John McElwee at Greenbriar Picture Shows has posted a terrific piece — two parts with more on the way — on Paramount’s VistaVision process and its debut feature, White Christmas (1954, one of Laura‘s favorites).
Of all the various wide and otherwise-shaped screen formats, VistaVision is my favorite. John does a marvelous job of not only explaining the process, but how it was unveiled back in ’54. (The ad above was swiped from one of those posts.)
Like CinemaScope’s wide image, the deep focus and increased clarity of VistaVision are ideal for Westerns. Just look at the Monument Valley vistas in The Searchers (1956) and you’ll see what I mean. So with the process in mind this morning, here’s a more or less complete list of the Westerns released in “motion picture high fidelity.”
Run For Cover (1955)
The Searchers (1956)
Three Violent People (1956)
Gunfight At The O.K. Corral (1957)
The Lonely Man (1957)
The Tin Star (1957)
Last Train From Gun Hill (1959)
One-Eyed Jacks (1961)
We’re pretty fortunate that most of these VistaVision Westerns are available on DVD. One-Eyed Jacks is a real mess, infecting stores with rancid PD releases. (Here‘s a bit on that.) The Lonely Man is incredible with its black and white cinematography by the severely underrated Lionel Lindon. The Searchers has even received the Blu-ray treatment, and it’s marvelous. Sadly, Run For Cover is nowhere to be seen.
From its resolution to its aspect ratio, today’s TVs and Blu-ray discs are what the process has been begging for since the last frame of film ran (sideways) through the VistaVision camera. Now if we could just get more true double-frame screenings.