Were the first 3-D films Nazi propaganda films?

Kathryn Hadley reports on the recent discovery of two 3-D Nazi propaganda films. Released in 1936, they were decades ahead of the boom in 3-D films in the American film industry.

Kathryn Hadley | Published in 16 Feb 2011

Ben Child reported in today’s Guardian the discovery of two black and white 30-minute Nazi 3-D propaganda films. It is believed that the two films entitled So Real You Can Touch It and Six Girls Roll Into Weekend were produced by propagandists for the Third Reich in 1936, sixteen years before 3-D became popular and commercialised in the United States. They were discovered in Berlin’s Federal Archives by the Australian filmmaker Philippe Mora, who was researching his new documentary, How the Third Reich was Recorded, which explores the way the Third Reich used films as propaganda.

In the United States, the ‘golden era’ of 3-D films did not begin until 1952 with the release of Bwana Devil, directed by Arch Oboler (1907-1987) and considered the first American 3-D film in colour. Set in British East Africa at the beginning of the 20th century, the film is based on the true story of the slaughter of workers on the Uganda Railway by Tsavo man-eating lions. The first 3-D feature with stereophonic sound was André de Toth's horror film, House of Wax, starring Vincent Price and released in 1953.

According to Mora, his discovery confirms that the Germans were considerably advanced in the filmmaking industry. He was quoted on ninemsn.com:

The quality of the films is fantastic [...]. They were made by an independent studio for Goebbels' propaganda ministry and referred to as 'raum film' — or space film — which may be why no one ever realised since that they were 3D.

He believes that more films remain to be discovered.