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Cinema's Ten Greatest 3D Moments
Kim Newman's dimensional dungeon special
In recent years, thanks to visionary pioneers like James Cameron and the Pixar crowd, 3D has become more and more sophisticated and lifelike, and is now used to immerse the audiences in thoroughly-realised dimensional environments. The technology and film narrative mesh in a truly awe-inspiring synthesis which might be the cutting edge of a whole new entertainment medium. 3D has grown up, and demands to be taken seriously.

But, you know, I sort of miss proper 3D. When things were thrown at the audence and they went "ooooh" or "eeek". Films weren't ashamed to use the process for sheer in-your-face effects. In honour of Piranha 3D, which at least has the integrity to be the old kind of 3D movie, here is my personal pick of the best-ever 'lion in your lap' moments - named after the seminal 3D movie Bwana Devil, which used 'a lion in your lap' as a poster slogan (it doesn't make this list because, frankly, it's rather a dull little movie). So, prepare for the Day of the Tridvid.

These are the ten best things ever to come right at ya...


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Flaming Arrows!
In the 1950s, there were a lot of 3D Westerns - Taza, Son of Cochise (1954), directed by auteur Douglas Sirk, cast Rock Hudson as a bare-chested brave reluctantly taking to the war path. The whole point of the film is shots of flaming arrows zooming straight into the audience. Take that, white eyes!

Chorus Girls' High-Kicking Legs
There's currently an argument going on between the distributors of Street Dance 3D and Step Up 3D about who made the first dance film in 3D. They can both sit down, because MGM made Kiss Me Kate in 1953, and its long-legged chorus girls could kick any street dancing twonk off the stage without smudging their eyeshadow. Even in 2D, Ann Miller's gams seem to go on forever - when they kick out at you in the third dimension, you'd better duck or you'll get a heel in your eye.

A Burst Eyeball
The single greatest moment from the brief 3D revival of the 1980s comes in the otherwise dull Friday The 13th, Part III in 3D (1982) - as Jason squeezes a teenager's head and an eyeball pops out of the victim's face and squirts off the screen in a trail of optic nerves.

A Giant Frog!
What lies at the heart of The Maze (1953)? Why, it's a Scots aristocrat who - thanks to an evolutionary hiccup - was born as a frog. This is one of those films which plays a lot better than it sounds, as director William Cameron Menzies - a former production designer - explores the 3D depths of a castle with James Cameronian subtlety. Then, in the last reel, we meet the frogman. And he leaps off the screen.

A Gorilla!
For many, the mere fact that there is a film called Gorilla At Large (1954) will be enough to inspire squirms of unhealthy delight it features Anne Bancroft, Cameron Mitchell, Lee J. Cobb and Lee Marvin and has to do with murders in the circus committed either by a great ape or an imitator in an ape-suit. In the climax, the gorilla (well, a gorilla suit) abducts Bancroft and scales a rollercoaster. Yes, you read that properly a gorilla on a rollercoaster in 3D! This is the long-lost formula for film perfection, right here! Why hasn't Gorilla At Large been remade?

A Naked Woman!
There have been many attempts at making 3D sex films - The Stewardesses, The Four Dimensions Of Greta, Supergirls In 3D. They all suffer because dodgy processes tend to elongate bodies and limbs - you know, like in Clash Of The Titans - and turn naked, writhing bodies into strange, anerotic shapes. So, the award for best nude 3D scene goes to Betsy Rue for her above-the-call-of-duty turn in My Bloody Valentine (2009). Rue does pages of dramatic dialogue, puts up a spirited fight and gets axed to death - all while naked and dimensional. This ought to be a category at the Oscars.

A Meteor!
The flaming object ploughing off the screen into the stalls in the first shot of It Came From Outer Space (1953) only looks like a meteor - actually, it's a crashing alien spaceship. Whatever, it's a kick-in-the-eye way to start a movie.

The Clawed Hand Of The Creature
The Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954) is the only great monster designed for 3D. Its pop eyes are good, its gill-frills are impressive but its webbed, clawed hands - which repeatedly reach out of the screen accompanied by a distinctive musical blare - are tremendous.

Udo Kier's Liver!
At the end of Flesh For Frankenstein (1973), the Baron gets skewered from behind by his angry monster and loses his insides - his liver is impaled on the pole and seems to drip onto the audience. It's an exquisite moment. I'd junk every digital print of Avatar to save this single shot for posterity.

The Ball An A Rubber String!
Nicely homaged in Monsters Vs Aliens (2009), this is the great 3D bit from House Of Wax (1953). A barker (Reggie Rymal) outside the wax museum talks to the crowds while paddling a ball like a yo-yo, hammering the thing repeatedly into the audience. It's so perfect a moment, and gets my number one spot, because it's the definition of utterly gratuitous 3D. The scene has nothing to do with the plot, and is all about the effect - it's not even a horrific bit, and yet it has more impact than the conventional horror film shocks in the rest of the picture.
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Have your say
What's the best use of 3D you've seen? Or where would you like to see it used in a movie or scene? Register or login now to have your say.

