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The Third Dimension

Two 3D films have local links

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Two new releases from the Golden Age of 3D (1952-’55) are striking restorations. Get your red-and-blue glasses ready. For those who can’t abide 3D, they can be seen in 2D. Bonus: Both films have a real connection with the fair city of Jacksonville.

Now out in 3D, Revenge of the Creature is the second in Universal’s The Creature from the Black Lagoon: Complete Legacy Blu-ray. The set includes three original films that featured the studio’s unique, now-classic monster. They are The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Creature Walks Among Us and Revenge of the Creature.

Like the first film, Revenge of the Creature opens in the Amazon, or more precisely the backlots of California. However, the fabulous underwater footage was shot in North Florida’s Wakulla Springs. In Revenge, the Gill-man is captured and returned for study—and exhibition—at Florida’s Marineland, where much of the film was actually shot.

Naturally, the amphibious Creature escapes, popping up near the end at the Lobster House, a popular River City restaurant on the Southbank, by the Acosta Bridge. From there, he’s tracked to the beach where, lovely Lori Nelson in his arms, he meets his end.

A year later, and he’s miraculously resurrected for the series finale, The Creature Walks Among Us, in some ways the most unusual of the triad. An operation made Gill-man’s gills useless—he can’t breathe underwater! It’s tragic, like the fates of Frankenstein’s monster and the original Wolf Man.

Back to 1955’s Revenge. It’s our first big-screen look at Clint Eastwood. In a short comic scene, the future Oscar-winner is a white-frocked lab assistant with, I kid you not, a rat in his pocket. Later that year, the future Rowdy Yates costars with a talking mule in Francis in the Navy and a big spider in Tarantula. From such humble beginnings, yada yada.

The connection to Jacksonville in regard to Sangaree (1953), the other new 2D/3D release, is less solid than Revenge but just as real. The film, set after the Revolutionary War, is based on Frank G. Slaughter’s novel. He was a local physician and long-time resident here whose literary output numbered nearly 60 books, fiction and nonfiction, selling more than 60 million copies, many bestsellers with worldwide translations.

Slaughter’s other major big-screen story was Doctors’ Wives (1971) with Dyan Cannon and Gene Hackman. A graduate of Johns Hopkins Medical School, the doctor began writing in 1935 while working at Riverside Hospital in Jax; he died at 93 in 2001. He was a gracious, unassuming man whom I had the good fortune to meet at the beginning of my own career here.

Starring Latin heartthrob Fernando Lamas and his future wife Arlene Dahl, Sangaree looks gorgeous in the remarkable restoration done by 3D Film Archive folks. The costumes are authentic, and Dahl’s gorgeous red hair and striking blue eyes are stunning. Lamas, as Billy Crystal would later immortalize him, is simply mahvelous. (By the way, according to Fernando’s son Lorenzo, his dad absolutely loved Crystal’s send-up.)

External trappings and looks aside, the Sangaree script creaks badly. Lamas plays once-indentured servant Dr. Carlos Morales, who’s made executor of a huge Georgia estate as the wealthy landowner lies dying. The dead man’s daughter Nancy (Dahl) objects, but we know she’ll go for Carlos’ charm and integrity.

More bumps in the road—Martha (Patricia Medina), wife of Carlos’ best friend, wants Carlos for herself. A bubonic plague outbreak, pirates, duels and myriad bits of skullduggery.

Not quite a classic, Sangaree still has a lot of cool “firsts,” says 3-D Film Archive restorers. It was Paramount’s first 3D film, the first in Technicolor, the first based on a bestselling novel and the first with an A-list cast.

These new and improved 3D movies have never looked better.

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