Cinerama’s ‘Seven Wonders of the World’ (Blu-ray Review)

Cinerama's Seven Wonders of the WorldOf the seven sites the ancient Greeks named the “wonders of the world,” only one remains. Seven Wonders of the World is a round-the-world adventure that picks up where the Greeks of antiquity left off. Released in 1956, this Cinerama spectacle follows 20th century adventurer Lowell Thomas as he seeks out the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. Join him as he flies across the globe in the “Smasher,” a converted B-25, capturing some of the most breathtaking photography ever shot. The quest opens at the great pyramids, the last of the original Seven Wonders to still exist. From there, the “Smasher” circles the globe with Cinerama photographing a live East Africa volcano, under the bridges in New York, over and around Rio de Janeiro, the Parthenon in Athens, Angel Falls in South America, and many stops along the way to experience the beautiful culture of diverse locales. The film encourages the audience to choose from the dozens of sites explored. “What are your seven wonders?” Flicker Alley and Cinerama, Inc. are proud to present Seven Wonders of the World in the Smilebox® Curved Screen Simulation. Unseen theatrically since the early 1970s and never before broadcast or issued on home video, Seven Wonders of the World has been digitally remastered from its original camera negatives. The global adventure captures the beauty and culture of these extraordinary places in a Cinerama time capsule.  


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Call me a newbie or unenlightened but this is my first introduction the Cinerama format and it’s quite a sight. On this adventure we board a remodeled converted B-25 bomber nicknamed “Smasher” for our round-the-world romp to visit the Seven Wonders of the World, or, the Seven Wonders of the World in 1956. Yes, this travelogue of a film was made in the mid-1950’s but you wouldn’t know it due to how incredible the cinematography is. It’s until you see the people and their vehicles that you realize you’ve been transported back in time. Adventurer Lowell Thomas starts the film off with a detailed narration of what our journey in Cinerama will be like and it’s teasingly presented in standard 1.33:1 before the image fills up the screen from the sides in all of its Smilebox (2.59:1) format.

Wow, what a difference. It’s like you’re holding your breath for a few seconds and don’t know whether to exhale or cough it out. As I mentioned before Cinerama’s Seven Wonders of the World is a travelogue, which is basically narrated film about people, places, and things. This happens to be a film about wondrous places. We visit Egypt, India, Brazil, Africa, Athens, and many more locales. Flying in the “Smasher” is just the cherry on top; because once we do land there are many more sights to behold. Certain scenes may or may not have been staged just to be captured by the Cinerama format but it doesn’t really slow or mess anything up. I think it enhances the film, because the true star is the filming process and the locales. Phony staging is the least of my worries.

Lowell Thomas was an adventurer who traveled the world and documented his stays. He is our captain on this trip and if I’m not mistaken he traveled side by side with Lawrence of Arabia back in the day. He’s been around. He visits these countries and also narrates and presents the film. Cinerama’s Seven Wonders of the World is presented in all of its Roadshow glory, with an opening overture, intermission, and outro. Keep in mind that the intermission is listed as 15-minutes but was actually only 3-4 minutes long. Still, go get a refill and more popcorn.

The true draw of something like Seven Wonders of the World is the formatting. The original Cinerama system involved shooting with three synchronized cameras sharing a single shutter. You do, at times, see the where the lines join up on the screen but it’s very minor and should not distract at all. I believe How The West Was Won employed that same technology and some of the going screen lines were removed and the image was sort of “merged” together. Honestly, I can’t comment on that since I don’t have a copy of How The West Was WonSeven Wonders of the World is its own beast and I am happy to have covered the Blu-ray. I look forward to more Cinerama Blu-rays down the line. I would also add a minor disclaimer to end of this review and say that the film was made in 1956, so please keep in mind that the material may not be politically correct by today’s standards.


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Encoding: AVC MPEG-4

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 & 2.59:1

Clarity/Detail: Cinerama’s Seven Wonders of the World is my first foray into Cinerama’s library of specialty films and watching this on my Panasonic plasma set was unreal. I live near the Arclight Cinerama Dome but have never watched an actual Cinerama film there. This Blu-ray is the closest to that experience it really comes through. Contrast levels do fluctuate a tad but detail remains strong. The only things that may bother some folks are the separation lines where the 3 projectors line up. They show up throughout the program. They did not use the same process that they used in How The West Was Won, however, the person that worked on that project also supervised this one, so I give them the benefit of the doubt.

