A partial rundown for the 7th annual Turner Classic Movies Film Festival (4.28 to 5.1) was unveiled today. I always look for first-time-ever screenings of recently restored films that haven’t hit Bluray or streaming, but somehow seeing a 25th anniversary restored version of John Singleton‘s Boyz in The Hood doesn’t exactly tingle the blood. I was also hoping for a screening of the nearly-completed restoration of Marlon Brando‘s One-Eyed Jacks, but that’s not in the cards.
For me the only announced festival attraction that excites so far is a special presentation of Jack Cardiff and Mike Todd, Jr.‘s Scent of Mystery (a.k.a. Holiday in Spain), which will be presented at the Cinerama Dome in “Smell-O-Vision.”
What could have motivated the highly respected Jack Cardiff to direct this thing? (Besides money, I mean.) The costars are a remarkably young-looking Denholm Elliott (he was 37 during filming) and a bloated Peter Lorre. A foxy, bikini-wearing Diana Dors has a marginal role. Elizabeth Taylor (i.e., widow of the deceased Mike Todd, Sr. and therefore the producer’s mother-in-law) isn’t in the trailer, but she makes an uncredited cameo appearance.
Wiki page summary: “Scent of Mystery was developed specifically with Smell-O-Vision in mind. Although Scent was not the first film to be accompanied by aromas, it was the most technologically advanced. Todd, son of the late Mike Todd, engaged in such hyperbole as ‘I hope it’s the kind of picture they call a scentsation!’ He also got help from newspaper columnists such as Earl Wilson, who lauded the system, saying Smell-O-Vision ‘can produce anything from skunk to perfume, and remove it instantly.’ New York Times writer Richard Nason believed it might be a major advance in filmmaking. As such, expectations were high.
“Scent opened in three specially equipped theaters in February, 1960 — in New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Unfortunately, the mechanism did not work properly. According to Variety, aromas were released with a distracting hissing noise and audience members in the balcony complained that the scents reached them several seconds after the action was shown on the screen. In other parts of the theater, the odors were too faint, causing audience members to sniff loudly in an attempt to catch the scent.
“Technical adjustments by the manufacturers of Smell-O-Vision solved these problems, but by then it was too late. Negative reviews, in conjunction with word of mouth, caused the film to fail miserably. Comedian Henny Youngman quipped, “I didn’t understand the picture — I had a cold.”
“The film was eventually retitled as Holiday in Spain and re-released sans odors. However, as The Daily Telegraph described it, “the film acquired a baffling, almost surreal quality, since there was no reason why, for example, a loaf of bread should be lifted from the oven and thrust into the camera for what seemed to be an unconscionably long time.”
Posted on 7.15.11: “I for one would love it if Smell-o-vision worked — if there was a super-effective, high-function theatrical technology that dispenses aromas to go along with whatever’s being shown on the screen, and then quickly vacuums that aroma back to make way for the next olfactory immersion.
“It would be nothing short of ecstatic to watch Lawrence of Arabia this way. Imagine savoring convincing simulations of the aromas of the Nefud desert, of camel shit and tobacco smoke in the British officer’s club, of oranges and grapes in Damascus, and the muddy streets of Daraa.
“Imaging smelling North by Northwest — the aroma of 57th Street in the late afternoon, the splattering of bourbon onto Cary Grant‘s gray suit, the scent of a warm plate of brook trout and a Gibson martini on the 20th Century Limited, the aroma of sex and Arpege perfume in Eva Marie Saint‘s sleeping compartment, and so on.
“Imagine the wet-dog smell of Wookie hair in Star Wars, and the horrible gut stink coming from that dead Tauntaun that Han Solo opens up with his light saber in order to provide warmth to Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back (‘I thought they smelled bad on the outside!’).
“Imagine the aromas that would accompany a smell-o-visioned Inception — the sea water, the Paris streets, the scent of nearby pine trees and damp snow covering that mountaintop fortress, etc. Imagine the smell of armpit sweat and stale air and Manhattan rainstorm aroma while watching 12 Angry Men.
“There would be very few films that wouldn’t be enhanced with this technology, should someone invent a version that really and truly performs.”