Yet another 3-D Blu-ray treat — the 3-D Film Archive restores a rare English production, an international crime tale in 3-D. Dennis O’Keefe’s T-Man helps Scotland Yard track down a gang of smugglers that kidnaps and murders to force an Atom scientist to perfect his manufacturing formula for synthetic diamonds. You know, just like the silicon chip business. The widescreen 3-D is excellent, especially in two action set pieces. Margaret Sheridan co-stars. It’s almost a premiere, as the movie was never publicly exhibited in 3-D. Kino also provides an anaglyphic encoding with a pair of red-cyan glasses as an alternate 3-D option. Plus good extras about the 3-D process.
The Diamond Wizard 3-D
KL Studio Classics
1954 / B&W / 1:66 widescreen / 83 min. / Street Date November 15, 2022 / Available at Kino Lorber / 29.95
Starring: Dennis O’Keefe, Margaret Sheridan, Philip Friend, Alan Wheatley, Francis De Wolff, Eric Berry, Gudrun Ure, Paul Hardtmuth, Colin Tapley, Donald Gray, Michael Balfour, Paul Carpenter.
Cinematography: Gordon Lang
Art Director: Denis Wreford
Film Editors: James Needs, Helga Cranston
Original Music: Matyas Seiber
Screenplay by John C. Higgins, from the novel Rich Is the Treasure by Maurice Procter
Associate Producers: Jim O’Connolly, Roger Spottiswoode, Montgomery Tully
Produced by Steven Pallos
Directed by Dennis O’Keefe / Montgomery Tully
Not a week goes by that we don’t get an inquiry about 3-D Blu-ray, mostly asking the same thing: if 3-D discs are still being released, how come we can’t buy decks and monitors to play them? This is the odd thing about the videodisc business — for 12 years now industry wags have been writing that DVD and Blu-ray are kaput, that we might as well throw them out because the future will all be streaming. Then came the counter-articles explaining why hard media is the only way to collect movies.
Blu-ray 3-D took off in 2009 and 2010, with sales fueled by Avatar, Pixar movies and the Marvel franchise. But early in 2016, as reported in International Business Times, we were advised that 3-D Television is Dead too. Sure enough, by 2018 or so it was getting difficult to find good 3-D Blu-ray equipment. *
But they keep making 3-D discs for collectors. For a while we thought that 3-D equipment was still being sold in Europe and the Far East, but we are no longer so sure about that. The good news is that the average monitor made since 2014 is so reliable that many of the 3-D capable sets sold are still in operation. We rue the day that our 3-D setup burns out, as we definitely have favorites that we’ll miss, mainly vintage 3-D from the years of the early 1950s.
The 3-D Film Archive isn’t the only group still remastering classic 3-D for 3-D Blu-ray — the legendary I, the Jury will soon land, with its John Alton 3-D cinematography remastered through the UCLA Film and Television Archive. But the 3-D Film Archive doggedly pursues every vintage title for which rights can be cleared. We’re told that they’re in the process of remastering Robot Monster, the favorite cult item filmed in excellent organic 3-D depth. On November 15th will land the latest Archive restoration — an English picture that was reportedly never released to the general public in Three Dimensions.
A complicated 3-D production, never exhibited in 3-D.
The Diamond Wizard wasn’t released until 1954, just when exhibitors were turning against the short-lived 3-D craze — Fox’s widescreen CinemaScope had won the industry format competition. Filmed in England as simply The Diamond, it’s a police procedural starring the imported Hollywood actor Dennis O’Keefe, the star known for the impressive docu-drama film noir T-Men. Like many name actors in 1950s Hollywood, O’Keefe was reaching out to extend his career. He ventured to Europe to co-direct two films for producer Steven Pallos, this one in London and another in Italy.
It’s likely that O’Keefe was after the same tax breaks that lured other Hollywood stars to work overseas around this time. The English The Diamond and the Italian Angela saw Dennis O’Keefe sharing credit with local directors, to enable the films to qualify for tax benefits. O’Keefe is the sole credited director on U.S. prints of Diamond, while director Montgomery Tully is the sole name on the English version. Producer Pallos put a lot of effort into its 3-D filming, so it’s a shame that audiences never saw it in 3-D.
The final screenplay is credited to American writer John C. Higgins, the prolific film noir ace who wrote both of Dennis O’Keefe’s noir thrillers, T-Men and and Raw Deal. It’s a standard ‘investigation’ tale assembled from off-the-shelf thriller elements, but it does build to a fairly big finish. Because it involves synthetic diamonds and a secret criminal lab that makes them, it’s sometimes listed as a science fiction movie.
