The Bubble (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
November 24, 2014 by Dennis Amith
“The Bubble” looks and feels like a longer “Twilight Zone” episode with its cheesy moments and acting, but cinematically, the film does have a place in history of being a Space Vision 3-D film that proved its effectiveness back in 1966 and would inspire other films to be shot in Space Vision years later. If you love classic sci-fi films, then “The Bubble” is for you!
TITLE: The Bubble
FILM RELEASE: 1966
DURATION: 91 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:50:1 Original Aspect Ratio, Color Tinted, English DTS-HD Master Audio
COMPANY: Kino Lorber
Release Date: November 18, 2014
Written and Directed by Arch Oboler
Produced by Arch Oboler
Associate Producer: Marvin J. Chomsky
Music by Paul Sawtell, Bert Shefter
Cinematography by Charles F. Wheeler
Editing by Igo Kantor
Art Decoration by Marvin J. Chomsky
Michael Cole as Mark
Deborah Walley as Catherine
Johnny Desmond as Tony Herric
Kassie McMahon as Doctor
Virginia Gregg as Ticket Cashier
Barbara Eiler as Talent
THE BUBBLE is the “”eerie and enjoyable”” (Los Angeles Times) science-fiction spine-tingler that shocked audiences and revolutionized the cinematic world of 3-D! The eye-popping thrills and chills begin when a plane carrying pregnant Catherine (Deborah Walley) and her husband Mark (Michael Cole) is forced to land in a mysterious remote town. The townspeople are quite strange, indeed: they repeat certain phrases and movements ceaselessly and stagger through the streets like brain-dead automatons. Then there is an even more terrifying discovery – the zombie inhabitants live under an impenetrable dome, trapped like insects in a jar. Can Catherine, Mark and their newborn baby escape The Bubble, or will they become mindless drones trapped in a human zoo?
THE BUBBLE introduced the ground-breaking Space-Vision 3-D system, which pioneered a new way of both shooting and exhibiting 3-D film. These single-strip 35mm stereoscopic techniques were used in almost all major 3-D features for the next thirty years, making THE BUBBLE not only an “”amazing”” (Hollywood Reporter) sci-fi thriller, but also an important milestone in the history of cinema. Now fully restored from the 35mm negatives by the 3-D Film Archive.
The year was 1966 and it was the year that Arch Oboler’s 1966 horror sci-fi film “The Bubble” was released in theaters.
Considered revolutionary for its time, the film was the first stereoscopic motion picture filmed in 4-D Space-Vision, a process which utilized a new lens and projection system that enabled high-quality polarized widescreen projection from a single-strip of 35 mm film.
Critics were amazed how Arch Oboler was able to use the technology to make scenes float in front of the screen but it’s important to note that the original filmed that was screened was 112 minutes long but with critics writing that the film should have been edited-down, Oboler cut the film down to 91 minutes and the original footage is now considered lost.
While the film had been released on video, the picture quality was poor. That was until the rights to the film were acquired in 2009 by the 3D Film Archive and the new owners were shocked to find out that no one had spent the money to preserve the 35 mm master.
And thus a painstaking process of manually cleaning up the dirt and repairing the original film. For the HD restoration, viewers will also see more of the image as Space-Vision prints were cropped. As the single splice lines were removed and movie was cleaned up, “The Bubble” on Blu-ray, courtesy of Kino Lorber, will feature a cleaner, sharper and brighter picture. In addition, Arch Oboler’s spoken introduction from 1966-1968 plus the original opening title which was removed back in 1976, has been added back to the film.
“The Bubble” begins with Mark (portrayed by Michael Cole) and his wife Catherine (portrayed by Deborah Walley) on a plane piloted by Tony Herric (portrayed by Johnny Desmond).
The couple are frantic because Catherine started showing labor pains and there is no doctor or medical facility anywhere close to the mountain area that they are staying.
As Tony tries to communicate with air traffic control, he is unable to because of a severe storm and he has to land the plane quickly as Catherine is about to give birth.
When Tony lands the plane, they end up in an area with lightposts. A taxi comes by to pick the three up but all the driver does is repeat the same words over and over again.
Mark and Catherine are able to get a hospital and Catherine gives birth to a baby boy. But as Mark tries to talk to the doctor, his manner is unusual and he doesn’t say a word.
As Mark goes to find Tony, he finds him in a western style saloon and Tony mentions that the bartender keeps repeating the same thing over and over, so it’s “serve yourself” at the bar. Eventually, Tony meets a dancer who keeps dancing with no music playing at all.
The following morning, Mark notices the town is busy with people but the same people are doing the same routine, saying the same words and behaving unusual as if something bad has happened to them.
As Mark and Tony go to investigate, they find an entrance leading to a chair. As Tony sits down on the chair, he is immediately taken over by something and starts to behave unusual.
As Mark and Catherine leave with their baby, along with Tony and the dancer, they try to leave the town by vehicle and as they drive, they see their lights reflecting on the surface. They then realize that the location they are in, is encased by an impenetrable bubble.
