1950s was the decade of science - with the development of the nuclear
bomb, and the first space shots it seemed that scientific advancements
would soon solve every problem of day to day life - but there were
dangers associated and films such as The Thing from Another World (1951) and Hammer's later Quatermass (1955) mirrored public fears of science going 'too far'. The Four Sided Triangle was based on a 1951 novel with a similar theme - the danger of technology combined with human frailty.
a rural English town, two young men - Bill and Robin - have grown up
together, alongside a girl named Lena. In time, she moves away and the
boys head to University. Years later, Lena returns to find them deeply
immersed in a project together which they eventually reveal to be a
'replicator', a device that can perfectly duplicate any matter.
Although they are excited about the potential of the machine, jealousy
clouds the air as both men fall in love with Lena and Bill realises the
potential of the machine he has created....
Four Sided Triangle was Hammer's first
horror/sci-fi themed film, still a very small company shooting
B-pictures, they had focused mostly on low budget crime and adventure
films. With a minimal budget, attempting any complex special effects
would be foolish, and the plot is very talkative with most of the
runtime being conversation and discussion, giving the script the
feel more of a radio play than a film. One of only two films co-written by director Terence Fisher, Four Sided Triangle is credited with influencing the Frankenstein series of films; the script Curse of Frankenstein
(1957) in particular has many similar themes - the focus on moral
issues and interplay between the characters, rather than on the
technicalities of science. The film does boast some good characterisation that
makes the romantic interplay meaningful, and gives a plausible
motivation to their actions. However,
although the script has the appearance of a deep and philosophical
debate, many of the questions raised are rather hurredly brushed over - the scientists
excitedly discuss replicating gold bars, but not the impact this would have on
the value of gold and the fact they could bankrupt millions of people.
The ending is rather unexpected and disappointing, as though the
writers could not think of a way to wrap up all the plot lines.
Terence Fisher had quickly made his name at Hammer Films with his work on their noir-crime thrillers, Stolen Face (1952) and The Last Page
(1952) - his solid, assured and generally unnoticed style is visible
throughout this film - although he does go for some unexpected fancy
shots in the lab scenes. While the script contained some Frankensteinian
elements, the lab sets are pure Baron with myriads of test tubes and
pipes running all over the room and have a far more home-made look and
feel than the sophisticated labs of the Universal Horror pictures of
the 1930s, a style that would feature distinctly in Curse of Frankenstein
(1957). Well known British composer Malcolm Arnold provides a varied and effective orchestral soundtrack.
film benefits from a strong cast, essential for such a dialogue driven
film. Stephen Murray as Bill was a former Shakespearean actor who never
amounted to much in cinema, his friend Robin is played by John Van
Eyssen, instantly recognisable as Jonathan Harker from Dracula (1958) and later became an agent at Columbia Pictures. James
Hayter as Dr. Harvey, the film's narrator, played Friar Tuck to Robin
Hood, both in the big Disney film of 1952 and Hammer's 1967 production.
Fleeing from her troubles in America, the tragic Barbara Payton gives a
very strong leading performance as Lena and provides real conviction to
the romantic scenes. Like Fisher's next Hammer film, Spaceways (1953), Four Sided Triangle has been overlooked for many years thanks to the publicity machine oversell, particularly in the USA where it was released as The Monster and the Woman - a title it cannot live up too. Ultimately, Four Sided Triangle
is a cleverly written film, but not quite as clever as it appears at
first - ignoring many of the issues it raises. It is well directed and
strongly acted with some impressive set design and a good soundtrack.
Of all the early Fisher/Hammer films, Four Sided Triangle is probably the most interesting in light of his later Gothic Horror films and so is recommended to Hammer fans.
Anyone famous in it?
Some familiar faces but no big names.
Directed by anyone interesting?
Terence Fisher - Hammer's top director who shot most of their top horror films.
Who is it for?
Fans of clever sci-fi should enjoy this. The Frankenstein
style sets and plot should appeal to Hammer fans, and of all the early
Fisher/Hammer productions, this is probably the most recommended.
Original Aspect Ratio - 1.33:1 fullscreen. Black and White. The
print is of a good quality, grainy but with lots of detail and almost no print damage.
English language mono. Strong throughout.
Feature: 1hr 17m 59s (PAL)
The disc includes:
The Right Person
(1955). A short, trial film shot by Hammer to experiment with colour
fim and scope widescreen lenses. Consisting of a few location shots of
Copenhagen, with the action mostly shot on a single studio set at Bray
studios. A small, well acted and very cleverly written story, worth a
watch once. Colour, anamorphic, slightly soft print with a little
damage and some crackles on the audio. (28m 53s)
galleries - a collection of three sets of photographs: publicity
posters, behind-the-scenes stills and Hammer Glamour. Rather brief and
awkwardly presented in a video file without chapter settings, rather
than as manual scrolling pictures. (6m 09s)