28 February 2010

Comin' at Ya! is comin' back at ya

It will be interesting to see how the massive 3D boom from Avatar will play out over the coming two years. Almost ever major big-budget picture is either getting announced for 3D, or is getting a retro-makeover (the Clash of the Titans re-make, for example—and I’m not falling for that). Either the process will find a happy medium of production, or audiences will burn out on it fast—as happened with the last two three-dimensional boom periods: the 1950s and the early ‘80s.

One immediate beneficial effect of all this deep-screen is that films from these older 3D days are getting serious reconsideration, and many may make it back to theaters in their proper three-dimensional format. Many of these movies have been available for years in “flat” versions on home video, but now we’ll be able to seem them as they were originally intended in the theater with the funny glasses on.

It looks as if the movie that ignited the ‘80s 3D craze, Comin’ at Ya! is, indeed, comin’ back ya sometime in the future. Aside from being a three-dimensional movie, Comin’ at Ya! is also an Italian Western, so it fits right in with my recent trending at this blog of reviewing Sergio Corbucci’s films and a few other classic Italian Wild West films.

Comin’ at Ya! (read its description at the Spaghetti Western Database) was made in 1981, at a time when the Western was pretty much a corpse both in Italy and the U.S. But the 3D hit big with this one, since the process was one most viewers hadn’t seen since the days of saucers landing in the desert. The film was shot in an “under-over” format (thanks to Eric Zaldivar at the film’s re-release website for this information), and to everyone’s surprise it grossed $12 million in the U.S. on only two hundred screens—a substantial amount in 1981 for a foreign low-budget film. This immediately caused a flood of 3D genre pictures. If any horror franchise had a third installment approaching, it quickly got “D” slapped onto the “3” for promotion: Jaws 3-D, Amityville 3-D, Friday the 13th Part 3-D. The phase didn’t last, probably because it was almost solely associated with horror films, and something as awful as Jaws 3-D wasn’t going to win converts.

I’ve only seen Comin’ at Ya! in 2D on poor videotapes. (Rhino released a 3D DVD complete with glasses, but it is out-of-print and pricey to find used.) I can attest just from watching those “flat” versions that this is the most hardcore 3D gimmick film ever made. No opportunity is wasted to stick, hurl, and jab things at the camera: gun barrels, snakes, arrows, bullets, knives, hot pokers, bats, and the cast’s hands. It’s nonstop. It’s almost freaking surreal. I can’t wait to see it in full 3D. I’m glad filmmakers today are avoiding the completely gimmicky use of the process, as James Cameron very proudly showed us in Avatar and Henry Selick in Coraline, but as a flashback to the over-the-top day, Comin’ at Ya! should be enormous fun.

But Comin’ at Ya! is returning in a new process, “Noir 3D.” The entire film has been revamped for new digital viewing. This apparently involves making large portions of the film into B&W, with colored 3D elements. Yep, a decolorized film. Revenge! The promo videos of the process are on the website, and they look pretty amazing. Here’s a case where I don’t mind somebody tampering with the film, because honestly, aside from 3D wackiness, Comin’ at Ya! is a pretty bad movie.

You do deserve that fair warning. Comin’ at Ya! is no classic of cinema, or even a decent Italian Western, but it’s a piece of ‘80s history and should be a helluva trip in a re-imagined psychedelic 3D.

Keep watch on the official website for when the films starts to get released. The film’s re-working was finished in May 2009, and with Avatar now having crossed the $700 million mark domestically, I think we can expect Comin’ at Ya! to start touring the country during the summer.

Here is the long version of the promo trailer. Visit the site to see the longer version: