4D Man

4D Man

Director: Irvin Shortess Yeaworth Jr., Robert Lansing, Lee Meriwether, James Congdon

Cast: Irvin Shortess Yeaworth Jr., Robert Lansing, Lee Meriwether, James Congdon

     
 
Producer Jack H. Harris and director Irvin S. Yeaworth will forever be remembered for their first film together, The Blob, starring Steve McQueen; they did some very worthwhile work after that, however, of which 4D Man is a prime example. It features one of the more novel plot lines of any 1950s science-fiction film -- what's more, it actually pulls off

Overview

Producer Jack H. Harris and director Irvin S. Yeaworth will forever be remembered for their first film together, The Blob, starring Steve McQueen; they did some very worthwhile work after that, however, of which 4D Man is a prime example. It features one of the more novel plot lines of any 1950s science-fiction film -- what's more, it actually pulls off the screen illusion that it needs in order to make the movie work. Robert Lansing plays a research scientist who, through an accident, acquires the ability to pass his body through solid matter. The problem is that this drains his life energy, causing him to age rapidly, and he can only replenish himself by passing inside other people's bodies, killing them as he steals their life energy. Ultimately, he turns into a monster, killing at random. The special effects are well-handled, the script is nicely written, and the acting is well above average for the genre -- mostly because the cast was drawn from the ranks of experienced theatrical performers. The Blob used a similar approach and, indeed, used many of the same actors in supporting roles. 4D Man never made it to laserdisc, so the only basis for comparison comes from television presentations and a few theatrical showings in recent year. The Image Entertainment DVD stands head and shoulders above any prior home-viewing presentation of the movie, with amazingly rich, solid colors throughout and very sharp detail. Additionally, the makers have paid attention to the sound -- not just the dialogue (which is far superior in its realism, and better focused than most science-fiction scripts), but also Ralph Carmichael's jazzy score, which is something of a triumph itself -- Carmichael, a veteran arranger for figures such as Peggy Lee, outdid himself here in evoking the restlessness and turmoil of the characters and their interactions. There are no bonus features other than 18 fairly well-chosen chapters -- unfortunately, a few key scenes are missed in the markers, including the most disturbing one in the film, in which Robert Lansing's man-monster walks off with a young girl (played by a not-yet-famous Patty Duke). One also wishes that the notes were less steeped in miscellaneous trivia and had more information about the production, such as the fact that this script was originally intended for Steve McQueen, who had starred in The Blob (it is difficult to say whether McQueen would have been better suited to the part that Robert Lansing portrayed, or that of the younger brother, portrayed by James Congdon). The film starts up automatically, and the menu must be accessed manually.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
4D Man was the second feature film made by producer Jack H. Harris and director Irvin S. Yeaworth, who had previously given us The Blob. In many respects, it's a better made and more exciting film than The Blob, though not remotely as important or influential as a pop culture artifact. 4D Man is a fine little sci-fi genre film with horror elements, but it doesn't offer anything as tantalizing as The Blob's unexpected genre-bending elements of teen exploitation and rock & roll. The movie was actually written with Steve McQueen in mind as the star; when he signed the contract to star in The Blob in 1957, the actor had agreed to do a second film for Harris, and the producer had hoped to use him in 4D Man. But by 1959, McQueen's career was on its way and he was out of Harris' reach; and it is difficult to say, watching the movie, whether McQueen would have been better suited to the role of Scott, the serious but stricken scientist, or Tony, the rebel genius. In any case, Harris got Robert Lansing, then an up-and-coming New York actor, to play Scott; James Congdon to portray Tony; and Lee Meriwether, who was just starting an acting career after a stint as Miss America, to play Linda. The other talent, mostly New York-based, included Robert Strauss, Edgar Stehli, and a young Patty Duke. Also aboard are some of the same actors from the Hedgerow Theater company in Pennsylvania who had worked in The Blob, including George Karas and John Benson, and the Hedgerow company's legendary founder, Jasper Deeter (in a bigger role than he had in The Blob). The movie plays like an updated version of a vampire tale, Scott's killing of people by the draining of their life force being the science-fiction equivalent of drinking their blood, though he doesn't create others like himself in the process. Additionally, the central conflict between the two brothers is both believable and well-played -- audiences could resonate to this movie beyond its shocks and thrills -- and Meriwether looks good enough to be convincing as a source of contention between them, though her acting skills were still limited. The special effects are surprisingly well-done given the low budget that the producers had to work with -- Bart Sloane, who had done a good job on The Blob for very little money, does a superb job here of making Lansing's passages through walls, plate-glass windows, vault doors, nuclear shielding, and people all look convincing, and Dean Newman's makeup work, on Lansing and his victims, is first-rate; it's almost an "in" joke that Newman also plays Brian Schwartz, the first of Lansing's victims, thus applying to himself the makeup depicting his character's sudden, rapid aging to death. The movie has held up very well in its genre across more than 40 years, if not quite so well as The Blob, and is well-worth a fresh look.

Product Details

Release Date:
03/14/2000
UPC:
0014381659924
Original Release:
1959
Rating:
NR
Source:
Image Entertainment
Region Code:
0
Sound:
[monaural]
Time:
1:25:00

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Robert Lansing Scott Nelson
Lee Meriwether Linda Davis
James Congdon Tony Nelson
Robert Strauss Roy Parker
Chic James girl in bar
Elbert Smith Captain Rogers
George Karas Sergeant Todaman
Jasper Deeter Mr. Welles
John Benson Reporter
Dean Newman Dr. Brian Schwartz
Edgar Stehli Dr. Carson
Patty Duke Marjorie Sutherland
Guy Raymond Fred
Robert H. Harris Man in Nightclub

Technical Credits
Irvin Shortess Yeaworth Director,Producer
Carl Auel Sound/Sound Designer
Ralph Carmichael Score Composer,Musical Direction/Supervision
Cy Chermak Screenwriter
Jack H. Harris Producer
Bill Jersey Art Director
William B. Murphy Editor
Dean Newman Makeup
Ted Pahle Cinematographer
Don W. Schmitt Set Decoration/Design
Theodore Simonson Screenwriter
Barton Sloane Special Effects
Thomas E. Spalding Camera Operator
Robert Spies Sound/Sound Designer
Jean Yeaworth Musical Direction/Supervision

Scene Index

Side #1 --
0. Chapter Index
1. Main Title; Tony's Obsession [5:26]
2. Family Reunion [7:39]
3. A Day in the Park [5:11]
4. "When Are You Gonna Grow Up" [2:09]
5. The PressConference [1:46]
6. Wood and Steel [4:31]
7. Déjà Vu [2:40]
8. "Welcome Aboard" [3:18]
9. The Checkup [1:51]
10. Scott's Propsal [3:18]
11. Flesh and steel [10:56]
12. Imagine the Possibilities [2:18]
13. The Side Effect [8:27]
14. Carson's Demise [4:31]
15. Bedside manner [3:29]
16. Kiss of Death [4:35]
17. "NothingCan Stop Him" [5:13]
18. "I Can Go Through Anything" [7:31]

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