International intrigue and high-stakes espionage collide in Dennis O’Keefe’s 3-D noir thriller The Diamond Wizard. A rather simplistic story turns into a heart-pounding edge-of-your-seat ride thanks to a crackling sharp script, a great cast, and some jaw-droppingly effective 3-D photography. 3-D Film Archive delivers what is easily their new benchmark for 3-D film restoration with this Blu-ray release from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. Fans can enjoy the film in stereoscopic digital 3-D, Anaglyph 3D, and flat 2D with an excellent transfer for each version, solid audio, and a fine assortment of extras. 3-D fans don’t miss out on this one - Highly Recommended
An FBI agent investigating the theft of over a million dollars from a U.S. treasury vault is gunned down by a gang of crooks out to score some high-quality phony diamonds. In England, an important atomic scientist has gone missing. U.S. Treasury Agent Joe Dennison (Dennis O’Keefe) has teamed up with Scottland Yard’s best man Inspector McClaren (Philip Friend) to put this mystery to rest. The phony diamonds are of such quality they’re almost indistinguishable from the real thing and pose a problem for international markets. When it’s discovered the missing scientists made his daughter Marline (Margaret Sheridan) a broach with such a diamond, the two cases converge in a high-stakes game of international espionage and counterfeiting.
On the surface of it, director Montgomery Tully and co-director and star Dennis O’Keefe’s The Diamond Wizard (more simply known as The Diamond in the UK and other territories) is a fairly by-the-numbers effort. The plot is simple enough complete with MacGuffin, an international cabal of nefarious players, a double cross or two, and a large sum of cash. You have a pair of driven dedicated detectives working the case with a little dash of romance from a beautiful dame to sweeten the plot pot. Pretty basic and to the point elements one and all. However, it’s how well these various bits and pieces are brought to life that sets a would-be run-of-the-mill thriller like The Diamond Wizard apart. And that’s beyond the stunning 3D photography.
At a brisk 83-minutes, the film finds its pace and never lets up. With all of the plot machinations and moving parts, there’s just enough time to establish characters, give them a little something of a back story to make them interesting, set the stakes, and let the ball roll. The film moves fast making sure it never loses focus or energy, but at the same time, it knows when to tap the breaks a tad to build suspense and keep you fully invested. Running the show is Dennis O’Keefe as the brash American with Philip Freind delivering the dry-witted Englishman. Together they’re on the case picking at each little thread and weaving the tapestry together and you’re along for the ride.
In 2-D, this is still a fairly serviceable plot with enough action and character to hold your focus. But boy howdy, Gordon Lang’s cinematography coupled with Charles W. Smith serving as 3-D technician, this film takes on a whole extra dimension. Simple nondescript rooms are amplified with an often subtle but incredible amount of depth. There are objects throughout the scenery to maintain depth and how the camera moves around and within the space makes magnificent use of the format.
Take any of the Scottland Yard offices seen throughout the film. The rooms themselves may not be much offering some random foreground and middle-ground objects – but look outside the windows. You’ll see tree branches and other buildings extending far off into the distance. The camera often pulls in or out on our subjects during various scenes but that sense of depth is never lost or in the case of the FBI agent making a simple phone call, makes a narrow feel more claustrophobic. Then you have the climax of the film with some amazing use of set locations like an atomic laboratory or one of those terrifyingly steep escalators at a London Underground station!
To be sure, there aren’t that many surprises. Some reveals of the nefarious no-gooders identities are telegraphed pretty early and the film more or less plays to formula. But again, going back to that energy and flow, O’Keefe and Montgomery keep the film moving at such a pace little trivials barely register. This is pulp entertainment at its finest. If this was a dimestore paperback, it’s the sort of thing you’d have read within a couple of hours in a comfy chair with a cup of coffee. It’s not heady, it’s just entertaining and well-executed. Even in 2D this film holds together nicely and doesn’t hinge solely on the 3-D visuals to add excitement (even though for some key sequences they are incredible). It’s just a simple fun well-made flick.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The Diamond Wizard steals its first 3D Blu-ray release from Kino Lorber Studio Classics with 3-D restoration by 3-D Film Archive. Pressed on a Region A BD-50 disc, the disc is housed in a standard sturdy case with identical slipcover artwork. If you are 3-D enabled, the disc automatically loads to 3-D, but through the menu you can select Anaglyph 3-D or simple 2D viewing experiences. Also included is a pair of Red/Blue Anaglyph 3-D glasses
As I’ve said for past reviews, the 3-D Film Archive crew are cinematic magicians restoring these nearly lost or almost completely forgotten classics to their proper 3-D glory. Each project has had its own unique issues to deal with and they’ve done masterful work in the past. But with The Diamond Wizard they may well have set a new high bar for themselves. Simply put this 1.65:1 1080p 3D Blu-ray presentation is a marvel! Amazingly the film was never shown in 3-D during its original theatrical run, and it wasn’t seen stereoscopically until 2006! This is a shocking tidbit to me because this is a phenomenal example of what great 3-D can look like. From wide-open shots of an atomic lab to tight closeups of guns or a piece of jewelry, there’s an incredible sense of depth that’s easy on the eyes without any unsightly ghosting or parallax effects.
