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Visit biografmuseet.dk about Danish cinemas

 

Scent of Mystery lives again!

Read more at
in70mm.com
The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Tammy Burnstock, Writer & Producer Date: 01.01.2016
Saskia Wilson-Brown founder of the Institute of Art and Olfaction

Fifty-five years after its original scented release, "Scent of Mystery" (AKA "Holiday in Spain") lives once again in glorious Smell-O-Vision!

In two special events: for the Widescreen Weekend Festival, Bradford UK and in front of a full house at the Danish Film Institute in Copenhagen, the movie was screened with a new experimental participatory scent track.

Audience members were central to scent delivery dispersing one (of 14) smells via personal spray bottles or, when cued by an off screen costumed ‘Mystery Woman,’ liberating a perfume clue via hand held souvenir fans. Automatic scents were also released into the cinema including the ‘Scent of Spain’, sea breeze and an animalistic smell to accompany a scene set amongst the Running of the Bulls.

The film was restored and re-mastered by Cinerama maestro David Strohmaier. With scents created by Saskia Wilson-Brown founder of the Institute of Art and Olfaction, Scentematographer Neal Harris of Scentevents and Antonio Gardoni of bogue – profumo who is responsible for the signature ‘Scent of Mystery’ perfume.

In charge of wardrobe was the amazing John Foley, who dressed volunteers Saul and Kelly in the UK and Trevor and Sabitha in Denmark. Smell-O-Vision props for the pilot were made by my daughter Rebekah Delaney, Mother Nomi and sister Dina.

For me the seeds of this revival were planted 30 years ago when I wrote my final paper for The Australian Film, TV and Radio School (AFTRS 1986).
 
More in 70mm reading:

Jack Cardiff about "Scent of Mystery"

Be part of Smell-O-Vision history! A campaign to re-start Mike Todd Jr's. Smell-O-Vision for future screenings of "Holiday In Spain"

A Brief History about Hans Laube

Mike Todd Jr.'s "Scent of Mystery" in Smell-O-Vision

Movies with artificial smells in cinemas: "Behind the Great Wall" and "Scent of Mystery"

Cinerama Inc. Scans "Holiday In Spain" at Crest Hollywood

Working for Michael Todd

Scent of Mystery in Copenhagen

Internet link:

Institute of Art and Olfaction

Scentevents

bogue – profumo

Redwind Productions

youtube.com
 
The beginning of Jack Cardiff's interview / audio-letter to Tammy Burnstock, December 1986

As part of the research I was fortunate to interview legendary cinematographer and director, Jack Cardiff who opened his interview with the following words:

Hello Miss Burnstock. By some ironic fate you have chosen a subject, the film I directed: 'Scent of Mystery', which is the one film I want to erase from my memory. The reason for this is that, through no fault of my own, the film was a complete disaster.

Read the full interview, or listen to the full interview

I never had an opportunity to watch the film but ever since then my passion for all things scented and my curiosity about this original stinker persisted. Last year an old film school buddy, Brendan Young, alerted me to the fact that the film had been restored and re-mastered (albeit in it’s second life incarnation without scent: "Holiday in Spain").

I ordered a
Blu-Ray and contacted the film’s distributer Brian Jamieson of Redwind Productions to see if there was a chance he would allow a pre-school writer from Australia to attempt to revive scented cinema. Amazingly he said yes.

Over the following year I liaised with Brian and David about how we were going to rise to this wonderful challenge. This finally became possible when in April 2015 Saskia Wilson-Brown, founder of the Institute of Art and Olfaction responded to my invitation to know more within 15 minutes of sending my email:

“Hi Tammy!
Um... Yes!
Exciting and amazing stuff.”
 
 
Dave Strohmaier, Per Tofte Nielsen, Tammy Burnstock and Randy Gitsch in Copenhagen, October 2015. Randy holding "Scent number 3" card-board sign. Image by Thomas Hauerslev

So Saskia, Dave and I met in LA to plot the new scent track and to talk about how were going to achieve the best results with, at this point in time NO budget. Saskia brought Neal Harris onboard. With over 30 years in the fragrance world Neal joined a dedicated group of professionals volunteering their time to bring the one and only true Smelly back to life to prove that scented cinema has a future. These people included production consultants Derrin Brown and Varcha Sidwell and editor Lile Judickis here in Australia along with the ‘Emperor of Scent’ himself, Luca Turin.

Happily Duncan McGregor Curator of the Widescreen Weekend at the National Media Museum in Bradford and Rasmus Brendstrup (Programmer for the Danish Film Institute) embraced the opportunity to venture into the unknown with us.

Fund raising has never been my forte. It seemed to me that the magic of scented cinema would sell itself to would-be-sponsors but this just didn’t happen. Luckily family and friends both old and new got behind the project via our ‘Be Part of Smell-O-Vision History’ crowd funding campaign and we were able to move forward with most of the material expenses covered (see full thank you list bellow).

For the screenings we reduced the number of scents from the original 30 to 18. Over 2 ½ hours the audience smelled: The faint smell of a yellow rose, The delectable mouth watering scent of a peach, The nicotinous smoky character of pipe tobacco, Rare and exotic Scent of Mystery perfume, The tangy breeze of the ocean, Strong keen smell of oil paint, A strong perfume (cheap!), The exotic scent of Spain, The heady grape essence of port wine, The musky scent of running bulls, Garlic!, The strong juicy greenness of clover and grass, The bracing exhilaration of steaming coffee, the pungent intoxication of strong brandy, The clean clear whiff of peppermint, The penetrating sweetness of talcum powder, The heavy oriental incense of an ancient mosque, Dusty cement odor of rubble and The fresh moist nose tingle of orange grove.