American crooks Karl Hunzinger (Eric Berry) and Hoxie (Michael Balfour) steal a cool million in unregistered U.S. currency from a Treasury Department safe, and the murder the T-Man Sweeney (Paul Carpenter) who pretends to be a go-between for a horde of fake diamonds that Hunziger wants to buy. T-Man Joe Dennison (Dennis O’Keefe) goes to London to recover the money and track down the source of the synthetic diamonds. He joins forces with Scotland Yard’s Mac McClaren (Philip Friend. Diamond expert Thompson Blake (Alan Wheatley) examines a mystery diamond that Joe has brought, and confirms that it indeed artificial, and of a quality never seen before.
The dogged investigation soon runs into a convenient coincidence: stewardess Marline Miller (Margaret Sheridan of I, the Jury and The Thing from Another World) just happens to be both Joe’s casual girlfriend and the daughter of Dr. Eric Miller (Paul Hardtmuth), a prominent Atomic Scientist who appears to be at the center of the futuristic, rogue production of the ‘perfect’ synthetic diamonds.
It’s determined that Hunzinger and Hoxie haven’t yet landed in England with their stolen million dollars — and that the illegal diamond-makers are operating under cover of a gardening club specializing in Camelias. Pub owner Yeo (Francis De Wolff) and his gang have coerced Dr. Miller to ‘forge’ the diamonds in a foundry-like construction in a remote castle ruin. Everything has been set up by an as-yet unidentified mastermind. When Hunzinger arrives with the million dollars, this Mr. Big will pay off his cohorts and force Miller to divulge the secret formula — by kidnapping and threatening Marline.
The criminal hijinks here are more like a Republic Serial than the sophisticated scheme of T-Men, but the show has an agreeable ‘English pluck and spirit’ attitude. Joe and Mac engage in a half-hearted rivalry for the lovely Marline. Femme Scotland Yard police Sgt. Smith (Gudrun Ure) provides a possible consolation prize for the loser.
The thriller aspect is paced at the leisurely speed of English thrillers of the day. Lab experts consult, after obligatory scenes in which government ministers tell us that a flood of the perfect synthetic diamonds could cripple the world’s economy. The synthetic diamond angle may have been suggested by a 1953 announcement from Stockholm that scientists were closing in on a reliable process to produce genuine synthetic diamonds — mostly for industrial use, not for jewelry. The giant cone-shaped furnace seen in the movie looks like descriptions of earlier experiments, especially a shot of an iron ball being rolled into a cooling pot.
The notion that a kidnapped Atom scientist would come up with the secret process makes The Diamond Wizard play a bit like Robert Aldrich’s World for Ransom, a nuclear extortion thriller released earlier in the year. The notion of a rogue lab with an enormous Sampo– like ‘wealth generator’ also reminds of Karl Hartl’s Gold, a German film from 1934. Its ‘scientific alchemy’ takes place in futuristic lab in a sub-oceanic cavern.
Wizard spends the better part of an hour with our heroes consulting in offices and sipping drinks with Marline, wondering where the bad guys are. Nicely paced cutaways to the diamond furnace in operation come at regular intervals, to maintain interest. The most elaborate police action details a radio-organized automobile pursuit, in which multiple cars keep track of the target vehicle, one at a time. By 1954 the tag-team tracking method must have seemed a little dull — it had been fully explained in a crime thriller five years before, Raoul Walsh’s White Heat.
After so much ‘business as usual’ minutiae, it’s nice that Wizard finishes with some good action. The villains double-cross each other, and the old scientist is confronted with his kidnapped daughter. Our heroes break into the rural castle ruin, fists and guns at the ready. Some better-than-average effects work is seen, with very good landscape miniatures, crashing vehicles, etc.
Everything plays exceedingly well in 3-D. Our special agents don’t spend too much time on the street, but when they do we’re treated to some terrific shots of midday London in 3-D. A montage jumps between various locations, showing us the Tower Bridge, etc.
The romance business is chaste, with Mac’s interest in Sgt. Smith only hinted at. The direction often shows action through a door into an adjoining room, angles that use the 3-D well. In one of them a door swings open, revealing Maline dressing, in a slip. Always the gentleman, Joe turns away.