Depth along the Z-axis is vast making it feel like you could see into the distance for miles while there are plenty of Pop-Outs and foreground objects to maintain scale. Camera movements are well-timed and fluid to ensure depth is never lost and your eyes never strain or “bug out.” And speaking of Pop-Outs, there are plenty of amazing moments and objects that push their way out of the screen but they’re not the main focus - not every shot is composed to elicit this effect so when you see a revolver barrel or a suitcase or a model plane punch out of the screen it’s a surprise and well-managed effect. Even optical effects of telegram ticker tape over the screen add amazing depth to a brief moment in the film.
Referring back to a key moment on the escalator at a tube station I mentioned earlier, when I was a kid I got to go to London and those steep drop escalators terrified me. They gave me such vertigo I was sure I’d fall. There’s a scene in the third act that takes place on just such an escalator and it immediately gave me that terrifying vertigo feeling - and it’s glorious!
Details for every presentation option on this disc are terrific. Take a look at the restoration featurette in the bonus features to see what 3-D Film Archive started with and where it ended up. There are a few small scratches here and there and a little occasional speckling but nothing serious or rough enough to take you out of the film in 2-D or 3-D. Grayscale is beautiful with some lovely deep inky blacks and brilliant shadows - especially in that creepy atomic laboratory set.
This film also comes with Anaglyph (red/blue) 3-D for those folks without digital 3-D televisions or projectors and it too is amazing. Of course, the red/blue glasses affect the grayscale, that’s to be expected, but the 3-D illusion is maintained and still an enjoyable experience. Ever since 3-D Film Archive started doing Anaglyph presentations with their own proprietary software, I’ve never had an issue with this brand of 3-D. Past Anaglyph 3-D disc releases would trigger an instant migraine for me from the eye strain and color shift, but that hasn’t happened with any of these recent releases. So they’re doing something right! The Diamond Wizard was meant to be seen in 3-D and now anyone can enjoy it that way regardless of their home theater setup.
Digital 3-D - 5/5
Anaglyph 3-D - 4.5/5
Flat 2-D - 4.5/5
This release also clocks in with a solid DTS-HD MA 2.0 track. Given this is a nearly 70-year-old film, it still has a little bit of hiss and some occasional pops here and there, but thankfully that’s the worst of any kind of age-related issues with the track. Dialog is clean throughout and never a problem to hear. Sound effects are full and lively - especially the atomic lab set and the film’s final act is a bustle of action and activity. The score by Matyas Seiber is appropriately moody noir-ish thriller material and accents the film nicely. Again that little bit of slight hiss is the only contentious issue here but it's so slight you'll never be distracted by it.
While the bonus features may not be plentiful - clearly more disc space was secured for the various presentation options - what we do get is quality stuff. The Mike Ballew commentary is certainly well worth a watch as he narrates a little historical featurette about the 1951 London World’s Fair and 3-D exhibition, and different players who brought in their own camera rigs - including Raymond Spottiswood, father of Terror Train, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, and Tomorrow Never Dies director Roger Spottiswood. It’s a lot of technical stuff but it wonderfully illustrates how fast and hard various players were all working on 3-D filmmaking all at the same time. If you’re an A/V nerd and love the process of bringing these classics to life, the restoration featurette is impressive. It’s not very long but they detail the amount of work that went into correcting misalignments and restoring the left eye/right eye elements.
On the whole of things, The Diamond Wizard probably isn’t the most original thriller ever made - but it was a well-made one nonetheless. Star and co-director Dennis O’Keefe with Montgomery Tully handle the film’s key events with a quick pace but never shortchanges key plot points or character arcs. Along the way, they manage to stage some exciting action setpieces and sequences with the splendor of some impressive and often thrilling stereoscopic photography.
Thanks to 3-D Film Archive and KLSC, The Diamond Wizard can finally be seen the way it was always meant to - in full glorious 3-D! With this release, you have an impeccable digital 3-D experience, an excellent red/blue Anaglyph 3-D option, and if neither of those is appealing you can watch the film in 2-D. That said, you’re really missing out on some incredible stereoscopic photography if you watch it only in 2-D. This restoration effort and release set a new high bar for the team at 3-D Film Archive. If you’re a three-dimensional enthusiast you have another essential addition to the collection coming your way. Highly Recommended