When two scientists fall in love with the same girl, they clone her. Despite strong direction from Terence Fisher, this British 1953 SF melodrama rejects all the premise’s interesting possibilities and settles for a dull relationship drama. 4/10
Four Sided Triangle. 1953, UK. Directed by Terence Fisher. Written by Terence Fisher & Paul Tabori. Based on novel by William F. Temple. Starring: Barbara Payton, James Hayter. Stephen Murray, John Van Eyssen. Produced by Michael Carreras & Alexander Paal. IMDb: 5.9/10. Rotten Tomatoes: N/A. Metacritic: N/A.
A minor UK entrance into fifties SF, Four Sided Triangle is probably best known for being a film directed by Terence Fisher for Hammer Films in 1953, before both he and the studio became synonymous with the new wave of horror movies. This was when Hammer was still finding its niche, experimenting with different genres, for example science fiction. Whether a sign of things to come or just a coincidence, the influences in this movie are more thirties mad scientist horror than the new wave of pulpy SF.
The film is narrated by the small town physician Dr. Harvey (James Hayter), who retells the remarkable story of the two best friends Bill (Stephen Murray) and Robin (John Van Eyssen), and their tangled relationship with love, science and their childhood friend and sweetheart Lena (Barbara Payton). He recalls how in the little, sleepy fictional town (never actually shown more than in an opening vista), the three grew up together, and how Lena moved to the United States and the two boys went off to study science in the city. But the story really begins with the return of Lena.
A disillusioned Lena returns as a failed artist from the States and informs Dr. Harvey that she intends to live a few months on a small inheritance, and then kill herself. However, Harvey tells her that the boys are also back, working on some invention in the shed they used to play in, and convinces Lena to begin work as an assistant to the hot-headed, moody and ambitious Bill, and the calm, thoughtful Robin. She agrees and finds a new lust for life in the gadget-filled lab, filled with old mechanics and big things with buttons and lights, neon tubes and lots of beakers and test-tubes with bubbly liquids.
After some narration and a long stretch of lab-work montage, the trio is finally ready to unveil the invention to Dr. Harvey. This, they inform Harvey, is a reproducer or duplicator, and can copy anything in the world, as long as it fits in the assigned plastic dome. They demonstrate by putting Harvey’s pocket watch under one of the domes, and after some loud buzzing and blinking lights and twiddling knobs and shouting numbers, another watch appears under a second dome, a perfect replica, ”even the bent link”, Dr. Harvey gasps.
In an interlude the boys and Harvey discuss what to actually do with the machine, and Robin’s father Sir Walter (Percy Marmont) enlists his brother Lord Grant (Kynaston Reeves), who is highly placed in the government, to take control of reproduction. This, however, is quickly glanced over, as the central plot twist here is that Bill professes his love for Lena, just in time for Lena and Robin to announce their marriage. In a classic mad scientist turn, Bill then decides to make an improved reproducer to create himself a Lena of his own. Astonishingly, Lena agrees to be reproduced for the benefit of Bill, and even Dr. Harvey goes along with the plan, despite some misgivings. Said and done, and a ”Helen” is born.
Initially everything seems to be going well, and Bill and Helen go off on a ”honeymoon” of their own, but after some weeks Helen grows depressed and tries to drown herself. Turns out that when reproducing another human being, you also reproduce their memories and feelings, and just like Lena, Helen is also in love with Robin. And as Robin is already married to her doppelgänger, there seems to be no solution to her predicament other than the final one. That is, until Bill supposes that they use a sort of electric lobotomy to erase all her memories, so that she and Bill can start from a clean slate. Again, she agrees, and they go back to the old barn, where the finale of the film is played out. Without giving too much away, let’s just say that the film ends on an oddly ambivalent note that is supposed to be a happy ending, with one of the Lenas having lost her memory.
Before Hammer Films found their great money cow in the colourful, lewd revamps of classic Universal horror films, the small British movie company took a few stabs at science fiction, which was becoming increasingly popular in the UK. The studio had already dabbled in sci-fi in the proto-James Bond films Dick Barton Strikes Back (1949, review) and Dick Barton at Bay (1951, review), but Four Sided Triangle, released in May 1953, was the studio’s first all-out sci-fi movie, although still rooted in the old horror tropes of Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Although Hammer Productions existed as a company in the thirties, it was resurrected in the late forties as the ”quota quickie” studio Hammer Film Productions, focused on making cheap films to satisfy the government-mandated quota for British films in cinemas. These films were often short (an hour or a little longer) so-called support films that were shown at double features before a bigger movie, in effect the kind of films that were called B movies in the States. One of the up-and-coming directors of these support films within Hammer was a former editor called Terence Fisher, who would later become the mastermind behind the studio’s horror franchise.