All senses were engaged and the audience responded enthusiastically as this taster of comments from post screening questionnaire contests:

“Unique and with a lot of humour”, “fun and different”, “interesting beyond my expectations”, “it made the scenes more immediate”, “it gave you an extra dimension”, “Takes you into the movie”, “Overwhelming and a special experience”, So much fun!”
 
 
Maria Hauerslev with the hand held souvenir fan in Copenhagen, October 2015. Image by Thomas Hauerslev

This scented event was a little rough around the edges but I think we came together at just the right time to achieve something different and stimulating. A memorable experience demonstrating the potential of scented cinema.

For a glimpse behind the scenes watch this video.

One of my main motivations in breathing smell back into "Scent of Mystery" was to bring director Jack Cardiff’s original vision to life. In his interview Cardiff claimed that the reason the film failed in it’s first outing in 1959 was because the Swiss ‘Osmologist’ Hans Laube was ‘a fraud’ and that his scents all smelled ‘like cheap cologne’.

There is very little information available about Hans Laube and what happened to him after the less than triumphant original outing for "Scent of Mystery". So I was very excited to be contacted by his daughter, Carmen Laube via Facebook. Sadly the story of this man who invented Smell-O-Vision and who “believed everything on this earth, even emotions, have a scent” is not a happy one.

Hans Laube first introduced his system, then called Scentovision, at the 1939–40 New York World's Fair. Visitors invited to take a look at "the world of tomorrow", discovered Nylon, a futuristic car-based city, television and a system whereby scents are delivered via pipes to individual seats in theaters, orchestrated by the projectionist using a control board. The New York Times reported in 1943 that Scentovision "produced odors as quickly and easily as the soundtrack of a film produces sound".

However Laube, a Swiss national, returned to Europe in 1946, unable to interest any film or television studios in his invention. Until Mike Todd, Jr. in 1959. This big budget venture should have been his moment in the sun but according to Carmen:

“The Scent of Mystery was his swan song. He lost all his money, my mom went to work, and he died about 16 years later, penniless and broken.” -
Carmen Laube, 2015

Link to full story: A Brief History about Hans Laube
 
 
Bottles of scents from the Institute of Art and Olfaction

Through this revival of this film, I have discovered that Jack Cardiff’s take on scented film history is just one point of view. In LA I met Charles Ziarko who attended the original screenings. He remembered the scents as being true to the vision and the delivery system relatively effective. Avery Gilbert, author of ‘What the Nose Knows: the Science of Scent in Every Day Life’, dedicates a chapter of his book to the ‘Battle of the Smellies’ between "Behind The Great Wall", hurriedly released just before the premiere of "Scent of Mystery". In recent correspondence he writes:

“While Smell-O-Vision and AromaRama are typically mentioned today only to ridicule them, I discovered in my research that Smell-O-Vision was a genuine technological innovation while AromaRama was a cynical rip-off. The many shortcomings of the latter succeeded in giving the whole field a bad name.”

This recent revival of "Scent of Mystery" provides further clues: We were reminded that scent is a very personal sense and no two people smell the same (the adjective and verb both being true). Therefore it is a great challenge to create and deliver a scent track that resonates universally to an audience. The disappointing first outing for the film in 1959 may have had more to do with the film itself and an over ambitious goal to populate a three hour movie with 30 scents than the scents themselves.

Scented Cinema has had a long gestation and is still in its infancy. Like the early days of sound, scent is at the moment a blunt instrument. However the power of olfactory engagement is undeniable. Scents, closely linked to memory and emotion, add value to the cinema experience and have a place in film history and into the future.

As I write we are planning for a screening of "Scent of Mystery" in Hollywood in 2016, taking on board the lessons learnt from our pilot screenings so WATCH THIS SPACE.
 
 

A HUGE Thank You

 
Front page of Tammy's final paper for The Australian Film, TV and Radio School (AFTRS 1986) - the thesis which started everything.

This scented celebration was created by an international team of passionate movie and smell professionals all of who volunteered their time or cold hard cash to make this event happen. So a HUGE thank you to the following Noses (in no particular order):

Brian Jamieson, Dave Strohmaier, Saskia Wilson-Brown, Neal Harris, Antonio Gardoni, Luca Turin, John Foley, Derrin Brown, Varcha Sidwell, Brendan Young, Nomi Burnstock, Dina Burnstock, Geoff Burnstock, Rebekah Delaney, James Delaney, Kelly Moffit, Saul Sebag Montifiore, Carmen Laube, Duncan McGregor, Lisa Brooke, Jay Arnold, Symon Culpan, Keiko Shimamura, Jack Wentworth-Weedon, Bethany Holden, Dominic Vinton, Rasmus Brendstrup, Per Tofte Nielsen, Randy Gitsch, Kathrine Meyer, Jørgensen Mads Toft Hansen, Gustav Hoder, Nina Neyra, Trevor Smith, Sabitha Sofia, Brooke Beledon, Victoria Routhier, Catherine Stone, Anna D Errico, Conor McTeague, Stella Egan, Judy Vaknin, John Boyd, Liz Roxburgh, Charles Ziarko, Anna Haywood, Vivian, Alisa and Miri Hirschfeld, Denise Viera, Grant Osborne, Syliva Hobbs, Gary Greenberg, Aviva Burnstock, Sophie Emtage, Maija Rove, Beth Taylor, KJ, Sally Zwartz, Catherine Strohmaier, Maureen Miller, Paige Livingston, Daniel and Judith Keyser, Wendy Chandler and anonymous supporters.

Thank you
 
 
   
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Updated 22-12-16