Cinerama South Seas Adventure proved to be the 5th and last of the original, 3-panel Cinerama travelogues. Released in 1958, and 4 months after the 3-panel competitor, “Windjammer: The Voyage of the Christian Radich”, it is at moments similar, although overall an entirely different tale than previously seen in the format. Five separate stories are dramatized, woven out of a series of theoretical, island-hopping voyages that start en route to Hawaii, and after traversing the South Seas as far as Australia, end up flying back home from Honolulu.
In between, through both an adventurous shipboard passenger, a returning American WWII veteran, and the enthused narration, we’re taken island hopping to stops in places lush, tranquil, and inviting, like Tahiti, Tonga and Fiji, then to and the even more exotic, primitive Pentecost Island. Native dancing and song are celebrated alongside cultures and customs spanning thousands of years. Sailing onward to New Zealand, we’re reminded it’s also an island, in fact two, with an unexpected geography including volcanoes and snow-covered mountain ranges. From there we travel on to Australia, where we follow the arrival of a new European immigrant man and his young daughter, as they get accustomed to native animals like koalas and kangaroos, and then settle in for a new life in the “outback”. There, they become integral in stories illustrating life in such isolated areas, including both the “School of the Air”, a classroom conducted over the radio and the Flying Doctor Service, similarly radio-dispatched.
Unseen theatrically since the early 1970’s, and never before issued on home video, Cinerama South Seas Adventure is the original road show version of the picture, complete with overture, intermission and exit music, now newly presented in the Smilebox Curved Screen Simulation. Now digitally remastered from the original camera negatives, the picture shines bright emitting both a panorama that is at times breathtakingly colorful, and a sparklingly clear, seven-channel sound track, as well as a fascinating time capsule of 1950’s innocence and quaintness. With a partial narration by Orson Welles, the picture also, surprisingly may be the first to chronicle primitive bungee jumping.