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Producer Jack Harris and director Irvin Yeaworth were responsible for
two of the more off-the-wall sci-fi flicks of the '50s, "The Blob" and
this one (they also did "Dinosaurus," but that's a whole other story).
Both films appear to have been made around the same time, in 1957;
while "The Blob" was released then, this picture, for some reason,
wasn't put on the market until two years later. Actually, all things
considered, I think it's a better film than "The Blob," although "The
Blob" is actually more fun to watch. Lead actor Robert Lansing would at
first glance seem to be an odd choice to star in a sci-fi movie; he was
one of the more intense actors of his period, and you wouldn't think
that his somewhat gruff demeanor and rugged, craggy looks would be the
qualities you'd expect to find in an actor playing the lead in a sci-fi
film; those parts were usually played by men who were more
conventionally better looking than Lansing--and, frankly, younger.
However, Harris and/or Yeaworth knew what they were doing when they
cast him, as he fits this part to a tee; the coiled intensity he
brought to all his roles really works here. His character is a
basically good guy who lashes out when he discovers he's been betrayed
(his ne'er-do-well brother steals his girlfriend) and in the process
comes up with a scientific discovery that allows him to pass through
solid matter. He also discovers that the side effects of this condition
necessitate his draining the "energy" from others in order for him to
survive. It's intriguing to watch Lansing's transformation from a
decent if somewhat grouchy man to a homicidal, power-crazed "mutant";
where a sci-fi standby like John Agar would have either underplayed it
or gone over the top, Lansing manages to strike just the right note,
and really makes you pity, if not empathize with, the creature he's
Female lead Lee Merriwether has always been, in my opinion anyway, much underrated as an actress, being judged more for her status as a former Miss America than for her talent. However, she had a relaxed, naturalistic quality that many actresses with far more training and experience lacked, and I think it adds to the believability of the picture.
"The 4D Man" is no masterpiece, of course, but it's definitely one of the more intriguing, and thoughtful, sci-fi epics of the '50s. An interesting premise, very good special effects--considering the relatively low budget--solid performances and a much more adult tone than the usual '50s sci-fi flick make this a keeper. Check it out.
Robert Lansing plays a scientist whose brother is trying to perfect a
way to make solid objects pass through each other. Lansing finds out
about his brother's radical concept and tries some experiments of his
own. He succeeds so well that he takes the idea a step further: he
makes himself pass through solid objects.
The process has an adverse affect on his mind, and he starts walking through the walls of banks at night, stealing the cash. Unfortunately, the use of his new power causes him to age rapidly, and the only way he can rejuvenate himself is to absorb life-energy by passing through another human being -- even though this kills the victim.
Robert Lansing's performance is quite good, and so are those of co-stars Lee Meriwether and Patty Duke (age 12). Robert Strauss ("Stalag 17", "The Seven Year Itch") is sadly miscast as an unscrupulous fellow scientist. Director Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr. created a good film on a meager budget, just as he did with "The Blob".
The special effects are impressive (and in color), devoid of any cheap "see-through" superimposed images. Whenever Lansing walks through a wall, he looks like he's stepping into an opaque liquid. Watch for an eerie scene in which Lansing walks slowly across a room towards an intended victim, passing through tables and chairs.
I saw this movie when it first appeared in theaters. I was 12 years old and a fan of the ilk. However, the methods used for special effects in that era always seemed so obvious. This movie was a novel experience: I could not imagine how the effects were done. My only reservation was that they talked of slipping through the fourth dimension AND speeding up the natural process by which an object might slowly penetrate another. These are two different ideas. The second scenario accounts for the "horror" of the movie as people are rapidly aged. It was an unforgettable film. I would like to see it now and determine whether it holds up as well as my memory of it.
I didn't have very high expectations for 4D man and when I started to watch it, the jazz music playing started to confirm my fears right at the start of the film. It really got the movie started off on the wrong foot. Other than the music, I must admit that it was a pretty good sci-fi movie. The acting was good, film quality good, very nice special effects and an unusual sci-fi plot. If I didn't know any better, I would have thought that this movie was made in the mid 1960s and not 1959. It's my opinion that 4D Man is probably a little underrated as a 50s sci-fi, horror flick and should get more attention. Don't expect too much though. I wouldn't go as far as calling it a classic, but I think it's still a pretty good movie and is well worth watching. Let the 4D Man come through the wall for you. I don't think you will be disappointed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have just seen 4D Man for the second time and enjoyed it more than
the first time I had seen it.
