1959’s “4D Man” walks through walls of solid steel and stone… into the 4th Dimension!

By on May 30, 2018

In Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr.‘s sci-fi suspense thriller 4D Man — theatrically released on October 1959, you’ll find it now streaming on our Night Flight Plus channel — Dr. Scott Nelson (Robert Lansing) discovers that his younger brother, Dr. Tony Nelson (James Congdon), has developed an amplification device which can enable a person to alter their own molecular structure so they’re able to pass through walls and other solid objects, entering the fourth dimension.

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Soon, Scott is using his newly-acquired 4D power to rob jewelry stores and walk through the walls of banks at night, in order to steal the cash inside.

Unfortunately for him, Scott eventually learns that this unstable process also causes him to age rapidly, and the only way he can rejuvenate himself again is to absorb life-energy by passing through another human being — although this actually kills the victim.

It falls to Tony and Scott’s fiancée, “Linda Davis” (Lee Meriwether) — the conflicted heroine of the story, engaged to Scott, but falling in love with Tony — to try to put a stop to Scott’s murderous rampage before it’s too late.

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We previously told Night Flight blog readers about this film’s director, Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr., in our post about his first feature, a 69-minute exploitation flick called The Flaming Teenage, which you’ll also find on Night Flight Plus in our Something Weird collection.

Yeaworth would only direct six feature films between 1956 and 1967 (he did, however, end up directing more than four hundred short films which mostly delivered Christian and social messages).

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Yeaworth had partnered with this film’s producer, Jack H. Harris, and screenwriter Theodore Simonson on 1958’s The Blob, starring a young Steve McQueen in his big-screen debut.

The surprising box office success of that movie — made for just $110,000, it grossed more than $3 million — led to 1959’s 4D Man, and their third and final film together, 1960’s Dinosaurus!

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Read more about4D Man below.

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Producer Jack H. Harris came up with the idea for 4D Man — the screenplay was written by Simonson and co-writer Cy Chermak, based on Harris’s original idea — after looking at a scientific pamphlet about the molecular structure of matter which stated that, if a person could figure out how to arrest the molecular structure of two foreign pieces of matter, that these molecules could be allowed to intertwine.

Harris says the pamphlet gave him the idea that 4D Man would cause him to die very quickly from premature old age.

Harris also came up with an additional dramatic conflict for the story by adding murder to the mix, thinking that by killing another person through his touch, the 4D Man would be able to replenish his own life energy.

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4D Man‘s special effects — by Barton Sloane, who had also worked on Yeaworth’s The Blob — are pretty impressive despite the movie’s obvious lack of budget.

They’re even more enhanced onscreen by the fact that the movie was lensed in glorious color, at a time when most sci-fi B-movies were still being filmed in black & white.

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One of the more remarkable things about this film when it was originally released into theaters was the publicity campaign, cooked up by Harris, who, we’re told, “amazed the world with his announcement of ONE MILLION DOLLAR CASH AWARD to the first living person who actually performs in real life the feats ascribed to the 4D Man in the widescreen color picture of the same name.”

Harris ended up with an insurance policy with Lloyds of London, who brought in fifteen co-insurers to lay off their bet, but no one ever contacted Harris about their own fourth dimension invention.

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This was the first appearance in a movie by TV actress and former 1955 Miss America Lee Meriwether (“Linda Davis”).

Meriwether later became Catwoman, replacing Julie Newman in same role in the 1966 movie they made of the “Batman” TV series, and also appeared in the TV series “Barnaby Jones” (1973-1980).

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There’s also a brief but memorable onscreen appearance by a thirteen year old Patty Duke as “Marjorie.”

Duke, of course, later won praise for her Academy Award-winning role as a young Helen Keller in Arthur Penn’s The Miracle Worker, and as a teenager starred in her own popular 1963-1966 TV series “The Patty Duke Show,” although many also remember her from 1967’s Valley of the Dolls, and the killer-bee flick The Swarm (1978).

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“Dr. Scott Nelson” was Robert Lansing’s first starring role in a movie after having been a Broadway stage actor for many years.

The craggy-faced, rugged actor would continue appearing in movies like 1977’s Empire of the Ants but most of his regular acting roles came in network TV series, including the short-lived “Automan” (1983-84).

James Congdon (“Dr. Tony Nelson”) had appeared in 1951’s epic When Worlds Collide, and later appeared in 1975’s Seeds of Evil.

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The vibrant, beatnik-y jazz score by Ralph Carmichael (he also scored The Blob) is frequently singled out for how oddly jarring it sounds in a sci-fi film, the quirky cues not always matching the action onscreen.

In the mid-’60s, Jack H. Harris had obtained the rights to 4D Man from Universal and he began distributing it across the country on a double bill with The Blob, using the new title for the movie, Master of Terror, which is what it was called when it had been distributed along with an Argentine schlockfest from 1960 called Master of Horror (Obras maestras del terror).

Watch 4D Man on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.