Anchor Bay // 1953 // 81 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Harold Gervais (Retired) // June 15th, 2000
"You shall have joy or you shall have power," said God, "you shall not have both."
Childhood friends Lena (Barbara Payton), Bill Leggat (Stephen Murray) and Robin Grant (John Van Eyssen) have come together to invent a remarkable device. A machine that takes energy and converts it into matter. An invention that can reproduce anything at all.
Knowing they have created something that can potentially change mankind, the friends must also deal with the sexual tension that has existed between the them for years. On the eve of their discovery being given to the world, Lena makes up her mind. She has decided she loves Robin and together they announce their engagement. Shocked and destroyed, Bill finds himself completely heartbroken. While Lena and Robin are on their honeymoon, Bill makes the fateful decision to use his invention to give himself another Lena, one that he hopes will love him the way the original loves Robin.
With the help of his mentor and surrogate father, Dr. Harvey (James Hayter), Bill sets out to recreate life itself. Mastering the process, Bill must then ask Lena for her help in his plan. Seeing her dear friend in pain and without asking Robin, she reluctantly agrees. The process works and a new Lena is created. A Lena with all of the original's memories, thoughts and feelings. Lena's exact duplicate is christened Helen and Bill is overjoyed. Finally having what he has longed for his entire life, Bill takes Helen on holiday so they may get know each other in "that way." At first living in a dream state, Bill's happiness is shattered when Helen attempts suicide. Calling on Dr. Harvey to help him, the two discover they created a woman who is too much like Lena. For as Lena is in love with Robin, so is Helen. Unwilling to lose his love a second time, Bill decides to talk drastic measures. He is going to attempt to erase Helen's memory via electric shock so she will have no previous experiences, giving Bill a fresh start to win her love.
With the procedure going on, Robin returns home from London. An accident occurs and the film ends as many Hammer films later would, with a grand fire. Who lives? Who dies? Who cares?
As the director of such classics as, The Curse Of Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy and The Curse Of The Werewolf, Terence Fisher was the man who truly defined what "Hammer Horror" would be. With Four Sided Triangle, Fisher along with co-writer Paul Tobori, would take his first crack at a Frankenstein-style scenario. Creating life from literally nothing, the brilliant Bill Leggat was the first in a long line of mad scientists that Hammer would feature over the years. Not really evil, Leggat is more misguided by the pain and feeling the needs that most of us take for granted. He simply wants love and comfort. There are no villains per say in Four Sided Triangle, just someone willing to go to obscene lengths in order to be happy.
Anchor Bay continues its Hammer Collection with the release of Four Sided Triangle and on the video end, it is a mixed bag. Presented in its original black and white with the aspect ratio of 1.37:1, the film suffers from a great many age related problems. Contrast is strong, with a great degree of detail present in the image. Unfortunately that detail is marred by quite a bit of film grain. The print used was also full of various imperfections such as scratches and nicks. This is the weakest picture I have yet seen from Anchor Bay but even with all its problems it is still acceptable. Call me spoiled but after viewing the beautiful transfer for The Abominable Snowman a few days earlier I was hoping for more.
Sound is a bit better than the video with the Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack showing a surprising amount of depth. Background distortion is held to a minimum with dialogue and Composer Malcolm Arnold's score coming through rich and clear.
As is the case with all of Anchor Bay's Hammer Collection series, an episode of "World Of Hammer" is included. This time around the promotional short is called The Curse Of Frankenstein and it features all of Hammer's mad scientists and the monsters they created. This short is not as entertaining as previous episodes but its still fun and it does provide a nice preview of coming attractions for other Hammer productions.
While the film boasts some interesting concepts, it is let down by poor performances. Payton, Murray and Van Eyssen are so wooden in that reserved British kind of way that it was almost as if they were sleep walking. There is no complexity or nuance in any of their performances and the film drags because of it. Fisher also chooses a method of framing the film that fails to work. He has the character played by James Hayter not only narrate the proceedings but also to address the camera, directly speaking to the audience. The device works almost as a British sci-fi version of the narrator in "Our Town ." This way of dealing with the audience is jarring, to say the least and it just doesn't work.
Another problem is the period in which Four Sided Triangle was produced. The film longs to be mature but due to the moral constrictions of the period, the Four Sided Triangle just can't open up and be all it can.
At 81 minutes the film drags, making it seem much longer. The dialogue is dated, the acting uninspired and the direction fails to maintain interest. It is one of the weakest films that I have seen in the Hammer Collection and it's too bad. The movie has loads of great ideas but fails to deliver.
Normally I would complain about the lack of extras, even a trailer. In the case of this release however, less is best. What I will take Anchor Bay to task for is becoming a familiar refrain in this court. That complaint is the continuing absence of subtitles or alternate language audio tracks. To my way of thinking it is the only thing that holds Anchor Bay back from being a complete DVD house. I hope it is something that is addressed soon.
While I love the fact that Anchor Bay takes the time to put these films out there, they can't all be winners. Four Sided Triangle is not a winner. The movie could have been something special but a combination of the times and of the talent involved make watching the movie an exercise in boredom.
Hammer fanatics will want to at least give this disc a spin but a rental is the order of the day. If you have never seen a Hammer film and want to know what they were all about, do yourself a favor and look elsewhere. Four Sided Triangle is not Hammer at its best.
Four Sided Triangle is convicted of putting this judge to sleep. The court once more thanks Anchor Bay for their commitment to films that cover a broad spectrum. I always look forward to their releases and I can hardly wait for more of the Hammer Collection. This court is now in recess. Good day everyone.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 81 Minutes
Release Year: 1953
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "World of Hammer" -- THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN