The Bubble (1966), Blu-ray

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We believe The Bubble is a very entertaining story about most unusual people in a situation you’ll talk about for a long time to come!

I was first introduced to the gimmickry of Arch Oboler through Bill Cosby’s dialogue about his childhood being terrorized by a radio broadcast on a monstrous giant chicken heart (Wonderfulness, 1966). The Chicken Heart bit was of course one of the many brilliant “Nights Out” radio show scripts penned by Arch Oboler from the mid-1930’s through the 1940’s. Most of these shows are now lost, but Oboler recreated “The Chicken Heart” on a record LP. Oboler was quite a maverick and was successful in stage, radio, television and film as a writer, playwright, novelist, director and producer. He had a huge hit with the 3-D film Bwana Devil (1952), and later returned to the genre with the unusual “Space Vision” 3-D film The Bubble (1966), now available for the first time on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber, 2014).

Like The Angry Red Planet (1959), filmed in the ridiculous negative image and solarisation CineMagic technique developed by animator Norman Maurer and 3-D movie producer Sid Pink, The Bubble (aka The Fantastic Invasion of Planet Earth) is a gimmick film and a one tricky pony at that. The 3-D compositions are nothing special ~an airplane foil juts out in the opening moments, a man sticks a broom in your face, and various items float in space. However, the film is unusual technically in being perhaps the first anamorphic film (2.5:1) shot in the 3-D strip process. The film restoration looks fantastic. Unfortunately I don’t have a 3-D system to fully appreciate the dimensional effects.

The plot has an expecting mother, her husband and a pilot force landing during a storm into an odd rural community. There they discover they are trapped under an impenetrable dome. The movie reminds me of the Twilight Zone episode “Five Characters in Search of an Exit” (Episode 79, 1961), with ambivalent and slightly off-kilter people stumbling around a cylindrical space, at odds why they are where they are. Not surprising, Rod Serling has acknowledged Arch Oboler as an early inspiration. If I had the notion to read Steven King’s Under the Dome (2009), or worse, watch the 13-episode mini-series, I would probably draw some similarities to The Bubble.

The film is not bad at all and certainly not worthy of awful reviews seen on IMDb. The acting is passable with Michael Cole (The Mod Squad) and Deborah Walley the romantic leads, and I love those floating Don Post masks in the shock therapy sequence. The floating heads and the weird “nutrient pylon” were made by physical effects jack-of-all-trades Harry Thomas (1909-1996), who designed the man-eating plant in a coffee-can Audrey Jr., in Corman’s The Little Shop of Horrors (1960). The Blu-ray comes with several extras, including the original and 1976 re-issue trailers, advertising art and promos, and 2-D and 3-D versions of the film.

Looking for something different? This is it. Genre enthusiasts will enjoy The Bubble and it might just surprise and intrigue some others.

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