Also released as The Master Of Terror, 1959's The 4D Man was directed by Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr., the man behind 1958's The Blob and 1960's Dinosaurus!. While this one might not be as well-known as The Blob, that hasn't stopped Kino Lorber from rolling out a really impressive Blu-ray release for this fun B-picture.
The story begins when a scientist named Dr. Tony Nelson (James Congdon) discovers a way to allow for the molecular structure of objects to be changed in such a way that they're able to pass through each other. When Scott (Robert Lansing), Tony's older brother, finds out about this discovery he quickly realizes the importance of it and decides to use himself as a human guinea pig. Before you know it, he's managed to move his hand through a solid slab, though judging by the look on his face when it gets stuck there, this was both painful and very stressful.
However, Scott keeps at it and eventually perfects a way to allow himself to pass through solid matter at well. Once he perfects this, he uses it for all manner of things, eventually bad things… like stealing! The problem? When he wills himself to pass through whatever items he's trying to pass through, he ages. He does find a way around this though… when he touches another human being he's able to drain their life force and add it to his own. Unfortunately, using his new powers also seems to be driving Scott insane. If the fact that his gorgeous fiancée Linda Davis (Lee Meriwether) were falling for Tony weren't enough for a sane person to deal with, well, it doesn't sit well with Scott in his current state at all.
Set to a weirdly effective jazz-heavy score from Ralph Carmichael, The 4D Man is a pretty entertaining sci-fi thriller. The effects are very much a product of their time but that there is half the charm of the film. While some of the sequences where Scott ‘goes through' things are more effective than others, the old school techniques here are interesting to see and generally done quite well. At eighty-five-minutes in length the movie is paced pretty well, we get enough character development in the first half of the movie that the pay off in the second half is worth it. The movie also makes good use of its sets and locations. The labs used in the film, for interior and exterior shots, look like labs, completely with security guards and safety/security oriented posters hanging in the backgrounds.
The quality of the performances helps here too. James Congdon plays the good guy well enough. He's noble and likeable and he looks the part. Lee Meriwether, probably best known for her stint as Catwoman in the Adam West Batman TV series, is good here as well. She's sympathetic enough in her situation that you feel for her, especially once Scott starts losing it. As to Lansing himself, he's pretty strong in the lead. We buy him both as the nice guy and as the villain, he comes across as believably ambitious in the earlier scenes and does just fine convincing us he's out of his mind in the later ones.
The 4D Man arrives on a 50GB disc from Kino with the feature taking up 34GBs of that space. Framed at 1.85.1 and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition, the transfer, which is taken from a new 4k restoration of the film's original 35mm negative, looks very good. There are some small white specks here and there but no serious print damage to complain about. The natural grain structure is nicely defined, never noisy looking, and detail is strong throughout. There's good depth and texture to the picture and color reproduction looks great. We also get strong black levels and natural looking flesh tones too. No problems with any noticeable compression to note, and the picture is devoid of any noticeable edge enhancement or noise reduction. All in all, a very nice picture.
The English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track, which comes with optional English subtitles, is also quite good. The levels are nicely balanced and the film's interesting score sounds nice and strong. Dialogue is always easy to understand and there are no audible issues with any hiss or distortion, the track sounds nice and clean throughout.
Extras start off with a new audio commentary by film historian Richard Harland Smith that takes some interesting turns as it explores the history of the film. He claims that the film is an allegory for sex and then does a pretty good job of making his case, but he also talks about his own experiences seeing the film as a kid under the Master Of Terror title, the significance of a certain character eating an apple, the score, the effects, the direction style and more. He also offers up plenty of insight into the history of the cast and crew and a good amount of interesting facts and trivia about the picture's history. It's good track. The disc also contains a second commentary track with Kris Yeaworth, who just so happens to Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr.'s son. The focus here is on his father's life and times, he details his career quite well and talks about the senior Yeaworth's experiences making this picture. It's a bit dry compared to the first commentary but it does contain plenty of interesting information about the man behind the movie.
Kino also supplies two featurettes (presumably taken from a German release given that they have German language title cards!), the first of which his Reflections From The 4D Man wherein producer Jack H. Harris speaks for just under twelve-minutes about how he came to get his start as a film producer, meeting and working with Yeaworth and some of the projects that they were involved with together including The 4D Man. The second featurette is an eleven-minute piece with co-star Lee Meriwether who speaks about winning the Miss America pageant and then getting her start as an actress. She doesn't recall how she landed the role here but has some thoughts on the picture itself.
Rounding out the extras on the disc is an eight-minute animated image gallery, a minute's worth of radio spots, and the film's original theatrical trailer. Bonus trailers are also included for a few other Kino Lorber Studio Classics titles, as are menus and chapter selection options.
The 4D Man is good stuff, a highly entertaining B-movie with some solid effects work and a good cast that tells an engaging and entertaining story. Kino Lorber's Blu-ray release treats the movie very well, presenting it in beautiful shape and with some good supplements as well. Highly recommended!