Four Sided Triangle Reviews
The critical dramatic theme, of course, is how the new Lena, Helen, deals with the fact of her existence. More of the movie should have been spent on this. The problems emerging from the self-awareness of the clone have been treated not only in Temple's story and novel, but also in John Varley's short story 'The Barbie Murders' (1978), Stanislaw Lem's amazing descriptions in his novel 'Fiasco' (1987), and Natalya Banderchuk's poignant performance as the constantly being recreated Hari in Tarkovsky's deviant but brilliant movie version of 'Solyaris' (1972) -- also written by Stanislaw Lem.
Here the dramatic burden falls on Barbara Payton as Lena/Helen, also to be seen in the split identity themed 'Bride of the Gorilla' (1951). She does a fair job of expressing her mixed feelings of being re-created, finally opting for an aborted suicide. An all consuming fire in Bill's barn / laboratory dooms Bill and Helen, though in the short story the reader is left puzzling whether it is Lena or Helen who survives.
This film is like a too long episode of 'The Outer Limits,' which would have neatly telescoped this 81 minutes into a fast moving 52, the way that the episode 'Specimen: Unknown' (1964) is a condensed version of 'Day of the Triffids' (1963); or 'The Man Who Was Never Born' (1963) shortens a multi-themed two hour movie into a quick one hour; or Harlan Ellison's episode 'Soldier' (1964) gives us 'The Terminator' (1984). Here the laboratory sequences of perfecting organic matter re-creation go on too long; the entire development of the 'reproducer' could have been shortened, although all of the lab scenes tell us this is really a science fiction movie with a strong character focus like the best of 'The Outer Limits. 3 Stars 2-1-13
Starring: Barbara Payton, Stephen Murray, James Hayter, and John Van Eyssen
Director: Terence Fisher
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, noatterhow 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.