Guns fire directly into the camera and a villain throws a suitcase at us, projecting the 3-D into the foreground plane. The exciting fight in the castle makes good use of 3-D, but the film’s best scene takes place on a long escalator in the London Underground subway, a location remembered vividly from Anthony Asquith’s superb silent thriller Underground. Joe traps one of the villains in ‘mid-escalation,’ and the framing of shots makes full use of the 3-D. (top image ↑ )
The Diamond Wizard breaks no new dramatic ground. Dennis O’Keefe is always good, but he’s usually terrific, as in Raw Deal and Woman on the Run. With a couple of exceptions, the English cast is not that interesting. Often cast as a hulking tough, Francis De Wolff (From Russia with Love, The Hound of the Baskervilles) gets to play sweet and friendly in one scene, making a nice impression. Michael Balfour is always welcome (No Orchids for Miss Blandish, Macbeth) and does his henchman bit well. Alan Wheatley is less familiar (Brighton Rock, Counterblast) but is excellent as the diamond expert with a hidden agenda.
The poised and petite Gudrun Ure mostly fetches coffee and recites exposition, although she does get to play one scene in an evening dress instead of a uniform. Her Sgt. Smith’s ‘romance’ with Mac amounts to just a couple of eye-blinks. Ms. Ure seems to have enjoyed a long career on U.K. TV.
Margaret Sheridan’s entire career seems a missed opportunity. She was a Howard Hawks discovery that he seemed to lose interest in. After proving herself an expert with drama, comedy and sexy teasing in The Thing from Another World, Ms. Sheridan never got another substantial role that might have furthered her career. She plays the conventional ‘girlfriend’ Maline with dignity, but it’s simply not much of a part.
Variety’s review reserved special praise for actor Paul Hardtmuth’s performance as the fuzzy-haired old scientist Dr. Miller. Hammer fans ought to recognize Hardtmuth: three years later he played Dr. Bernstein, the fuzzy-haired old scientist victimized by Peter Cushing in the famed The Curse of Frankenstein. His brief Hammer appearance is capped by one of the best stunts ever — every little kid in the audience thought it was the little old actor taking the fatal plunge onto a hard tile floor.
The Diamond Wizard showed at one of the 3-D Expos, back in 2013 or so; we’re told that screening was its actual public premiere in 3-D. That makes this 3-D Blu-ray a premiere as well. Its creative use of the format makes it one of the more interesting 3-D discs we’ve seen in the past couple of years.
KL Studio Classics’ 3-D Blu-ray of The Diamond Wizard 3-D covers the bases for 3-D fans, with and without 3-D-capable setups. The widescreen 1:66 image looks very good, and the 3-D illusions are excellent. A pair of red-cyan glasses are provided for the third anaglyphic encoding, watchable without special 3-D equipment. As with all Kino 3-D discs the show may be watched flat 2-D as well.
Our 3-D educations proceed with the extras produced by The 3-D Film Archive. Expert Mike Ballew is the front person for the main 11-minute featurette. It’s billed as an audio commentary, but is actually an illustrated talk about 3-D in England in the early ’50s, as promoted at the Festival of Britain and developed with several systems. The excellent rig built for The Diamond was indeed called ‘Spacemaster 3-D,’ a name possibly inspired by the handsome sound blimp that contained its two camera rigs. Ballew goes deep into the optical details. It’s interesting that some of the first 3-D rigs were built by companies that specialized in optical printers.
A wordless restoration piece is actually a comparison video with before/after samples of Diamond Wizard. We’re told that the original film elements weren’t in good shape, but the end result shows little evidence of problems. I only noticed a couple of dialogue lines that seemed a bit distorted, otherwise the show looks and sounds pristine.
Also on view is a trailer that hypes every last bit of action in the movie. The film presentation carries the original 3-D title The Diamond, and the extras include an American opening credits crawl adding the word Wizard. The American main titles were filmed flat only, yet they are an original optical pass, not a dupe with the new title simply slugged in.
Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
The Diamond Wizard 3-D
Movie: Good + / –
Slideshow about ’50s U.K. 3-D and the ‘Spacemaster’ 3-D system by expert Mike Ballew
Alternate opening credits
Deaf and Hearing-impaired Friendly? Subtitles: English (feature only)
Packaging: One Blu-ray in Keep case
Reviewed: October 31, 2022
* 3-D Blu-ray looks sensational, often better than theatrical projection. There are two varieties. Active 3-D must be viewed with glasses with little batteries in them. We understand that projection 3-D uses active 3-D as well. But the gold standard is Passive 3-D, which only needs normal Polaroid 3-D glasses as used in theatrical presentations. The quality of Passive 3-D is Excellent in every respect.
Text © Copyright 2022 Glenn Erickson