This beautifully photographed mystery/chase film takes its cast through the Spanish landscape, but the real star of the picture is "Smell-O-Vision," a process by which real scents were pumped into the theater. The story, which stands on its own, is about "scrutable" Englishman Elliott,
who becomes involved in a search for a mysterious woman who is set to inherit $3 million. Brought to the eyes, ears, and noses of its Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles audiences by Michael Todd, Jr., SCENT OF MYSTERY was originally to have been produced by Todd's father. Cosmologist Hans Laube
and the younger Todd equipped Chicago's Cinestage Theater with over a mile of plastic tubing. More than 30 different smells were stored in vials, which dispersed the scents throughout the theater in response to cues on the soundtrack. Seconds after each smell was released, a neutralizing scent was
then sprayed. These smells corresponded with the on-screen visuals and included the odor of garlic, gunpowder, wine, peppermint, shoe polish, lemon, seafood, bananas, pipe tobacco, perfume. Occassionally, however, the scent would be the gag; in one instance, Lorre drinks coffee, but the aroma
released was that of brandy.
Shortly before SCENT OF MYSTERY was released, a different system, AromaRama, was developed and employed with BEHIND THE GREAT WALL, a documentary on China. This system dispersed its smells through air-conditioning vents. Yet another odoriferous process was first explored by Michael Todd, Sr., who
financed research in the hope that the system might be used for AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS (1956). Of course, some two decades later John Waters would make another foray into smelly filmmaking with POLYESTER (1981). In addition to its other technical innovations, SCENT OF MYSTERY featured
eight-channel sound. Elizabeth Taylor, wife of Todd and mother of Todd fils, makes an unpublicized and unbilled cameo appearance in the film as the sought-after heiress, identified by the scent of her expensive perfume. leave a comment