Depth: One word: INCREDIBLE! You’re literally the co-pilot in the “Smasher” and their scenes that make your eyes just dilate. I could feel mine turn into saucers especially when the plane would nose-dive or move side to side. It was like filming through a Go-Pro camera. The depth of field is outstanding and quite addictive.

Black Levels: I don’t believe any of the scenes presented in Seven Wonders of the World ever took place at night but what black levels were presented looked fine to me. I did not detect any instances of disruptive crush or compression artifacts.

Color Reproduction: Lush. The color palette, for being a film of the 1950’s, was great and at times it felt like I was looking outside my window. Color levels looked natural – never blown out, and absent of banding and pixilation.

Flesh Tones: Everyone presented in this film looked fine and healthy.

Noise/Artifacts: This film was meticulously restored and they did a fantastic job, because outside of the separation lines I talked about in this section there were no instances of debris, dirt, or tears. That equates to: mind blown.


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Audio Format(s): English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby 2.0

Subtitles: N/A

Dynamics: It’s quite strange that this production was supposedly mixed from the 7-channel strip but playback isn’t even lossless – it’s standard Dolby Digital 5.1. No matter – what you do get is a nice enveloping surround sound track. My favorite of the sound bytes would have to be the aerial shots as we fly in the “smasher. The low hum mixed in with some stellar classical tunes makes it all worthwhile, lossless, or not.

Low Frequency Extension: There’s ample rumble on this Blu-ray, as the LFE comes through with flying colors – quite literally.

Surround Sound Presentation: Surround sound channels are kept a buzz, with ambience and subtleties. No, it’s not an action packed film filled with explosions, but it’s obviously not that kind of movie.

Dialogue Reproduction: Adventurer Lowell Thomas narrates all the way through, the film with a lengthy introduction. Dialogue is crisp and clear from start to finish.


Cinerama's Seven Wonders of the World


There plentiful extras on this Blu-ray for your viewing pleasure. My favorite ones tend to be those that focus on the restoration process and there are a couple included along with newsreel footage, trailers, shorts, a collectible booklet, and more. This is a 3-disc (1 Blu-ray, 2 DVDs) set, and it’s region free.

  • Seven Wonders of the World Breakdown Reel (SD) – This is a 35 mm short film that would be presented to audiences while the projectionists worked on loading up the 3-reel sound strips in case of a problem. Yes, it’s literally a “breakdown” reel in every sense of the word.
  • Newsreel Footage (SD) – This is a clip of the premiere in New York that featured many stars and important people of the time.
  • Restoration Demonstration (HD) – My favorite of the special features, a 15-minute in-depth look at what went into restoring Seven Wonders of the World. 
  • Best in the Biz (HD) – A feature length interview with
  • Cinerama Everywhere (SD) – This is a short clip of tent presentations all over Europe.
  • Seven Wonders Trailers (HD & SD) –  Various trailers for Seven Wonders of the World. 
  • Publicity and Behind-the-Scenes Slideshow (HD) – A very cool behind the scenes look at the publicity and making of Seven Wonders of the World. 
  • 28 Page Booklet  – This appears to be a reproduction of the program that you would have gotten if you had watched the film in theaters back in 1956. I love the detail thrown into it.

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Watching Cinerama’s Seven Wonders of the World was like being thrown into the deep end of a swimming pool. The shock hits you hard but then you get used to the splendor before you come up for air. If you’re at all interested in film history, formats, restoration, then this is the Blu-ray for you. Keep in mind that the description of the back over states that this is a DTS-HD track, which is incorrect. It’s a standard DD 5.1 track. Flicker Alley has knocked it out of the park and I look forward to more programming from them.



Order Cinerama’s Seven Wonders of the World on Blu-ray!

Cinerama's Seven Wonders of the World


Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

1 Response to “Cinerama’s ‘Seven Wonders of the World’ (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Brandon Peters

    Oooh I wanna check this out