A scientist discovers a formula enabling him to pass through solid surfaces, but he also rapidly ages, which forces him to kill humans in order to reverse the aging process by absorbing his victims' energies.
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Two brothers, scientists Scott and Tony Nelson, develop an amplifier that enables a person to enter a 4-dimensional state, which allows him to pass through any object. Scott experiments on himself and discovers that each time he passes through something he ages rapidly. He begins killing people, sucking out their life energies and regaining his youth as a result. It falls to Tony and Scott's girlfriend, Linda, to try to put a stop to his murderous rampage.Written by
Doug Sederberg <email@example.com>
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 become.
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.
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