A scientist and his brother come up with a device that can make things go through anything. Things start to go wrong though and one of the brothers resorts to crime by simply walking and reaching through windows and walls. After stealing an apple from a grocer's and nearly stealing from a jewellery shop, he sees a bank and robs it. He then starts murdering people just by putting his hand through them. They age quick as they die. The 4D Man ages as the movie goes on. He is eventually tracked down by the police and disappears at the end. Through all this, his brother falls in love with his girlfriend.
The special effects are quite good for a low budget movie and the rather jazzy score is quite good, though unusual for this type of movie.
The movie stars Robert Lansing (Empire Of the Ants) as the 4D Man, Lee Meriwether as his girlfriend, James Congdon as his brother and a young Patty Duke.
4D Man is worth seeing if you get the chance. Excellent.
Rating: 3 and a half stars out of 5.
Wow, I searched for years to get this on DVD. I first saw it back in
High School on one of those midnight horror shows in Australia (Deadly
Earnest was the host...anyone from Australia remember him??).
I remember being obsessed with the walking through walls special effect, the way in which bits of his clothing would appear first, then the rest of him.
It's funny how a film can stay with you from childhood. The day I got the DVD, I was stoked. Not the greatest film ever made, but I am a die hard fan. I admit to being surprised by the score, very jazzy for such a dark story. I thought Robert Lansing and the rest of the cast were cool. They gave some considerable depth to what was after all very much a 'B' movie.
Check it out!
I'm always amazed to see a classic movie having the same ideas as
modern day movies I thought to be original. This movie reminded me of
'' Hollow Man '' by Paul Verhoeven ( but without the fancy special
effects of our modern day ). It's the story of two brothers - one of
them playful and charismatic, the other one strict and serious -
finding themselves in a struggle over a woman. At a certain point one
of them gets the ability to alter molecular substances, making him able
to speed the aging process inside human beings and to walk through
concrete walls. Yep, pretty handy to become a thug if you can do these
I liked it. It's another nice story about someone gaining a superpower and using it for his own benefit. Like so many other movies, this is about how we human beings are able to do horrible things in a situation in which we gain power. It's like Spiderman once said: with great power comes great responsibility.
It's a SF-movie from the fifties, so the special effects are nothing compared to what we're used to. If you're able to look past that, you can enjoy a pretty decent movie. Not a masterpiece, but enjoyable on its own accord.
Of all the films of actor Robert Lansing this film " The 4-D Man " is perhaps the least seen or appreciated. The story revolves around inventive scientist Dr. Scott Nelson (Robert Lansing) who is searching for something which can revitalize his nearly futile experiments with a new metal process. He discovers that his younger brother Dr. Tony Nelson (James Congdon) is also working with a fantastic invention which ventures into the realm of the incredible. At first, Scott is uninterested and disbelieving, until his brother shows him. Once aware of the possibilities, Scott steals the project and pushes it to the limits. However, the outcomes are totally unexpected as Scott is propelled into the world of the Forth Dimension with horrendous results. This is a solid movie and Lansing overwhelms the cast despite having Lee Meriwether, Robert Strauss and Edgar Stehli as Dr. Theodore W. Carson. Look carefully and you'll see a very young Patty Duke playing Marjorie Sutherland. Good fun for the Special Effects crowd. ***
Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr. made this between the classic "The Blob" and the
just plain goofy "Dinosaurus!". While "4D Man" is nowhere near the
greatness of "The Blob", its a pretty enjoyable little sci-fi flick in
its own. Also, unlike many of the other drive-in sci-fi films of the
time period, it seems to be interested in telling a much more mature
and adult story. There's parts that even remind me of "The Incredible
Shrinking Man" in their somber mood and tone. The film is a nice
balance between an engrossing story and the more campy and outdated
elements a lot of genre fans look for. At the center of this all is a
fantastic lead performance by Robert Lansing. Even when his character
is supposedly a monster, Lansing makes him sympathetic throughout.
Also, the special effects were very good for their time.
