I well remember as a very young lad, going to see The Robe at the local Essoldo Cinema which was the very first film to be made in Cinemascope. It was very impressive as we sat close to the front with heads turning from one side of the wide screen to the other so as not to miss anything. The film had stereophonic sound and the voices seem to be coming from all over the place.
My dad was a fan of Victor Mature at that time, and he certainly was well used in the Biblical epics such as Samson and Delilah, The Robe and Demetrius and the Gladiators and to be fair to him, he was very good in these roles.
The early Scope films had a very wide screen – letterbox as they say – a new format designed to counter the threat of television which could never compete with this. Even today the wide screen is the thing and TV has changed its shape of screen to a wider format.
Other formats came along Vistavision and Supersope to name just a couple and also Cinerama which had an ultra large screen. I remember going to see the film Khartoum in London in that format on a very hot summer day with cinemas having no air con in those days. Maybe the heat would have set the scene for us.
Some films that were made around the time of the wide screen change and just prior to it had to be re-formatted to suit the trend – one such film was Shane with Alan Ladd. There was quite a delay from the filming to the release in order to give the technicians time to ‘stretch’ the print.
Another fairly juvenile romp I remember – a liitle later – was Prince Valiant with Robert Wagner and James Mason as the baddie. It seemed great at the time but when viewed today is not quite so good.
I reckon that Hitchcock’s Vertigo was filmed in VistaVision.
Some of the horror films of the time went in for more gimmicky formats such as Emergo with the ridiculous sight of a skeleton seeming to come out from the screen. Actually it was the local cinema manager who would operate this thing on pulleys at a particular part of the film. It was laughable really I recall.