BAD IDEA: Smell-o-VisionThe quixotic history of an improbable, impossible machine.

BAD IDEA: Smell-o-VisionThe quixotic history of an improbable, impossible machine.

  • Words John Ovans
  • Photograph Hulton Archive/Getty Images

GOOD IDEA: THE SMELL OF HISTORY

The movie industry is currently searching for ways to get butts back in seats. One thing it is unlikely to consider is resurrecting Smell-o-Vision, a much-hyped “immersive experience” that was meant to be the next big thing, then wasn’t.

First introduced during the 1939 New York World’s Fair by Hans Laube—a Swiss advertising exec-turned-“world-famous osmologist,” according to the press materials—the premise was that theaters could be rigged up with a system known as the “smell brain,” which would release odors via tubing to individual audience seats. 

The smell brain made its cinematic debut much later with the 1960 film Scent of Mystery starring Elizabeth Taylor, where aromas were central to the storyline. The smells emitted—which included pipe tobacco, shoe poli...

The full version of this story is only available for subscribers

Want to enjoy full access? Subscribe Now

Subscribe Discover unlimited access to Kinfolk

  • Four print issues of Kinfolk magazine per year, delivered to your door, with twelve-months’ access to the entire Kinfolk.com archive and all web exclusives.

  • Receive twelve-months of all access to the entire Kinfolk.com archive and all web exclusives.

Learn More

Already a Subscriber? Login

Your cart is empty

Your Cart (0)