Smell O Vision

Possibly the most bizarre film gimmick involved film screenings enhanced with specific smells. “AromaRama” made its big-screen debut in 1959 with Carlo Lizzani’s “Behind the Great Wall,” using the cinema’s air conditioning system to disperse scents through the auditorium.

ABOVE: producer Mike Todd, Jr. and inventor Hans Lube display the “Smell-O-Vision” “Scent of Mystery” perfume apparatus

Only a few weeks later, producer Mike Todd, Jr.’s “Smell-O-Vision” premiered with the film “Scent of Mystery.” Todd’s system relied on a network of pipes connected to vents beneath the seats that would release perfumes at specific points during a screening. Both gimmicks were spectacular critical and popular flops, as audiences found they merely distracted from the viewing experience.

One contributor on a Film Site commented :

I was at the premiere in Hollywood (1960) –

Didn’t know what to expect .. but the pipe tobacco and peach smells (among SEVERAL more) were astounding! Each time you smelled the perfume… you KNEW something bad was going to happen! ..

I don’t know how they did it, maybe a hose or fan mounted on the seat in front of you, but when the scene changed, the smell did too !!

If I remember correctly, the program LISTED all the smells you would encounter during the film

ABOVE: A poster for “Scent of Mystery ”

One interesting comment from someone around at the time :-

“I’ve never even heard of anyone trying to re-create this. The problem is, how do you get the smells out once they’re in the cinema.

Many years later in 1981 John Waters did revive the scented film with “Polyester,” this time with “Odorama” whihc was supposed to have improved the original idea by giving audience members scratch-and-sniff cards numbered by scene. That seems even more bizarre to me


Smell-O-Vision was a way to add smell to television — so said the BBC in a 1965 April Fool’s Day report. The broadcaster pranked television audiences in England by claiming that they’d perfected Smell-O-Vision — and as ridiculous as this sounds it had been done a few years before

Like Percepto! before it, Smell-O-Vision was a short lived concept that never took off and it remains one of the strangest cinematic gimmicks that’s ever been dreamed up.

“Percepto!”. A $1,000 life insurance policy against “Death by Fright” for Macabre (1958) and sent a skeleton out  above the audiences’ heads in the Cinema  in House on Haunted Hill (1959).


“Percepto!” was a gimmick where William Castle attached electrical “buzzers” to the underside of some seats in cinemas where The Tingler was screened.

The Tingler in Perecpto

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