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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Dimension 5 (Blu-ray)
Dimension 5 (Blu-ray)
Kino // Unrated // September 26, 2017 // Region A
List Price: $17.49 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Stuart Galbraith IV | posted November 6, 2017 | E-mail the Author
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After being pleasantly surprised by the low budget but well paced, sincere, and moderately clever Cyborg 2087 (1966), I looked forward to Dimension 5 (also 1966), made by the same production team. United Pictures Corporation made nine cheap action and/or sci-fi thrillers during this time, intending direct-to-TV distribution, but whose product wound up getting released in movie theaters. Wikipedia offers some background on the company, noting UPC's alliance with Harold Goldman Associates, Goldman being heavy into television syndication, first with National Telefilm Associates (NTA) and later with United Productions of America (UPA).

Dimension 5 is a low budget (probably around $125,000) spy film with sci-fi elements, the latter underdeveloped and underutilized. Unlike Cyborg 2087, which, given its cheapness, wisely limited the scope of its story, Dimension 5 aims for the grandiose, and in trying to emulate big studio spy movies costing 50 times more only looks ridiculous.

However, like Cyborg 2087, Dimension 5 has an almost beguiling quirkiness. It may not be a good film, but it tries a lot harder than, say, Paramount's more expensive but tiresome Matt Helm movies with Dean Martin. It has a good cast for its budget level, and is a little different here and there.

The busy story begins with Espionage, Inc. agent Justin Power (Jeffrey Hunter) using a time-travel belt to elude soldiers in an unidentified Latin country, played by stock footage and good ol' Bronson Canyon, including its pitchfork-shaped caverns. Returning to Los Angeles (aboard a Pan-Am Boeing 707 whose engine exploded over San Francisco shortly after Hunter's scenes were shot) Power meets Cane (Donald Woods), the "M"-like superior who hobbles about laboriously with a cane. This is unintentionally funny, as all the actors seem to emphasize his name, as if teasing him about his modest handicap. ("So, Cane…" "And another thing, Cane…")

Cane informs Power about a Chinese plot to destroy Los Angeles with a hydrogen bomb if U.S. forces aren't pulled out of East Asia (i.e., Vietnam). An Asian crime syndicate, Dragon, led by "Big Buddha" (Harold "Oddjob" Sakata) plans to smuggle the H-bomb into Los Angeles, and Power is tasked with locating it before it can be triggered.

Two other Espionage, Inc. agents (Robert Philips and Quincy M.E.'s Robert Ito) escort a captured Dragon spy, Chang (Gerald Jann), from Hong Kong to Ontario International Airport near San Bernardino. Big Buddha tries to have Chang assassinated in Hong Kong before he can talk, but a mysterious Asian woman (France Nuyen) thwarts the attempt with a poison dart. Later, at Ontario Airport (which suspiciously looks just like the airport in Hong Kong), Big Buddha has Chang killed, shot to death, but Power, seeing this, travels back in time a couple of minutes to clobber the assassin before the attempt can be made.

Back at Espionage headquarters the Professor (Jon Lormer, sporting a distressing blood-filled eyeball, which the camera vainly tries to avoid) and Cane, along with assistant Miss Sweet (Land of the Giants' Deanna Lund) subject Chang to a truth machine, which resembles a salon hairdryer. Cane also informs Power that for this mission he's being partnered with Ki Ti Tsu, the beautiful Asian spy seen in Hong Kong. Cane equips her with a time travel belt as well.

Together they visit the Cantonese restaurant of Kim Fong (Have Gun Will Travel's Kam Tong). Following a curious scene where Power throws his weight around inexplicably demanding two steak and mashed potato dinners at a Chinese restaurant, Fong's hostess and Power's former lover Nancy (Linda Ho), in fact a Dragon agent, plants a time bomb in an owl-shaped incense burner.

Star Jeffrey Hunter had recently starred in the original Star Trek pilot, "The Cage," but bailed from the series that eventually followed, reportedly after his wife hated it, believing her husband had bigger fish to fry. Surely neither of them thought Dimension 5 was a step up. Where Hunter gave an engaged, intelligent performance in "The Cage" he pretty much walks through Dimension 5. He had the right stuff to be starring in spy movies, but here makes little attempt to carve out anything like a distinctive character.

Probably only coincidentally, Dimension 5 features an inordinate number of cast members who'd soon turn up on the series Hunter turned down. Actors Jon Lormer and Robert Phillips also appeared in "The Cage"; Maggie Thrett, here cast as one of Espionage, Inc.'s three voluptuous receptionists, soon after this would play one-third of "Mudd's Women"; France Nuyen would memorably essay the titular role of "Elaan of Troyius"; even Robert Ito would get into the act, appearing in episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager.

What sets Dimension 5 apart, however modestly, from other cheap spy films is its white male protagonist's casual sexual relationship with two Asian women. Even more so is France Nuyen's strong, assertive character, who also comes off as a lot smarter than Hunter's character, clueless as Power is about his ex-lover's nefarious activities. The James Bond movie You Only Live Twice was still a year-and-a-half away while this was being shot, and in any case that movie leaned heavily toward traditional stereotypes with its female Asian co-stars, at least compared to Nuyen's character. She's a bit closer to Michelle Yeoh's Tomorrow Never Dies character.

The limited production design by Paul Sylos is occasionally imaginative, with Espionage, Inc.'s headquarters sporting high-tech gadgetry treated as everyday devices, though the time-travel belts, given their limitless potential, are treated more than a little too casually, and are overly simplistic, like something out of a Republic serial or maybe Lost in Space. The movie also uses the interiors of a few exotic looking Los Angeles homes, and other area locations reasonably well.

Harold Sakata, whose Oddjob character in Goldfinger made a profoundly lasting impression still felt in spy thrillers being made today, isn't used well here, as if the filmmakers don't have a clue how to use him. Director Frank Adreon doesn't shoot him in the imposing manner Guy Hamilton did in Goldfinger. Sakata's just a hulking, circumspect thug, his few lines of dialogue unconvincingly overdubbed by Paul Frees.

Video & Audio

Like Cyborg 2087, Kino's Dimension 5 is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, and as it was shot in 35mm, the 1080p transfer is pretty good, better certainly than it has ever looked since its earliest theater bookings. The mono audio is fine and the disc is region "A" encoded.

Extra Features

Kino's lone supplement on Cyborg 2087 was a dreadful audio commentary by "writer and filmmaker Chris Alexander." For Dimension 5 they enlisted Videodrome's Gideon Kennedy, Matt Owensby, and John Robinson, proprietors of Atlanta, Georgia's last remaining video rental store. Their commentary track isn't any better, the audio equivalent of watching a movie in a dorm room with chatty but only mildly disinterested college students. Why bother?

Parting Thoughts

Too cheap and outré for most, but for those interested in low budget sci-fi spy films Dimension 5 is not without interest. Rent it.

Stuart Galbraith IV is the Kyoto-based film historian largely absent from reviewing these days while he restores a 200-year-old Japanese farmhouse.

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