The film is far from perfect however. There's a big band score that sounds far better suited for a "Dragnet" episode than this film. Its constantly blaring on the soundtrack, and detracts a lot of potential creepiness the scenes could have had. A moog or therimin score, like what was featured in many sci-fi films from the period, would have been much more effective. Still, the good outweighs the bad here, and while this isn't exactly a 50s cult classic, its commended to drive-in fans. (6/10)
With the development, denotation and proliferation of atomic weaponry and
the expansion of nuclear plants after World War Two 1950s sci-fi motion
pictures were quick to capitalize on these events utilizing the
and general unfamiliarity of ongoing atomic research as a basis for story
ideas. In these films atomic testing was responsible for the revival of
long extinct dinosaurs (BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS and GODZILLA, KING OF
MONSTERS), contact with nuclear radiation in a myriad of ways caused
gigantic mutations in existing animal species (THEM!, TARANTULA, ATTACK OF
THE CRAB MONSTERS and BEGINNING OF THE END) as well as in human beings
CYCLOPS, THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN, ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN, WAR OF THE
COLOSSAL BEAST and THE 30 FOOT BRIDE OF CANDY ROCK) and in one instance
exposure to a radioactive mist caused a man to dwindle to microscopic
dimensions (THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN).
Atomic research obviously involved much more than the creation of more potent and lethal forces of destruction through nuclear fission and 4D MAN was one of a handful of 1950s sci-fi films to present movie audiences with some idea of just what went on in such scientific facilities touching upon other explorative aspects of quantum physics such as bombarding elements with subatomic particles and experimentation with intensified electromagnetic fields.
4D MAN was the second of three interesting projects produced by Jack H. Harris which included THE BLOB (1958) and DINOSAURUS! (1960) forming an imaginatively diverse and highly entertaining sci-fi trilogy. While not masterpieces of the genre these Jack H. Harris productions had the important distinction of being filmed in colour which was contrary to the trend of photographing the majority of sci-fi B-films of the period in black and white.
Much of this film's basic story structure can be traced to Lambert Hillyer's THE INVISIBLE RAY (1936) where Boris Karloff as Professor Janos Rukh becomes contaminated from being exposed to his discovery of the space-born element Radium X charging him with a fantastically deadly power (enabling Rukh to kill his scientist rivals by the mere touch of his hand) which steadily deteriorates his rational reasoning while also proving progressively fatal to him as well (this is kept in check by a periodic dosage of a temporary antidote).
Similarly Robert Lansing as physicist Scott Nelson in testing his younger brother's (Tony a renegade scientist of some disrepute) portable prototype contrivance in amplifying electromagnetic fields is able to move his hand through an impenetrable slab of metal. In successfully re-attempting the same feat within the force field again he discovers that the device has shorted-out yet he is now able to miraculously pass through any solid masses. Although not clearly delineated in the film his prior repeated exposure to the atomic furnace chambers in the development of a new dense alloy has caused an undetected mutation in Dr. Nelson's brain resulting in infinitely more intensified concentration faculties coupled with his also being affected by the experimental electromagnetic field now enabling Dr. Nelson to physically accelerate into the fourth dimension at will and whenever in this de-molecular condition he can freely walk through any physical barriers (walls, fences, doors, etc.). However while in this high velocity state Nelson also accelerates in age and by accident discovers he can only be restored to normalcy by draining the life energies of hapless victims resulting in a reign of terror until his eventual demise at the hands of his former scientist colleague-girlfriend in true "film noir" fashion by shooting Dr. Nelson (when not in his inter-dimensional form) as both are embraced in a passionate kiss.
The end is somewhat ambiguous as the apparently mortally wounded and dissipating Dr. Nelson (proclaiming himself "indestructible") retreats with some difficulty through a wall out-of-sight and the superimposed wording "The End" appears transforming into a visible question mark. This could imply a number of possibilities: A) Dr. Nelson died from the gunshot after disappearing into the wall remaining permanently embedded within it. B) Nelson could have successfully made his escape only to recover and return later to vengefully strike out at humanity anew. C) The artificially-induced fourth dimensional state could eventually be rediscovered and resurrected by some other researcher with similarly terrifying repercussions. D) What further unforeseen horrors is science on the brink of unleashing upon the world in the future?
