Like the current 3D craze, movie studios were desperate to create new formats to compete with television in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. This led to innovations like Cinerama, complex audio set-ups and the Scope format that survives to this day.
But for every advancement that proved invaluable to future filmmakers, some fell by the wayside, like “Anamorphic Duovision,” a splitscreen technique to tell two sides of the same story simultaneously. If you’ve ever seen Brian De Palma‘s Sisters or Ang Lee‘s Hulk, you’ve seen what is actually a very simple idea.
In 1973, MGM attempted to use this technique for an entire motion picture. They also tried to get audiences to buy into it with this inadvertently campy trailer of “the first feature film production in Duovision,” Wicked, Wicked.
It attempts to keep the mystery by referring to the trailer as a “single screen” preview, which is bold in a certain way.
In the late 1990s, filmmaker Mike Figgis went two further and made Timecode, which told its story via four viewpoints all on screen at the same time. He never thought to market the film as being in “Quad-Vision,” however.
While trying to sell the film on such a flimsy gimmick as splitscreen is cynical, there’s something charming and naive about the trailer itself. It shows some of the films tongue-in-cheek vibe, but also reveals a desperation as MGM was in a decline that would eventually see it sell its studio lot and film library. Films like Wicked, Wicked could not save the studio, but at least they exists to remind us of that earlier age of filmmaking.