THE 4D MAN
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You know, anyone who has ever watched a few 1950s and early 1960s TV shows and movies knows that trumpet stinging, sax blaring, cool bass strumming jazz swinging through. When 4D MAN starts, you can't help but recall all that and nearly get your fingers popping, jazz cat! You dig where I'm coming from?
Seriously, the very first word is a narrator saying, "Man," and when he goes through his monologue, you don't have to imagine a bongo drum tapping away in the background, it's there!
So this man is sitting alone in a lab at night. He's working on this project where he can pass one solid object through another without damage to either. Two objects occupying the same space at the same time. We're talking dimensions, hep cats. 4 dimensions! Real far out stuff.
Experiment goes south, Merry mishaps occur, and his boss, Mr. Wells fires him for his costly mistake.
That cat is on the road, man. He rides his thumb all the way to another facility. Fairview Research, where he's stopped by security. The dude is Tony Nelson (James Congdon: WHEN WORLD'S COLLIDE, GARDENER) and his brother, Dr. Nelson (well, yeah) works on the other side of that security gate.
Inside the lab, a sleezebag labcoat named Roy Parker (Robert Strauss) is hassling a fellow labcoat named Linda Davis (Lee Meriwether: BATMAN: THE MOVIE, THE TIME TUNNEL [TV], CRUISE INTO TERROR [TV], THE MUNSTERS TODAY [TV]).
Together with Dr. Scott Nelson (Robert Lansing: EMPIRE OF THE ANTS, ISLAND CLAWS, THE NEST) they work on an experiment and, whatever they were trying to do, goes bust. Scott and Tony meet, and while the brotherly love is there, so is some bad past between them. But both love each other enough to try and bury the hatchet one more time.
Scott, Linda, and Tony go to a nice restaurant together. Scott is going to ask Linda to marry him and Tony is happy for bro. Scott invites Tony to work with him on the secret project. Linda gently connives Tony into dancing with her and Tony resists at first, then finally gives in. Over the next few days, Linda keeps encouraging Tony to stay and Scott just doesn't GET it! Tony gets it and he resists his brother's invitation to work at the lab. The sparks are flying between him and Linda but Tony feels loyalty toward his brother. Scott meanwhile has his head all wrapped up in the project, which is now behind. One thing leads to another and Scott finally understands where Linda's playful interest in Scott is coming from and bows out, leaving Linda to Tony.
Linda likes Scott, but she's hot for Tony.
Scott meanwhile, hiding a broken heart, throws himself into his work. Tony feels guilty and tells his bro that he's going to leave after all. Scott pretends he doesn't get it, Tony doesn't want to spell it out, Scott gets angry at what he perceives as his little brother's irresponsibility.
“Scott! Do I have to put it on a slide and shove it under your nose?”
Scott is finally successful in creating Cargonite: an impenetrable metal. But Research facility owner, Dr. Carson (Edgar Stehli: SECONDS) takes full credit, telling the assembled press that uh... (Dr. Carson even forgets Scott's name) that Dr. Nelson was merely his "assistant". Seeing his big bro publicly humiliated, Tony can't leave at the moment of what should be Scott's big triumph, and so stays one more night to help Scott and Linda celebrate.
During their quiet, at home celebration, Tony gets the chance to reveal his own big research project. What he did, and how he says he did it, confounds Scott as a scientist. The two men get into an argument, and Tony storms off to cool down.
Linda goes off after him, which makes Tony feel even worse. Linda admits that she hasn't any interest in Scott as a lover, it's Tony she wants. Tony is one of those rare kind of plain or even ugly people who attract the opposite sex, not by looks, but by their personal fire. Whether someone feels passionate about a science project or even a freaking orchid, that energetic, consuming interest in SOME thing rare, real, and tangible, draws some people. Tony is a passionate researcher: the hare. Big brother Scott is a methodical researcher: the tortoise. The slow and plodding tortoise may win the race, but it's the exciting hare that gets the attention. Tony is fun! And when Linda sees that Tony suffers between his hot desire for her and his guilty loyalty to his brother, she finds that even MORE attractive! Linda isn't portrayed as a shallow bitch, it's just that feelings are feelings and we like what we like.
