Four Sided Triangle (1952)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Cast: Barbara Payton, James Hayter, Stephen Murray
For all Hammer fans, the name Terence Fisher rings like sweet music. The director is best known for being the most successful and visual director in the Hammer Studios’ stable, alongside with people like Freddy Francis. Shot in 1952, "Four Sided Triangle" was an early taste of things to come from the director, as it was a science fiction story that in many elements resembles the science horrors the director would later revisit in films like "The Revenge Of Frankenstein" and "Frankenstein Created Woman" among others.
The films tells the story of three friends, told through the eyes of their mentor. Robin, Bill and Lena are three children in a tranquil rural town who grow up together and never leave their bond behind even after growing up. After years of absence Lena (Barbara Payton) returns home, frustrated by her own failures, while Bill (Stephen Murray) and Robin (John Van Eyssen) have successfully studied science and have become some of the brightest minds in their fields. Lena decides to support her two friends in their efforts to push the envelope of scientific evolution and becomes an integral part of their work. Later they reveal their invention, a cloning device that allows them to duplicate matter.
Starting with inanimate objects, such as watches and paper, the success of their work is overwhelming and thanks to Robin’s father, soon they are also on their way to financial success and national recognition.
Just as everything seems to fall in place, Bill decides to tell Lena that he has been secretly in love with her for many years, but at the same time, she announces her engagement with Robin. Devastated, Bill is desperate and tries to cope with his pain – but he can’t. Although e knows that the Duplicator can only clone inanimate objects, secretly he sets about to improve on the technology to allow duplication of life. Making his first steps with guinea pigs he has soon solved the problems that barred his way, and asks Lena if she would be willing to have herself cloned so that he can enjoy her love, just as much as Robin does. She agrees, but Lena’s clone turns out to be nothing what he expected. (Make sure not to read the box copy if you want to make sure you get some excitement out of the plot twist placed in the movie’s final 15 minutes!)
Everyone who is familiar with Terence Fisher’s directing style knows that the film is inevitably a very tasteful and visually striking exploration of the subject matter that is never hastened.
Although working on a very tight budget – which shows, as the majority of the film is located within the small laboratory – Fisher had the talent to make things look more than they were. The way he framed his pictures and the way he captured people in his films always suggested much more depth than there really was. As a result "Four Sided Triangle" turns out to be a very good example of how he makes the most out of his limited possibilities, not once creating the impression of limitation at all.
The characters are the most important part of the film – alongside humming Tesla coils, maybe – and the cast manages to create tangible characters. Although slightly overacted throughout, the characters are sympathetic and we feel their dilemma. The implicit problems that come with their relationship triangle become more and more obvious and the solution seems quite acceptable, given the fact that they Bill had a safe method cloning human beings. (Yes, you will have to suspend your disbelief here somewhat, but that’s what science fiction films do.) The result is all the more surprising as it is nothing what the viewer expects. Well aware of viewers expectations to maybe see an Elsa Lanchsester-like monstrous disaster, the story creates a clone that seems perfectly normal – yet has this unexpected twist that throws off everything.
Anchor Bay Entertainment has prepared a beautiful transfer for "Four Sided Triangle" on this DVD. Although some signs of age are visible on occasion in the form of slight registration errors and a few broken splices, the picture quality is once again striking. Presented in its original <$PS,fullframe> format in black and white, the DVD shows us deep black and good highlights. Only few defects are evident in the source print, creating a presentation that is mostly free of dust and scratch marks. The contrast is very well balanced, creating an image that never seems over-exposed or too dark. With good grays, the film looks very natural and the level of definition is also surprisingly good, as I assume some noise reduction and scratch removal has been applied, which usually leads to a certain softness in the picture, washing out very fine detail.
The disc features a monaural <$DD,Dolby Digital> track that has also been cleaned up. Without pops, the track is generally clean, however some hiss and background noise is evident in low volume dialogue passages. The track has obviously been noise gated, resulting in some cropped low level ambient sound effects. The frequency response of the track is as expected limited and without a notable low end, the track sounds a bit harsh and noticeably nasal throughout. Considering the film’s significant age, and the low budget it was produced on, the audio on the release is nonetheless pleasing indeed and fully serves its purpose. It is without distoration and the atmospheric score adds immensely to the movie’s atmosphere.
"Four Sided Triangle" is another great addition to Anchor Bay’s Hammer Collection. Although the film is developing rather slowly and may not be the science fiction/horror escapade Hammer had become most famous for in the late 50s, it is a rather humanistic approach to science, showing off a very human dilemma and one way, not to solve it. Fisher’s stylish and articulate direction and Anchor Bay’s beautiful treatment of this film make "Four Sided Triangle" a great addition to any DVD collection.