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Odorama

In 1982, the John Waters film Polyester was enhanced in a curious manner: using Odorama, various scents were delivered to the audience via scratch-and-sniff cards.

Waters' Verdict? "I got to see the film's audiences," he crowed a decade later, "pay to smell s---!"

[Waters first found success, and notoriety, with Pink Flamingos in 1972. The film contains a scene (quite literally in very poor taste) showing lead actor 'Divine' eating real dog feces on camera.]

[A brief history of Odorama: In the 19th century, a London theatre was sprayed with perfume to add atmosphere to a stage production. In 1906, the Family Theatre in Forest City, PA. dipped cotton wool into rose essence and placed the wads in front of an electric fan during a newsreel of the Rose Bowl. Soon thereafter an "odor track" was being added to such films as Lilac Time (1929) to emit appropriate scents as it passed through the projector. The new invention presented novel problems however. The ventilators, which were supposed to pump odors out of the room as well as in, did not always work and one theater was so overwhelmed with the smell of ripe apples, bacon, roses, ether, and Lysol that it took over an hour to clear the air and, even many days later, the apple scent was so overpowering that the manager was suspected of secretly manufacturing applejack in the building.

Hollywood soon began producing feature-length smellies: The documentary film Behind the Great Wall (1959) used the Aroma-Rama process to waft 52 scents (including burning pitch and barnyard geese) through a theatre's air-conditioning system. Mike Todd's Scent of Mystery (1960) used Smell-O-Vision: a "smell track" activated vials of scent, mounted on a rotating drum, which delivered aromas (including pipe tobacco, garlic and boot polish) to each seat in the theatre.

The Smell-O-Vision process was originally designed for Around the World in 80 Days. Both Smell-O-Vision flicks were plagued with problems: audiences at the back of the theatres received smells out of synch and, between showings, it was difficult to flush the scents out of the buildings.

At the turn of the millennium, Italian rapper Jovanotti produced a series of concerts at which particular songs triggered smells and tentative plans for a "scent event" with a surprising performer were also explored: the performer? Opera superstar Luciano Pavarotti!]

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