He walks through walls of solid steel and stone--into the 4th dimension. Scientific whiz Tony Nelson (James Congdon) has made an amazing discovery. He has developed a method of stimulating the molecular structure of objects so that they can be joined or passed through one another. Stumbling upon this incredible secret is Tony's older brother, Scott (Robert Lansing), a fellow scientist who decides to take the experiment one step further. Soon he is able to pass himself through doors and walls. But his newfound freedom of movement has unforeseen side effects, for each time the power is used, Scott ages a bit and only by touching other living beings, thus taking their lives, can he maintain his age. In addition, this incredible force is driving him quite mad...
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B-grade Science Fiction film with several names that are very familiar: Robert Lansing and Lee Meriwether (both would end up on Star Trek, and several character roles in sixties television) and Patty Duke (the Patty Duke Show, amongst others). The horns and jazz arrangement at the movie intro was performed by Ralph Carmichael, a big man at Capitol Records, arranged music for Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, well known in Christian music circles and also did the score for The Blob.
Director Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr. also no stranger to 50s' sci-fi horror films: The Blob, and Dinosaurus amongst others.
Quite a team. What kind of movie did they slap together?
A scientist works in secret to uncover the secrets of moving objects through solid steel. He turns the juice up too high and ends up burning the lab down! (horns). "Is this your great contribution to science, Nelson?"
Well, he's fired. Hitchhikes to Fairview Research Center. We're introduced to Roy, the jealous type who should be put up on charges of sexual harassment, and Linda, played by Lee (Miss America of 1955) Meriwether. Hubba.... The plot thickens.
As the story goes, Scott keeps checking a block of rock being irradiated for some purpose that is not totally explained, and insists on checking it "in case the monitors missed something".
Meantime his brother wants to leave as he is getting feelings for Scott's fiancé' (Can't say I blame him)....
The film has lots of these musical interludes that really takes away from the story and plot to a point of becoming annoying. I don't recall other movies made like this, with big band jazz music accompaniment. Perhaps I should catch The Blob.
Love triangle continues at the same time... Oh brother....
Scott visits the doctor where we learn that something is boosting his 'brain waves." Oh boy.
Linda says no to Scott's proposal. Ouch!
Scott, full of jealousy and still getting those high brain wave headaches, breaks into Tony's locker full of equipment, which he then proceeds to set up and experiment with, in what seems mere minutes.
In the experiment, something happens to Scott. His hand goes through the block of metal! And it hurts, too! Music ensues.
He finally gets freed of this, but not before Roy steals the notes and passes them along to the boss, in the hopes he may move up on the company and with that, hopefully, the heart of Linda. You keep thinking that, Roy. Yeah, sure.
Meanwhile, Scott and Tony go into a huddle and find out that Scott can put his hand through metal with no pain, using the force field generated by the machine. Darn, where are those notes? Except, the amplifier wasn't working!
Roy continues to ply Carson with plans for his own lab to work on this project further (with the stolen notes, of course). Scott meantime is getting more erratic, jumpy. Things don't look well for Scott.
As the movie progresses, Scott can pull objects through walls and mailboxes and so on and is getting giddy with power. This is quite a change from the character's earlier development, a bit too unrealistically I think.
Scott find that he ages rapidly as he continues to gain the power to move through things. He can move through people and then regain his energy and life. Unfortunately, that kills the person he moves through. Bummer after-effect. He accidentally kills his doctor that way.
Later, his brother figures out that he is absorbing 10 years of energy a minute. Now you tell me! For some reason, Scott keeps quiet that he had anything to do with the doctor dying, nor about the $50,000 missing from the local bank! Things look bleak.
Scott starts purposely sucking the energy of people he does not like for his own recharging benefit. The horror part surprises the viewer when Scott enters Linda's bedroom as she sleeps.
What's he gonna do, suck the life out of her bones or what???
The film has its drama, its comedy, love triangle and lots & lots of band music. Who could ask for anything more as you sat in your 57 Chevy with your date at the local drive-in?