Slow and steady Scott also has feelings though, and left behind and alone at the house to stare at his young brother's incredible research project, Scott realizes that his young, hot-headed brother may very well eclipse him, getting credit and a reputation for his astounding invention, while Scott watches other people take credit for his own. It's the night that should be Scott's greatest triumph, but everyone is being rewarded except him, and Scott feels he's losing everything that HE worked so hard for, to the underserving. Shy, quiet, never-bothers-anybody, keeps-to-himself, Scott is about to crack and that's when Merry Mishaps occur.
Meanwhile, among all of the people who do and don't deserve credit, there is Roy lurking around looking to steal whatever research he can. The interpersonal politics of this lab are unreal! Surely scientists don't REALLY behave this way around each other?
In 4D MAN, the acting is emotional, feels honest, and the love triangle is heartbreaking. When Linda finally breaks it off with Scott, the scene is painful but mature.
Linda: What you feel for me isn't love. It's habit. Working together, spending so much time together, you depend on me so much.
The secondary characters who torment Scott, both those he allowed to trump him and those who are waiting to stab him in the back, are well drawn.
Writers Theodore Simonson (THE BLOB) and Cy Chermak seemed genuinely concerned about the science and scientific procedures. Only one thing flaws this movie but it's a biggy. The damn jazz music. The story and characters and their interactions are so pitch perfect and then that awful jazz music comes in to dramatically sting every damn moment. Have you ever seen the old BATMAN TV series from the 60s? (POW!) It's like that.
Linda: What you feel for me isn't love. (clarinet: Waa, waa-waa) It's habit. (Waa, waa- waa) Working together, spending so much time together, you depend on me so much. (snare drum & high hat: tch' t'cha, tch' t'cha)
Nobody on the set had the music playing to know how horrible every scene could be. Producer Jack H. Harris (THE BLOB, DINOSAURUS!, THE EYES OF LAURA MARS, THE BLOB ) just felt it needed something. He couldn't have been more wrong about the music.
Don't get me wrong, Composer Ralph Carmichael (THE BLOB) whipped up a very snazzy score. If this movie was a cops and robbers grinder with lots of shoot outs, the music would have worked. But it ain't so, what the hell, man?
I'll admit, even among my fellow Horror geeks, I get a little too wrapped up in this.
While I was watching this, a bro of mine called to ask me why I wasn't at Monsterpalooza.
My wife has the car this weekend (she's a pro photographer) so I'm home treating myself to a SciFi creature feature bash.
So I tell him I'm watching 4D MAN.
Him: "Oh I love that movie!"
There's a moment of silence on the other end and then, "Dude, it was like 1960! Let it go!"
My bro is a Horror movie producer. He was a good friend of Forrey Ackerman. His house is filled with all manner of Horror movie paraphernalia. He just finished making some DVD extras for director Tim Sullivan's 2001 MANIACS sequel, the first 2001 of which was a remake of Herschell Gordon Lewis' 2000 MANIACS from the 1960s (Herschell is still ticking as of this writing, bless him!), and he has the gall to tell me that I'M too wrapped up in Horror Thrillers? And he tells me this while he's on HIS way to Monsterpalooza?
"Dude, it was like 1960! Let it go!"
And yeah, I know all that, but somebody might remake THIS sucker! And DON'T tell me it won't happen because as of this writing, Rob Zombie is remaking producer Jack H. Harris' THE BLOB! (in this brilliant adaptation, The Blob oozes around a white trash trailer park, eating the psychotic, foul-mouthed abusive denizens, and farting after every meal). I don't want such a great story with such great characters and dialog getting F'd in the A a second time! Because then it will be another 50 freaking years before someone gives it another shot and that's bullshit, man! That's f*cking BULLSHIT!
If any old movie out there is ripe for remake land, it would be 4D MAN. I don't know of anybody in 2010 Hollywood that is smart enough to make it, and I'm not sure there are any actors in 2010 Hollywood that are actually up to it. But I'm no investor and that ain't my call. But 4D MAN was a great 5 Shriek Girl movie butchered by idiots in post production and I give it 2 Shriek Girls.
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