Director: Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr.
Writers: Theodore Simonson and Cy Chermak
Cast: Robert Lansing, Lee Meriwether, James Congdon, Robert Strauss, Edgar Stehli, Patty Duke, Guy Raymond, Chic James, Elbert Smith, George Kara, and Jasper Deeter
Composer: Ralph Carmichael
Release Date: 10/7/1959
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Scientist brothers Tony and Scott Nelson (James Congdon and Robert Lansing) develop an electronic amplifier allowing any object or person to enter a fourth dimensional state, thereby passing through solid matter with ease. After experimenting on himself, Scott experiences rapid aging as a side effect of using his new powers, prompting him to steal the youth of others. Only a lab assistant named Linda (Lee Meriwether), now enamored of Tony, can prevent Scott from continuing on his evil path.
4D Man is an intriguing, B-grade sci-fi/horror production by the same crew responsible for The Blob. Worth praising in particular are the performances of Robert Lansing and Lee Meriwether (both veterans of the science fiction genre), who add a hint of pathos to an original story concept by Jack H. Harris.
A love triangle involving Scott, Tony, and Linda compels the viewer to sympathize with the protagonist in spite of his odious behavior. Specifically, Scott resorts to theft and murder only after suffering rejection from his beautiful assistant—once a loyal friend and partner—and perceived betrayal from Tony, whose advances toward Linda add further insult to Scott’s injury.
On a technical level, 4D Man should be commended for its topnotch makeup and visual effects—at least by the standards of a 1950s horror movie. Exceptionally well-done are the scenes wherein Scott—desperate to replenish his life force—physically drains the energy from other people by passing through them, leaving behind a trail of hideous, decrepit corpses to baffle the police.
Despite humanizing Scott to a certain degree, a heavy emphasis on character development somewhat hampers the progression of 4D Man’s narrative. (The pacing does, however, improve during the second half of this film, at which point Scott finally develops the power of intangibility.)
4D Man also deserves criticism for its incongruous musical arrangement. Notably, the jazzy composition of Ralph Carmichael—known for scoring The Blob—detracts from the harrowing nature of Scott’s predicament, heightening the levity and overall camp factor of an otherwise serious, thought-provoking sci-fi/horror film.
Similar to H. G. Wells’ The Invisible Man (a modern retelling of Plato’s “The Ring of Gyges” tale), 4D Man investigates whether a moral person would remain as such without fear of punishment for wrongdoings. Note that Scott, though a very jealous man, maintains a strict adherence to ethical standards until realizing the extent of his abilities—a disturbing commentary on how the average person might react to having ultimate power over others.
An underrated science fiction film, this offering will appeal to fans of director Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr. Especially terrific are 4D Man’s captivating special effects, compelling narrative conflicts, and solid performances from both main cast members.
Overall Quality: 7/10
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