As the movie begins we see a lone scientist named Tony Nelson (Congdon) working in a laboratory late at night. Seems he's obsessed with proving the notion that two solid objects can occupy the same space by amplifying their atomic fields, or some such thing. Anyway, the only thing he succeeds in doing is causing a fire, destroying the building, and getting himself canned. Tony hits the road, stopping to see his brother Dr. Scott Nelson (Lansing), the more pragmatic of the pair, who happens to be working on developing a new type of impregnable metal called Cargonite. Tony ends up sticking around, taking a position at his brother's facility, if only to try and advance his theories, but ends up falling for Scott's assistant (and sort of girlfriend) Linda (Meriwether), who seems to have a similar affection for Tony. Turns out Scott's experiments in creating a new super metal are a success, but have some strange side effects (due to exposure of some sort) of his brain working in overdrive, allowing Scott, through the use of his mind alone, to venture into the fourth dimension. Only problem is it takes a great deal of energy to dink around in the fourth dimension, so subsequently anytime Scott uses his newfound abilities, he ages rapidly. Luckily, there's a way around that as he discovers by sharing the same space with another, living creature, he can draw from their life force...the only downside is the person he draws from ends up aging to the point of death. Scott's mind becomes seriously affected (i.e. he loses his marbles) by his new abilities (that, along with the fact his would be girlfriend has eyes for his brother), and soon he turns into a real monster, which presents quite the pickle...how do you stop someone who can become intangible, walking through walls and such like they weren't even there?
One thing that kind of surprised me about this film was how much was actually going on within the story. There's a whole lot of character development, along with a whole slew of subplots including tension between Tony and Scott (one's flighty, while the other is more practical), the romantic triangle between Scott, Linda, and Tony, Scott's chaffing against his credit hogging boss, a fellow weasel of a scientist scheming to steal Tony's ideas, etc. The result is things tend to get a bit messy as the story goes on, but messy in a good way, as these aspects tend to add a sense of realism and relation to an otherwise fantastic, science fiction premise. At times it's almost soap opera-ish, but the focus always remains solidly on the main sci-fi driven plot. I thought all the actors did quite well, although whenever I see Robert Lansing in anything, he always sort of creeps me out. Maybe it was that unnaturally reserved quality he seemed to emanate, or perhaps his pronounced, almost alien facial features...I don't know. One scene I found unsettling was when he sought medical help shortly after experimenting with his new powers, having discovered the after effects in terms of rapid aging. While pleading for help, he accidentally takes a life (unwittingly drawing forth the man's energies), and reacts horrified when he realizes what has happened. This particular moment was odd and unsettling to me, not so much the death of the man, but Lansing's very unreserved reaction, compared to his up until now restrained demeanor. And then later on, once his character starts losing his mental grip, he becomes unstable, materialistic, and extremely self-centered. I thought Meriwether did very well, and was glad to see her role as a laboratory assistant seemed to involve more than just getting coffee for her male counterparts and being just a pretty face. Her character was actually immersed in the scientific process even though her presence was obviously counterproductive to progress as it seemed most of the males were unable to deny irresistible, hotchie mama charms (I can't say that I blame them...did you see her in that Catwoman outfit in the old Batman movie? Zowie!). I thought it odd, though, that her character had to moonlight as a babysitter...perhaps it had something to do with inequalities in the pay structures in terms of women getting less compared to their male counterparts. James Congdon's character came on strong at the beginning, but then it seemed he was relegated to more of a plot device role rather than a integral part of the story as the film progressed. This was a pretty minor element, as I thought the story was written well and extremely thought out. Oh yes, the science is strong in this one, aided by some really good special effects. They may look quaint and even hokey given the achievements over the years, but I bet back in 1959, when the film was released, they were pretty outstanding. Some have mentioned the inappropriate musical scoring of the film, and I can understand their misgivings, as jazzy bebop isn't something one would normally associate with classical science fiction, but I kinda liked it...maybe not in terms of properly enhancing the story, but in terms of a lively score I could listen to on its own, it wasn't too bad.
The picture quality on this DVD, presented in fullscreen (1.33:1) aspect ratio, looks relatively sharp, exhibiting a few minor, expected flaws, and the Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio comes through clean. There are no special features included, but I didn't mind so much as given the presentation of the film.
If I learned anything from this film it's that scientists lead interesting and often sordid lives, and that Robert Lansing liked to smoke a whole lot...