From the Vaults: "Comin' at Ya!" Again
Drafthouse Films re-releases the 1981, 3-D spectacle, "Comin' at Ya!"
By Marjorie Baumgarten, 7:00PM, Fri. Feb. 24, 2012
Comin'at Ya!, the 1981 spaghetti Western that hurls 3-D effects through the screen's fourth wall with a wanton abandon not seen before or since, is currently touring Texas theatres, courtesy of Drafthouse Films. The Austin Chronicle was there the first time around, with a feature on the 3-D revival in our very first issue.
The Alamo Drafthouse offshoot picked up the newly restored film for re-release. The film's old polarized 3-D process has been transferred to state-of-the-art RealD, and though the image is sharp and clean it would be misleading to say that the restoration has improved anything. Comin' at Ya! is still the same cheesy production it always was, due largely to the 3-D gimmickry that's married to a fairly standard revenge-driven EuroWestern. The filmmakers allowed 3-D to govern the plot so that no more than a few minutes ever pass without a revolver, sword, or shotgun comin' at ya with a hyperactivity that fully deserves the exclamation point in the title. Characters pour beans or coins on the ground just so the filmmakers can place the camera at an extremely low angle and capture the objects raining down in torrents. These are examples of shots (and probably actions) that are only in the movie to exploit the technology rather than advance the story. Sure, there's a certain amount of fun in this hellzapoppin' approach to moviemaking that favors stunts over storytelling. Ironically, all the 3-D thrusting also has the effect of making Comin' at Ya! seem more violent than it really is by emphasizing the means of killing and torture over the actual vengeance and other emotions. And though a coy insert of a baby's bottom being dunked in a tub is kind of cute, Comin' at Ya! totally weenies out when it comes to any inclusion of 3-D boobage.
Ed Lowry, the Chronicle's original film editor and managing editor, wrote the story on Comin' at Ya! that appeared on page 3 of Volume 1, Number 1 (Sept. 4, 1981). In that sense, "3-D Gimmick Springs at Filmgoers Again" could be said to be the paper's very first article. Lowry examines the business behind this "new harbinger of 3-D," which had just been released that August. Insightfully, Lowry concluded his piece by observing the same things that many have noted about the post-millennial 3-D revival: The technique needs to get out of the hands of hypesters and into the hands of artists. I quote from Lowry's article:
"Hopefully, this time we'll find out what 3-D is good for, and that means putting the process in the hands of those who might think as much of the movie they're making as the process they're using. … Just imagine what might happen if a whiz kid like Stanley Kubrick decided to turn his high tech genius to stereoscopy. If the 3-D craze develops according to plan, we can only hope it lasts long enough so that somebody gets a chance to develop a 3-D aesthetic."