Four Sided Triangle (1953)

Terence Fisher directs an interesting and thought-provoking sci-fi movie, from Hammer Films. DD-Video R2 DVD.

The Film

The 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.

In 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.

The 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 tooUltimately, 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.

In Brief

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.
Any violence/gore? None.
Any sex? None.
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.


Visuals 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.
Audio English language mono. Strong throughout.
Subtitles None.
Run-timeFeature: 1hr 17m 59s (PAL)
Extras 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)
  • Photo 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)
  • A detailed 24 page booklet about the film.
AvailabilityAvailable as a single-disc release or in the Hammer Horror: The Early Classics boxset. Both include the booklet.
Region Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL
Other regions? Anchor Bay R1 DVD (now going OOP) has similarly good print but lacks bonus features.
Cuts? None known.



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All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 16th July 2006.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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