leventhal banding together to put PLASTIGRAMS on the Rivoli screen on 3FEB1924.

In 1926, Leventhal wrote that the up front costs of the viewing glasses (per his experience with PLASTIGRAMS) becomes a significant issue, particularly for a short film.

I suspect Kelley quickly found this out, and turned his attention to “serious” pursuits.

(NOTE: The images used to illustrate this article (coming up below) are from various stages of the restoration and in most cases are not the final product.)



I now have found what I feel is the smoking gun.

What follows does change a few observations from the foregoing, but I left that dissertation intact so as to illustrate the train of thought.

Crespinel’s son, William A. Crespinel, interviewed his father in 1977, which was published in FILM HISTORY (vol.12, part 1).

The interview provides pretty good detail where one needs it, but is only human to be less accurate at times.

According to Crespinel:

“Occasionally, I would play cards with Max Fleischer and his staff. You remember him for his ‘Out of the Inkwell’ and ‘Popeye’ cartoons. Among the players was Jack Leventhal, a friend of the Fleischer family. Jack had just invented the ‘bouncing ball’ idea and Max made a singing cartoon using the ball idea. Audiences loved the novelty.

“One day Jack told me he had an idea. He planned to make 3D films based on the anaglyph principle of viewing red and blue selectively coloured stereoscopic pictures through complementary filters. I accepted Jack’s invitation to join him in the experiment.”

Q: What problems did you face?

“There were two: a twin-lens motion picture camera and a means of obtaining the coloured prints. Our first took us to visit Frederick E. Ives in Philadelphia, a scientist and pioneer in photography. Yes, he could help. He had two cameras that, when placed side by side, the optical centres of the lenses were 2 3/4 inches apart, coinciding with the normal separation of the eyes, therefore perfect for steoscopic (sic) photography. It would be a simple matter to hinge the pair together as a unit with a combined drive shaft. Take them along and try them out, Ives advised. In regard to obtaining prints, we put this problem to William Kelley. It was not too much of a problem. He selected a pair of dyes that could be used with the viewing glasses which we obtained from Freedman Cut-Outs in New York.”

Q: Did you then go into production?

“We made a sample film in and around Washington, DC. Jack showed the film to Dr. Riesenfeld, managing director of the Rialto theatre in New York, who enjoyed the 3D effect, but said it lacked novelty. ‘Show me something like Ziegfeld has at the “Follies” and I might be interested’. Ziegfeld had a shadowgraph act, whereby the audience viewed the shadows through red and blue glasses. The novelty was the startling illusion of objects appearing to come from the screen into one’s face. In Philadelphia we took the ultimatum to F.E. Ives. Within twenty-four hours he had the answer. He supplied us with a pair of odd-shaped prisms to be placed in front of the lenses, which permitted an object to come within a certain distance of the lenses, which reacted in a similar way in the projected image.

“We made a film using the new technique: a baseball thrown into one’s face; a water hose turned full on; a spear aimed at one, etc. At a private showing for Dr. Riesenfeld, he said, in effect, ‘Great. I’ll book it’. There had never been anything like it on the screen before.”

From the foregoing interview (and some not reprinted here):

  1. Crespinel was in Italy at least through NOV1922 shooting with Prizma equipment, and may not have returned to the U.S. until early December.

  2. Crespinel didn’t mention MOVIES OF THE FUTURE nor any previous involvement with 3D.

  3. While apparently on “furlough” from Prizma, at some point from DEC1922 and perhaps APR1923, Crespinel is asked to join Jacob Leventhal (as mentioned, a card playing friend!) in producing 3D.

  4. They visit Frederick Eugene Ives (1856-1937) in Philadelphia who “gives” them two cameras that, side-by-side, have a lens separation (interaxial) of 2 3/4” (interestingly the same as specified by Kelley for the Prizma "3D" camera). Crespinel stated it was easy to bolt the cameras together with a common drive (crank?). Ives was about 67 at the time.

  5. Kelley was to make the color prints.

  6. “We made a sample film in and around Washington, D.C. Jack (Leventhal) showed it…” to Riesenfeld (Dr. Hugo Riesenfeld) who rejected it as being too tame. He wanted more thrills, such as the 3D shadowgraphs at Ziegfeld’s Follies. The main problem with this is that said Ziegfeld act wasn’t seen until 27OCT23. However, Hammond’s Teleview featured the first 3D shadowgraph, seen publicly the first time on 27DEC22. I believe he got this aspect confused. And based on the activities at Arlington Cemetery in the shots, I believe it was shot on Veteran's Day, making it 28MAY23.

