Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mad science creates a four-sided love triangle

Four Sided Triangle (aka The Monster and the Woman) (1954)
Starring: Barbara Payton, Stephen Murray, James Hayter, and John Van Eyssen
Director: Terence Fisher
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

Robin and Bill (Murray and Van Eyssen) are childhood friends who both grow up to be scientific genuises. Together, they create a device capable of replicating any object, no matter how complex, including living beings. When Robin marries Lena (Payton), a girl they've both loved since childhood, Bill is dispondant. However, with the help of Lena and his mentor Dr. Harvey (Hayter), he uses the Replicator to create an exact copy of Lena. It perhaps goes without saying, but things don't work out as Bill and his friends expect.

"Four Sided Triangle" is a Frankenstein-type story with a twist, and a higher-than-average number of morals-, ethics-, and compassion-challenged characters. That Bill, obsessed as he is with having a relationship with Lena, would want to make a copy of her is understandable. That his supposedly intelligent friends wouldn't understand the signifcance of what they are taking part in is a huge flaw in the film. They aren't creating something from nothing--they are creating a full-fledged, exact copy of Lena... who loves Robin, not Bill, and who doesn't want to be Bill's slave.

Maybe the issues of the film are clearer to me than most, because it's something that have been a recurring theme in my long-running "Star Wars" RPG campaign, or maybe my perspective is different from that of people in the 1950s, but I am amazed that none of the characters saw what their actions would lead to, and I am slightly appalled at the actions (or rather, the inaction) on the part of some of the characters when Bill sets about to reshape the Lena copy's mind to fit his desires.

Like all Fisher-directed movies, the film is great to look at. It takes full advantage of the black-and-white medium. The actors also give excellent performances. Unfortunately, the film is too ponderous and slow-moving to be really entertaining... even if you aren't as outraged at the behavoir and attitudes of some of the characters as I was.