The thinking is that Tom Tykwer‘s Perfume (Paramount, 12.27) isn’t going to do as well in the U.S. as it has so far in Europe. But it could turn into a goofy-kicky theatrical event if ..if…the Paramount distribution people were crazy enough (and trust me, they’re not) to invest in a special revival of an upgraded Smellovision system to accompany the showing of Tykwer’s film in select big-city theatres.
From a newspaper ad for Michael Todd‘s Scent of Mystery, directed by Jack Cardiff.
Perfume is a movie about the loveliness of scent — specifically about an oddball character who lives for the spiritual transportation he receives from very special scents, aromas and perfumes. What triggered my idea was Variety critic Derek Elley writing in his 10.4 review that “the problem with Perfume is not so much how to make the audience identify with a largely silent, olfactory-obsessed nerd who turns serial killer, but how to transmit his compulsion in the strictly audiovisual medium of film.
“More than just a killer-thriller or the tale of a man with an exceptional gift,” Elley continues, “Perfume is a skewed love story…[about] a man who suddenly discovers the ‘scent of woman’ but can’t make the jump into real relationships.
Bringing back Smellovision would be such a no-brainer goof of a gimmick I can’t believe it wasn’t at least considered for the release of this film. People are still into 3D and every so often there are revivals of 3D versions of House of Wax , Dial M for Murder and whatnot — why not bring back aroma-fortified cinema?
Smellovision and Aromarama were attempts to enhance the moviegoing experience in the late 50s. I’m guessing that if any desire existed within Paramount to bring this theatrical device back for special Perfume showings, a more effective, less cumbersome version than was used in big-city theatres in 1959 and ’60 would be within the grasp of ’06 technology.
In this Variety review of Scent of Mystery (’60), Smellovision was described as a somewhat more advanced process.
“In Smell-O-Vision, developed by the Swiss-born Hans Laube, the odors are piped via plastic tubing — a mile of tubing at Chicago’s Cinestage Theatre — to individual seats, the scents being triggered automatically by signals on the film’s soundtrack,” the review wrote. “The Aromarama smells are conveyed through the theatre’s regular air ventilating system. The Smell-O-Vision odors are more distinct and recognizable and do not appear to linger as long as those in Aromarama.”