The key is the shooting of a SAMPLE film of Washington. Crespinel's word, and nothing else mentioned. Period. By looking at that aspect of this print, it IS dull. Crespinel and Leventhal were looking for class, while the exhibitor wanted base thrills.

And I lastly need to add that other than the brief run at the Rivoli (and maybe Rialto), MOVIES OF THE FUTURE probably wasn’t seen again. A theatrical one-shot.

From the foregoing, and my experience, I have come to the conclusion that the print we have is what Crespinel called it: a sample (demo) film. What exactly was shown to Riesenfeld we don’t know. Was it this print?

I believe the print we have was edited by Kelley. He added the opening title, and introductory footage from MOVIES OF THE FUTURE. He also added the NY footage, and the hasty end title.

Another observation is that this print is nearly all “splices,” making it a work print in today’s vernacular.

While this print MIGHT have been the one shown to Riesenfeld, I doubt it. Likely he was only shown the new, Washington footage. It IS possible he saw this very Washington footage, before Kelley added the older footage.

I think Crespinel and Leventhal then went out and shot a bunch of “at the camera” gimmicks, which shortly thereafter became the PLATIGRAMS/STEREOSCOPIKS shorts (5 titles).

Thus, Riesenfeld can be seen as a significant influence, at the very beginning, of the “gimmick” 3D film. How about that?

These gimmicks were possible (as explained by Crespinel) because of two prisms Ives subsequently gave them allowing CONVERGENCE (today’s term) at a closer distance. I suspect simple wedge prisms which were well known at that time.

While Kelley apparently subsequently produced the prints for PLASTIGRAMS, and did file a 3D shadowgraph patent in 1924, he no longer had his name on the top. It is unknown though likely that he produced the STEREOSCOPIKS prints.

I propose the film print on hand was never a “title” to be released, and therefore wasn’t.

MOVIES OF THE FUTURE is the only PLASTICON title to have been theatrically exhibited.

According to the papers filed in NYC for exhibition license, the length of MOVIES OF THE FUTURE was 850', which would run about 14+ minutes at 16 frames per second.

And this print, likely composed of portions of MOVIES OF THE FUTURE, may be our only glimpse at the 1st 3D film in history to have been commercially exhibited.

This doesn’t answer all the questions. My single big question is why Crespinel/Leventhal didn’t use the “Prizma 3D” camera??? Until I can SEE the front of a late 1922 Prizma camera, I don’t know. But as there is considerable quality differences between the NY footage (shot with the modified Prizma camera) and the Washington footage (shot with the dual camera), I can see why.

Until somebody locates a print of one of the PLASTIGRAMS/STEREOSCOPIKS and we can read the credits (if any), history doesn’t otherwise connect Kelley nor Crespinel.

It seems to me Leventhal “adopted” the IVES-LEVENTHAL’S PLASTIGRAMS credit as Ives had some public recognition at the time. I can’t see where Ives was otherwise involved, beyond two cameras which Crespinel apparently coupled (and the "correcting" prisms). Thus, K & C get no respect.

The running time of this film hasn’t been given because that is impossible to know. While projectors in the bigger theaters were by 1922 motorized, the reference speed of 16 frames per second was commonly eschewed both by cameramen and projectionists. In those days, the running time wasn’t quoted - the length in feet, or number of reels was the norm.

While running this print at 24 fps, movement in the scenes is a “little fast,” so we would estimate about 20 fps. For the record, the current film length is 10,885 frames, though frames were lost in splice repair.

While this story busts some myths, sheds light into darkness, and allows us all to better understand early 3D history, there is more to tell, I am sure.


The 20/20 restored version was shown as dual projection, polarized 3D for the first time ever at the World 3-D Film Expo II (www.3dfilmfest.com), at the historic Grauman's Egyptian Theatre, on Hollywood Blvd., on the afternoon of 17SEP2006. The audience was simply stunned.

I am deeply indebted to the help and contributions of energy and simple time (our most important commodity) in allowing me to bring this incredibly significant “find” to the bright light of today to the following:

Jeff Joseph, Jack Theakston, Bob Furmanek, Richard Dayton,
Scott Call, Mary Kay Miller, Ray Zone, and the Library of Congress.

And now, what you all have patiently waited for (well, most of you):


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© 2009, Daniel L. Symmes
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