Dr Tony Nelson (James Congdon) is a man driven to fresh heights of scientific creativity thanks to one freak incident which saw him push a pencil through a solid steel block. Obsessed with recreating this effect he has spent his time in the years since experimenting on steel and various objects in an attempt to do this again, thus far with no luck, and to make matters worse in his latest try he managed to burn down his lab, and the surrounding offices, leaving him without a job. What to do but visit his big brother Scott (Robert Lansing)?
Which turns out to be a pretty good idea seeing as how he lands a new job at Scott's lab, and not only that gets to know the sort of beautiful lady scientist who proliferated in science fiction flicks of the fifties. She was Linda Davis, played by former Miss America and future Catwoman (though only in the movie) Lee Meriwether, very personable in her first big screen role in that you can well believe she would be at the top of a love triangle with the two brothers. But someone, you will be pondering as this unfolds, has to be the 4D Man, so which out of Scott and Tony will it be? Tony looks to be the likeliest candidate in the early stages.
That was an item of misdirection, as we find out presently. This was the film the makers of cult classic The Blob - Jack H. Harris and Irvin S. Yeaworth - produced on the profits of that surprise hit, and if it did not go on to be anywhere near the memory-searing effort that had been, it nevertheless impressed those who did see it thanks to a novel idea and some special effects which unlike many of its contemporaries did not embarrass the rest of the film. You had to wait a while for them to be employed, but imagery of the title character walking through walls and killing people off with his new powers were very striking.
The point here was that ageing was bad, and youth was good, something made plain early on when although Scott is but a few years older than Tony, he still acts like a stuffy academic (though not quite as stuffy as the actual academic who heads the institution), whereas Tony is full of the joys of life, something which attracts Scott's girlfriend Linda. The sequence where they go for a country walk and Scott walks alone while the other two gambol in the fields like lambs tells you everything you need to know about their relationship and what the upcoming horror will be, for when Scott has a mishap in the lab while investigating Tony's findings, he becomes...
Well, you can guess. This marvel of science soon turns into a liability as Scott realises that while he can pass through solids, when he does so to a living being he drains them of their youth, leaving them a crumpled up husk as if they were a hundred years old. That has the effect of rejuvenating Scott, but leaves a string of corpses in his wake as he turns fugitive and Tony and Linda are forced to hunt him down to make him see reason: he has meddled outside of nature's domain, and when you break the rules you must be punished. Except how is anyone going to do so when what you're dealing with is effectively a supervillain best suited to the comic books? The disparity between the vitality of the younger characters and Scott's corruption of that same thing proves surprisingly effective for what was a B-movie, but as with The Blob it was the pleasing simplicity of the central notion which made this interesting. Unexpectedly loud jazz score by Ralph Carmichael.
German-born director and producer in America. A religious film maker, he was best known for directing science fiction movies The Blob, along with 4D Man and Dinosaurus!, all made for producer Jack H. Harris.