Answer: Bwana Devil
Every trend starts somewhere and the massive popularity of 3D movies in the 1950s is no exception. While the technology to create stereoscopic images and even motion pictures had existed for some time, nobody had successfully capitalized on creating a 3D film before 1952.
It was that year when Arch Oboler wrote, directed, and produced the adventure B film, Bwana Devil, based on the true story of the Tsavo man eaters—a pair of East African lions that terrorized the railway workers building the Uganda Railway, Africa’s first national railroad. If just filmed as that story alone, the movie might have seen modest success, but would have likely been entirely irrelevant to the history of the industry.
As it stands, however, Bwana Devil was the first feature-length 3D color film and the first 3D sound feature in English, and the novelty of it was more than enough to send people rushing to movie theaters across the United States to experience it. The release of the film and the subsequent consumer interest in 3D feature films kicked off what is considered the “golden era” of 3D movies in the United States. For the next several years, major film studios would go out of their way to produce 3D films to meet the public’s increasing interest.
Image courtesy of United Artists.