Clifford Poland:  Cinematographer

His obituary begins:  Clifford H. Poland Jr., ASC,  whose work graced productions ranging from "cheapies" such as Fireball Jungle (1969) and Wild Rebels (1967) to high-concept adventure pictures such as Around the World Under the Sea (1966), died on April 17, 2008, at the age of 91.

Born Aug. 1, 1916, in Memphis, Tenn., Poland grew up around the photography business. His father owned a commercial still-photo and motion-picture studio, where young Clifford began his apprenticeship. In 1941, he joined the camera guild, then known as IATSE Local 666, and one year later, he was direct-commissioned as a first lieutenant in the Signal Corps. From 1944-1946, he served as the officer in charge of the Motion Picture School ...


Creature from the Black Lagoon Only One of Clifford Poland's Projects

By Roy Walls

In the early 1950s, Clifford Poland helped film the underwater 3D sequences of "The Creature from the Black Lagoon", at Wakula Springs, Florida. Two synchronized Arriflex cameras placed at 450 to each other were sealed in a watertight housing. One camera shot straight ahead to the subject, while the other aimed at a semitransparent mirror. In the original polarized version of the movie only the underwater portion of the film was in 3D. See accompanying advertisement. All else was photographed flat. Both segments of the film, 2D and 3 D, were combined, making the 3rd dimension more astounding by contrast.  Polarized glasses were used from the beginning, so the mixing of 2D and 3D  went without notice.

"The Creature from the Black Lagoon" was only a small part of Poland's career, although I consider it the most important because it was his contribution to stereoscopic filmmaking.  Poland was not involved in "Creature" sequels.  At the end of WWII, on September 2, 1945, Clifford Poland shot newsreel footage of the surrender agreement of the Japanese aboard the USS Missouri, as a Signal Corps cinematographer.  Later he worked as Second Unit cameraman for the American Society of Cinematographers.  His movie credits include "Giant", "Key Largo", "A Streetcar Named Desire", "Paper Moon", "The Longest Yard", "Beneath the 12 Mile Reef", and "Around the World Under the Sea".  His TV credits include "Camera Camera", "Gentle Ben", and "Flipper", as well as over 1,000 commercials. 

I met Mr. Poland in January 2000 in my home town.  His underwater work ended when he tragically lost one of his lungs.  He retired in 1981 and moved to Johnson City, Tennessee to be near his relatives.  Remarkable, we were both born on August 1st, under the sign of Leo, Clifford in 1916 and me 25 years later in 1941.

His den is fascinating:  its walls are line with autographed photographs of him with movie stars on location.  During his career he had the opportunity to meet many interesting people and some of the great names in entertainment.  Asked about his impressions of the people he met, Clifford says Frank Sinatra was a perfectionist with little tolerance for actors who had difficulty with their lines, but Tony Martin, was one of the nicest people he worked with. 

Since meeting Clifford Poland, I became obsessed with collecting memorabilia.  My favorite is a matchbox size Creature, as a kid, on a skateboard.  Almost 50 years have passed since the filming of "The Creature from the Black Lagoon".  With rapidly declining health, Clifford Poland will be remembered fondly by movie lovers and the 3D community.  The wealth of "Creature" websites speaks for the endearing quality of the movie.


  Clifford Poland,  Tech 1934