Your Comments
1 Love 3D Pop Out Effects!
Posted on Friday December 23, 2011, 05:02 by JohnGE
Great list. I'm also a fan of the "in your face" 3D moments. Edited - advertising personal site Read More

2 Still not a convert...
Posted on Thursday August 19, 2010, 12:22 by andyoliver99
...but at least the guys from Pianha 3-D have got a sense of humour, check this out - for-your-consideration?rel=player Read More

Posted on Thursday August 19, 2010, 11:36 by 1movieguy1

4 RE: Still not a convert...
Posted on Wednesday August 18, 2010, 22:04 by bbobeckyj
L: andyoliver99 3-D, it's a gimmick. Nothing more. Nothing less. Just another way for the big studios to screw a few more quid outta ya. ... imagine that people said the same about audio, and then colour films Read More

5 Still not a convert...
Posted on Wednesday August 18, 2010, 21:40 by andyoliver99
3-D, it's a gimmick. Nothing more. Nothing less. Just another way for the big studios to screw a few more quid outta ya. Fie on that excuse that it stops piracy, especially as it means that there's a 2-D version in a much quieter (and therefore, Cam-friendly) screen/theater. What's more is that it is a format that adds absolutely nothing to a film, good film-making is good film-making, end of. Would you have appreciated Avatar less if it were only ever made as a 2-D movie? Would it have added anything to the masterpiece that is Inception? Has it made The Last Airbender a must see? I suspect the answer to all three is no. The only time I'll support a 3-D effect is if a giant tentacle reaches out of the screen, grabs the i-phone off the annoying jerk who refuses to switch it off and shoves it up his arse. Don't believe the hype. Read More

6 RE: 3D Haters
Posted on Wednesday August 18, 2010, 21:09 by jokerpoker123
I hate 3D not because of the cost - can't see it thats why, my eyes dont work with the glasses - still fuzzy. and it seems every film now is going 3d and 2d is getting pushed aside. I love going to the cinema but not anymore. Thats Why 3D is bad Read More

7 3D Is Good
Posted on Wednesday August 18, 2010, 17:55 by Bighousewill
True 3D films are the ones that are filmed or animated in 3D using special stereoscopic cameras or 3D technology for animations these films are simply a joy to watch because they are rich and deep but if you only have one eye you miss out im afraid. Even Martin Scorsese is going 3D so don't knock it because it can be used to great effect ive even seen people reaching out to touch 3D images and you always hear people go woah. I prefer live action filmed in 3D its just a richer experience. Read More

8 3D Haters
Posted on Wednesday August 18, 2010, 17:22 by Bighousewill
You need to select a good film to appreciate 3D don't do a converted to 3D film like Clash of the Titans because then you are being ripped off. But I think the problem most 3D haters have is they are tight...too concerned about thier wallets. Read More

9 3D........ WHAT A LOAD OF OLD SHIT !!!
Posted on Wednesday August 18, 2010, 13:45 by jokerpoker123
NUF SAID :P Read More

10 RE: Coraline
Posted on Wednesday August 18, 2010, 12:30 by Faers
Great addition there britesparc. Coraline is possibly the best film I have seen in 3D - pretty much every shot is a contender. Read More

11 Coraline
Posted on Wednesday August 18, 2010, 10:41 by britesparc
I'd like to add the moment in Coraline when she first opens the door to the "other" world, and the passageway concertinas away from her (and us), revealing layers and layers of depth. Takes the breath away. Read More

Posted on Wednesday August 18, 2010, 08:10 by D.J
Hmm, actually, ignore my last comment, i think i kinda missed the point, sorry. Read More

Posted on Wednesday August 18, 2010, 08:10 by D.J
The lack of Avatar in this list is dreadful. Read More

14 Cindi & Sandi
Posted on Tuesday August 17, 2010, 23:40 by Faers
The omission of Jaws 3D has truly shocked me. There's so many scenes to choose from: the glass shattering towards us, bones from the shark being blown at us, the two dolphins just before the credits -it's full of classic scenes like that! Tut-tut, Empire... Only joking, my friend bought it the other day (must've lost a bet or something) and I watched it for the first time since I was a kid - oh, how I laughed. Read More

Posted on Tuesday August 17, 2010, 23:34 by charlesmoonshrub
very entertaining list. also, has anyone at Empire seen Piranha 3-D yet? Is it any good? I can't fucking wait... Read More

16 My Bloody Valentine...2D...
Posted on Tuesday August 17, 2010, 22:33 by robstephens
The cinema that was showing My Bloody Valentine only had a 2D version but even so, the scene where the pick-axe goes through the persons head and into the audience. That was good even in 2D...would have killed to see it in 3D Read More


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