British TV’s first unsuccessful attempt to conquer the third dimension.
In 1982, ITV presented the first of British TV’s sporadic attempts at broadcasting in 3D, with a half-hour episode of science show The Real World. Hosted by Michael Rodd and Sue Jay, the show has a breathless, Tomorrow’s World feel to it – unsurprising, as Rodd had been a presenter on that show – as it explores the world of three-dimensional entertainment, then undergoing a brief revival at the cinema. We are given an insight into the exciting (and, let’s be frank, pretty dreadful) world of 3D video, where the polarised lenses of the cinema are replaced with the familiar red and blue lenses that were both less effective and invariably washed out any colour. Readers of the TV Times would have found a pair of glasses, minus arms, inside that week’s edition, which the whole family was supposed to somehow share to enjoy the brief clips of colourless 3D action in the show, even though the broadcast begins by warning that it may take a few minutes for your eyes to adjust. Luckily – for viewers, if not manufacturers and retailers – several shops were also selling 3D glasses in anticipation of this new boom in interest.
Unfortunately, while The Real World might have whetted the appetite to a degree with its brief, gimmicky clips, the whole concept was immediately killed stone dead by the baffling decision to show Fort Ti as the first 3D movie broadcast on a Sunday afternoon. Perhaps it was all that was available, or perhaps films like The Creature from the Black Lagoon or It Came from Outer Space were still not seen as suitable for daytime broadcast in 1982. But Fort Ti is not, to say the least, a good film – a plodding western directed by William Castle, it’s a struggle to sit through even when seen ‘flat’ – with eye-straining 3D where the screen would alternate between red and blue depending on which eye was strongest (The Real World advised sitting straight in front of the TV, but for a family of any size, that was easier said than done), and the 3D was often blurry and ineffective. It’s likely that this painful and tedious experience put a lot of people of 3D for life, and Fort Ti remained the only 3D film shown on British TV – movies were notably absent from the BBC’s half-baked attempt at 3D in 1993, which concentrated on Doctor Who and Noel Edmonds – until the notorious L!ve TV showed the Emmanuelle in Space series in the late 1990s, and Channel 4 ran its 3D Week (with films like Flesh for Frankenstein and Friday 13th Pt 3) in 2009. Both utilised a new 3D method – Channel 4 with ColorCode 3D and L!ve TV using the Pulfrich Effect that had been previously used by German striptease show Tutti Frutti. Neither method was a great deal more impressive than the 1982 version, and 3D TV remained a gimmick until the launch of dedicated 3D HD TVs.