Crucial to the plausibility and acceptance of this film's fantastic premise are convincing and competent special effects and the visuals employed in 4D MAN while all too sparse and fleeting are remarkably impressive nonetheless. Memorable is the scene where Dr. Nelson aimlessly strolls along a downtown street at night and mischievously applies his newly acquired powers by passing his hand through a mailbox removing a letter and properly replacing it through the slot (any solid object Nelson touches also de-solidifies), filching an apple through the front window of a produce store and similarly handling a diamond necklace on display in a jewellery shop. When Nelson pauses from his amusement and observes the darkened national bank across the street his smile betrays exactly what is on his mind (editing between the camera's point-of-view of the bank juxtaposed with the expression on Nelson's face wordlessly conveys his intention to make an unauthorized withdrawal). Sound is also utilized to considerable effect as a high-pitched electronic whine ominously signifies Dr. Nelson's transformation into the inter-dimensional entity. The age makeup of his victims whose life energies are absorbed by the desperate, deranged researcher is incredibly well handled indeed (particularly in the unintentional first murder of his physician friend where some cartoon animation is employed to dynamically accentuate the onslaught of rapid aging further making the effect all the more gruesome). With tremendous nightmarish impact the mummified corpses of his victims serve as a powerful testament to the frightening deadliness of this unstoppable and elusive killer on the prowl.
The late Robert Lansing was an curiously peculiar choice for the Jekyll-Hyde role but handily fulfilling the part's demands and his performance is an engaging, unique and refreshingly modernized interpretation of a stock horror film character. The actor's portrayal is as much a visual conception as it is a dramatic one which warrants a constant, studied scrutiny (witness how he perpetually has a lighted cigarette in hand and cleverly integrates his own habitual chain-smoking into his portrayal of Dr. Nelson). Through a facial expression, body movement or a hand gesture Mr. Lansing can convey his innermost thoughts, attitudes and feelings without the utterance of a single word a facility suitably appropriate for the visual demands of the cinema. Mr. Lansing also possessed a wonderfully expressive voice well capable of adroit, incisive delivery of dialogue when required so much so that the actor was recruited to handle the story's opening narration chores. For contrast the actor deliberately underplays his part so that his confrontational scenes where impassioned emotionalism is displayed (his frustration and anger exhibited over co-worker Linda's rejection of both his marriage proposal and pathetic amorous advances toward her, his pent up resentment directed against his callously exploitive and crassly unappreciative superior) noticeably stand out and make a stronger impression. Unfortunately in his film work Mr. Lansing was rarely involved with science fiction his most notable efforts being in television segments such as THE TWILIGHT ZONE (the unforgettable "The Long Morrow") and STAR TREK (the proposed spinoff pilot "Assignment Earth") and his was an enigmatic and charismatic personality which should have been utilized much more in the genre.
There is a matter of chronology regarding just when 4D MAN was actually filmed. In a minor part is the then child actress Patty Duke still years ahead of her academy award performance as a young Helen Keller in Arthur Penn's THE MIRACLE WORKER (1962) and as the teen-star of her own popular television series THE PATTY DUKE SHOW (1963-66). As Marjorie the daughter of Lee Meriwether's "landlady" Miss Duke appears to be between eight to ten years of age however 4D MAN was theatrically released on October 1959 and the budding young actress was thirteen years old at that time. Speculation would suggest that this Jack H. Harris production was clearly filmed a few years prior to its actual release (probably made in tandem with Mr. Harris's first sci-fi project THE BLOB which was filmed in 1957 and 4D MAN was originally intended as its co-feature) but for some undetermined reasons its premier would be postponed until Universal-International Pictures finally distributed the apparently shelved film in late 1959.
Most reviewers of 4D MAN seem unanimous in their dissatisfaction with film composer Ralph Carmichael's brash and vibrant jazz score having been utilized in a film of this nature however considering the time period (the late l950s) this energetic and rambunctious music is cannily suited to the more contemporary setting nicely expressing the strong underlying emotions, tensions and conflicts of the characters as well as accentuating the thrills and excitement of the action. Mr. Carmichael's jazz music appropriately imbues the events with the gritty texture of a police manhunt-dragnet drama and in contrast to the more conventional symphonic orchestrations employed for the majority of sci-fi movies at the time the traditional scoring seems rather trite and overly melodramatic by comparison. It's curious that a soundtrack album wasn't issued in conjunction with the film's release for aficionados of this brand of music. Mr. Carmichael was also responsible for the background music in Jack H. Harris's other sci-fi production THE BLOB.
Although certainly not the first, 4D MAN was reflective of a marked tendency in the late 1950s toward an increased sophistication and relevancy in themes and concepts advanced and explored in sci-fi films a trend which would be followed through well into the next decade. With tremendous strides made in technology, scientific research and the then fledgling space program the onus and challenge was now on for film makers to seek out new and different avenues for story ideas to reach a far more demanding and knowledgeable audience. Through efforts such as 4D MAN these imaginative craftsmen succeeded quite admirably.
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