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4D Man (1959)

01/06/2011. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy 4D Man (1959) in the USA - or Buy 4D Man (1959) in the UK

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region 1 DVD: pub: Image Entertainment ID6599WEDVD. 85 minute colour film. Price: about GBP 5.00 (UK) if you know where to look) stars: Robert Lansing, James Congdon, Lee Meriwether and Robert Strauss

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Two scientist brothers worked on divergent projects unknown to each other. Tony Nelson (actor James Congdon) has been the less successful and only achieved his aim once, gets objects to pass through each other. A later attempt succeeds in burning the lab down where he did project late at night and consequently gets fired.

His brother, Scott (actor Robert Lansing) works for the Carson Institute and creates an element called Carsonite – his boss taking the credit cos he runs the place and can barely remember his employee’s name. Tony visits and gets a job there, as well as inadvertently becoming a near triangle with Linda Davis (actress Lee Meriwether) even if it doesn’t really sink in with Scott. Ultimately, he gets interested in Tony’s experiment after the lab’s medical doctor diagnoses something wrong with his brain. It is this which ultimately, combined with the experiment that allows him to become intangible. In the meantime, another ambitious scientists, Roy Parker (actor Robert Strauss) had stolen Tony’s notes and tries passing sample of it to Carson to elevate his own position. Things don’t go right there as later an angry Scott confronts Carson and passing his hands through him rapidly ages him and discovers that this will stop himself ageing every time he walks through people.

There follows a spare of ageing murders as Scott keeps young. Tony convinces the police of the problem and is determined to recreate the experiment so he can become intangible and chase after his brother but never gets the chance because...

Ah! That would be spoiler ground. Many years ago, I saw a picture from ‘4D Man’ in an old Science Fiction film book but never came across it since. Recently, I spotted the DVD going cheap on American Amazon and decided to fulfil an old ambition to see it.

As a 1959 film, relationships and such are standard for that time period. Oddly, a lot of it is suggested but never fulfilled. Scott Nelson isn’t even that aware that he’s becoming part of a love triangle or that Linda actually prefers Tony, who is oddly reluctant, especially as that had happened before. Even Parker’s fate is taken care of off-camera.

The main effect of Scott Nelson walking through walls though is very impressive, especially for the time period without using chroma-key with only a couple places looking a little dodgy. It looks like several methods were used, including something as simple as a halo light and passing through a reflection.

With the exception of Congdon, the other key cast members should all be well-known to you. The case notes specify a young Patty Duke in a minor role but she’s more well-known to our American audience than us Brits. According to IMDb, the film was also called ‘The Evil Force’. Producer Jack C. Harris did another significant film before this called ‘The Blob’ and look what happened to that one.

A very understated film that uses the monster out of control plot quite effectively considering the small budget it must have had at the time. Makes you wonder why no one’s thought of doing a remake as with a bigger budget it could still work today. In the meantime, try the original.

GF Willmetts

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