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A Brief History of 3-D Horror Movies

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1960s-70s: Marginalization
'Flesh for Frankenstein' (AKA 'Frankenstein 3-D').

'Flesh for Frankenstein' (AKA 'Frankenstein 3-D')

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Just as quickly as it had captured the American public's imagination during the early '50s, 3-D film was pushed into the margins during the mid-'50s and pretty much stayed there for the next three decades or so. Advances in technology that eliminated the labor-intensive step of projecting two prints simultaneously helped lead to a mild revival of the format in the '60s -- almost exclusively relegated to low-budget exploitation fare like horror and sex films.

One of the only major studio efforts to incorporate 3-D during this era was the 1961 Warner Brothers horror film The Mask, which shot four of its scenes in 3-D to enhance the psychedelic visions that the main character experienced when putting on a mystical mask.

But as the '70s dawned and pornographic cinema became increasingly chic, 3-D filmmaking largely abandoned even horror in favor of an array of hardcore and soft-core adult fare. One notable movie, 1974's Flesh for Frankenstein (AKA Andy Warhol's Frankenstein AKA Frankenstein 3-D), managed to combine the sexual content with graphic horror, gaining an X-rated cult following in the process.

But in America, such 3-D horror movies were few and far between, and the format's domestic marginalization proved to be something of a boon for foreign 3-D horror. Films like Japan's sexually-inclined ("pink film") thriller Perverted Criminal (the country's first 3-D effort), Spain's Frankenstein's Bloody Terror (starring the iconic Paul Naschy), Great Britain's The Flesh and Blood Show (which featured only one sequence in 3-D) and South Korea's infamously awful King Kong ripoff A*P*E were imported to the US, keeping the 3-D horror tradition alive until its '80s domestic revival.

Notable 3-D Horror Movies:

  • The Mask (1961)
  • Perverted Criminal (1967)
  • Frankenstein's Bloody Terror (1969)
  • The Flesh and Blood Show (1972)
  • Flesh for Frankenstein (1974)
  • A*P*E (1976)
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