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Venice: Michael Jackson Estate, John Landis Unveil ‘Thriller’ Video in 3-D

VENICE, Italy – The hotly anticipated 3-D version of the 1983 game-changing “Thriller” short directed by John Landis world-premiered Monday at the Venice Film Festival, where Landis and Michael Jackson estate co-executor John Branca called it a preamble to bigger announcements regarding upcoming Jackson legacy projects.

“Now we have ‘Thriller’ 3-D, and two more announcements are coming up in the next couple of weeks,” Branca said in an interview with Variety, declining to elaborate further. “Michael had an expression: ‘The quality goes in before the name goes on.’ So we are not ready to announce them yet.”

Asked if there may be an album coming of unreleased recordings from the vaults, Branca said: “I don’t foresee us releasing any more unreleased music for quite some time.” But he added: “That doesn’t mean there won’t be interesting [new] record releases in the very near future.”

Landis recalled that one of the most surreal things about making the zombie-ridden “Thriller” video was Jackson’s friends.

“He introduced me to Spanky Mc Farland [of “The Little Rascals”] and to Marlon Brando,” Landis said. He went on to recount the most surprising encounter he made on the “Thriller” shoot.

“We were shooting the cemetery scene in a meat-packing plant in a bad part of L.A….Mike asked to see me, so I stepped up to his Winnebago. I knocked, and he said: ‘John, do you know Mrs. Onassis?’ I was, like, what? It was just the last person I expected!”

Landis said at first he thought the new 3-D conversion would be merely a gimmick, and was keen about the project primarily because it would allow the negative to be restored. But in the process of doing the conversion, he realized that 3-D “really enhances it, especially the dance” aspect of the video. The short has not been re-edited or re-cut, but the sound has been enhanced.

How and when the 3-D “Thriller” short will be released is still being kept under wraps. However, Landis assured that it would be a “cinematic experience.”

The original 14-minute short redefined the traditional music video when it opened at the Avco Theatre in Los Angeles in 1983 for a sold-out three-week run.

The Venice world premiere of “Thriller” in 3-D is being accompanied by a restored version of Jerry Kramer-directed “Making of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller'” documentary, shown in a theater for the first time. Plans for the reissue of this powerful piece, which includes Jackson family home movies, are also currently under wraps.

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