4D Man

June 13, 2010 at 3:30 am (4D Man, 8 Heads) (, , , )

4D Man – 1959 – United States

4D Man’s stunning hand-painted movie poster (below) grabbed me before I read the title. With stylish typography and an arresting image, I should have it tattooed on one of my zombie slave harem. Then I learned it was produced by Jack Harris—of The Blob and half of Equinox (but that’s another story)—and got curious. Five minutes in, after the classy abstract opening credits and Twilight Zone narration, I was sold.

Two scientist brothers love the same broad so one is heartbroken. Meanwhile, the pair builds a machine to instantly harness combined years of mental energy and defy the laws of physics with psychokinetic feats. Basically, they can pass through solid objects at the cost of aging themselves. The good brother (who scored the chick) wants to share their discovery with the world. The bad scorned brother wants to keep it a secret. Then, of course, Bad Brother figures out how walk through walls without the machine and goes on a rampage, robbing a bank and (somehow) draining others’ life essence to stay young.

It’s a classic (haters would say clichéd) premise, well executed. Bad Brother is a brooding villain but pitiful enough to provide dimensionality. 4D Man has bits of poetry too: Good Brother is remorseful, even while leading the police on a manhunt to gun down Bad Brother. Finally, (SPOILER!) it’s the girl who does Bad Brother in, shooting him in the gut during a kiss—the ultimate rejection.

4D Man is a fun, stylish flick with a blaring jazz score and great effects. 50 years later, Bad Brother still looks cool walking through walls and people, and the stop-motion aging scenes are among the best I’ve seen.  The acting is energetic and the photography is competent—there are even a couple ambitious perspective shots—and you’ve got to love that over-saturated, duo-chromatic look of early color film. Striking!

Rating: 8/10 Shrunken Heads. 4D Man has the right balance of scientific speculation, romance, action, and characterization. Plus, I love most movies that finish with a question mark after “The End”.

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