With no way to escape or communicate with the outside world, both Mark and Catherine see a woman and her baby being ingested by something that comes out of top of the bubble. Are they like insects that some supernatural force are keeping captive? Why are people behaving strangely? Can Mark, Catherine and Tony escape at all?
“The Bubble” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:50:1 aspect ratio) via 2D and 3-D.
First, lets discuss the 2D presentation. If you saw a previous release of this film on video, you probably remember how bad the quality of those releases were of this film. Fortuntely, thanks to the painstaking restoration process by the 3-D Film Archive, of manually cleaning up the dirt and repairing the original film to looking like it originally did.
For the HD restoration, viewers will also see more of the image as Space-Vision prints were cropped. As the single splice lines were removed and movie was cleaned up, “The Bubble” on Blu-ray, courtesy of Kino Lorber, will feature a cleaner, sharper and brighter picture. In addition, Arch Oboler’s spoken introduction from 1966-1968 plus the original opening title which was removed back in 1976, has been added back to the film.
While the film has been restored, there was only so much work the 3-D Film Archive could do, especially when there were other means, those other means cost a fortune to do any major restoration work.
With that being said, this film does have its moment of softness but it looks so much better compared to the original video versions which were terrible. So, fans of this film will be happy to see the better clarity in the 2D version.
Now as for the 3-D version, this is how the film was meant to be seen. You can watch images float, a tray float around the bar and other situations that made people in 1966 shriek! While in today’s standards, it may not seem so significant to us but back in 19666, for audiences to see these creepy monster-like heads, hands or things floating around, I have no doubt in my mind that children and possibly adults were scared of the 3-D of this film.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“The Bubble” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Monaural. Dialogue is understandable and clear, as with the eerie score courtesy of Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter. But don’t expect too much from this soundtrack.
I didn’t notice any pops or crackle during my viewing of the film.
“The Bubble” comes with the following special features:
- Alternate Opening – View the alternate opening in 2-D or 3-D.
- Essay by Bob Furmanek – A PDF that can be read about Space-Vision and the 3-D boom of 1953.
After watching “The Bubble”, and going through the motion of putting myself in the shoes of a person watching this film in Space Vision 3-D back in 1966, I can only imagine how mesmerized I would be about 3D technology and seeing objects float thanks to a pair of 3-D glasses.
I remember when I watched a 3-D film for the very first time and I was blown away by the technology and one would think how will technology improve itself.
As 3-D films are quite banal and movies have become more about depth than floating objects that look as they are going directly to your face, watching Arch Oboler’s “The Bubble”, you can see how he was ahead of his time with the development of the technology and why movie goers and film critics went crazy for the film.
But let’s side-step away from the 3-D technology and focus on the film.
“The Bubble” is a film that reminds me of a “Twilight Zone” episode as the film follows three people trying to make an emergency landing and find themselves in a land where people are acting unusual, replaying their movements over and over and saying the same things over and over.
As the visitors – Mark, Catherine (along with her newborn baby) and their pilot Tony try to getaway from area, they find out that the area and the people living around the area are caught inside an impenetrable bubble and are desperate to get out. And to make things worse, something is snatching people within the bubble and killing them.
Can they find a way to escape the bubble?
As one can expect from this mid-’60s sci-fi horror film, it has its cheesy, maddening moments. For one, the people are acting strange and unusual and it doesn’t hit Mark and Tony late that something unusual is going on. Some of the dialogue between the characters are quite cheesy and some of the acting is quite bad. Watching it in HD, you can see how the special effects were done as the string holding the floating tray can be seen much more clearly. But still, I enjoy these cheesy sci-fi films of the past. I grew up watching them and there is something charming about these older sci-fi films.
While “The Bubble” is far from being scary, the notion of getting stuck inside a bubble or to hear actress Deborah Wally scream her lungs out after a tragedy, plus add in the eerie music and you can’t help but see why people were scared of the film.
And once again, you put yourself in the shoes of viewers back then. With the 3-D glasses and seeing a tray float or creepy monster heads coming near you, it’s the right combination of using the 3-D technology, eerie music and circumstances surrounding the characters to really spook the viewer out! And this film accomplished that.
As for “The Bubble”, the film was no doubt cleaned up as best as it could possibly can, considering the original negatives were not taken care of. And with the resources that the 3-D Film Archive had, the group had to manually clean the film as best as they can. And considering that previous video editions of “The Bubble” were not in the greatest condition, this Kino Lorber version is the definitive version of the film to own.
Not only do you get the 2-D version, but for those with 3-D enabled Blu-ray players and TV’s (or monitors), you can watch and enjoy this film as it was meant to be seen… in 3-D!
While there is an alternative opening in 2-D and 3-D, if you have a Blu-ray rom, you can read a PDF with an essay by Bob Furmanek about the restoration process and the accomplishments of Arch Oboler in creating the Space Vision 3-D (or 4-D as it was called back then).
Overall, “The Bubble” looks and feels like a longer “Twilight Zone” episode with its cheesy moments and acting, but cinematically, the film does have a place in history of being a Space Vision 3-D film that proved its effectiveness back in 1966 and would inspire other films to be shot in Space Vision years later.
If you love classic sci-fi films, then “The Bubble” is for you!
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