Someone at the studio had caught an interest in author and space science editor William F. Temple’s 1949 novel 4-Sided Triangle, named for the central love ”triangle” between two male scientists, a beautiful woman and the clone of her that one of the scientists create. Temple wrote a number of sci-fi novels and short stories, of which 4-Sided Triangle is the best known because of the movie. Other notable stories are his juvenile Martin Magnus trilogy (1954-1956), his moon fiction parody Shoot at the Moon (1966) and the space opera The Fleshpots of Sansato (1970). In 1940, Temple wrote a semi-autobiographical novel about his time sharing a flat with someone who was at the time also a big sci-fi fan and budding author: Arthur C. Clarke. It was published posthumously 2000. Temple was also a member of the British Interplanetary Society, a group that promoted space flight and astronautics, and the editor of its popular science magazine.
To adapt the book into a script, Hammer hired Hungarian-born journalist and author Paul Tabori, who had dabbled somewhat in semi-sci-fi and alternate future stories. Director Terence Fisher also made major contributions to the script, and received his first of only two script credits of his career (the second was for another Tabori-scripted film, Mantrap, released a few months after Four Sided Triangle). Tabori halso wrote Hammer’s and Fisher’s Spaceways (1953), adapted from a radio play. It wasn’t until he started writing biting social satire in the sixties that he really got into sci-fi. Tabori also translated Hungarian novels into English. In the early sixties he became a well-known debunker of psychics and pseudoscience, and wrote a number of books on the subject, as well as on sexuality, eroticism and taboos explored in folk tradition and fairy tales.
The film follows the book rather closely, but there are some differences. First of all, in Temple’s book, Lena is not the childhood friend of the boys, but rather a failed artist who buys a cottage in the little town. Dr. Harvey befriends her as he helps her recuperate from a botched suicide attempt by arsenic. In the book, the trio focus on reproducing great works of art for the general public. Like the film, the book doesn’t really go into the more intricate problems of a machine that can duplicate anything, and the tremendous impact such a machine would have on world economy. Like the film, it focuses more on the romantic triangle than the science fiction. The book doesn’t include any of the lobotomy. In fact, Bill is killed when a generator he is working on explodes. This leads Helen (who is named Dorothy in the book) to try and convince Robin to engage in polygamy with both women, which Robin refuses. An accident then occurs when both Lena and Dorothy are diving. One of the women die, the other is seriously injured, and can’t remember anything that has happened after the duplication, and thus does not know whether she is Lena or Dorothy, since both have the same memories prior to the procedure. This first leads Robin and Harvey to believe that it is Dorothy, whose new painful memories have been repressed by the shock. But Harvey finds Bill’s notes, which state that Dorothy has some marks on her neck due to the duplication process. Harvey tells this to Robin, who concludes that the surviving woman is indeed Lena. But in a final twist, Harvey divulges to the reader that Bill also wrote that Dorothy had her scars surgically removed – so in fact nobody knows who the woman really is.
Even though the theme of cloning was fairly novel at the time, the ingredients of this film are all familiar, perhaps too familiar. The doppelgänger motif goes back to old mythology, and was a popular subject in 19th century literature, explored by authors like Goethe, Poe, Oscar Wilde, Dostoyevski, and Robert Louis Stevenson. There’s also the theme of Pygmalion, the sculptor who falls in love with his statue, that has been drawn upon in numerous robot fiction, see more on that in my review of The Perfect Woman (1949, review). And of course, the old golem/Frankenstein myth itself, man’s creation of an artificial being. You can’t escape the feeling that both author and screenwriters were heavily influenced by Frankenstein. In Shelley’s book, Frankenstein creates a wife for his creature, but destroys it out of guilt and revulsion, whereafter the creature murders Frankenstein’s wife. In the novel, Bill creates his won ”bride”. In the 1994 film Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, screenwriters Steph Lady and Frank Darabont take the theme full circle, when Victor Frankenstein tries to resurrect his own wife by stitching bits of another woman onto her, only to have her commit suicide.
And even though Terence Fisher claimed never to have seen the ”original” Frankenstein movie (1931, review), he was most certainly influenced by both the film’s general atmosphere and the lab scenes, even if only through other, later, films. And the setup is so familiar, that halfway through the film one almost groans when it is clear where the story is going: yet another mad scientist/monster who tries to force a woman to love him through some science, hypnosis or magic. Yet another woman ”kidnapped” to be the lab rat for some insane experiment. This was the staple fodder for just about every gothic horror film in the thirties and forties, and it does feel redundant to have it dragged out again in the fifties, especially when the whole thing happens in black and white in a decripit old, dark lab with bubbling test-tubes and blinking lights. The finale with the scientist/monster buried in a flaming building adds even more to the feeling of deja vu.
Cloning was a fairly new idea in SF, even though themes related to cloning had existed for some while. Thea von Harbou wrote about a mad scientist making a robot, maschinenmensch, in the image of his late wife, which happens to be identical to his daughter, in the novel that served as base for her husband Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis (1927, review). In 1940 Harry Bates wrote the short story Farewell to the Master, where the robot Gnut clones his emissary Klaatu, even if that element of the story was changed from cloning to the more Biblical resurrection on the movie adaptation The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951, review). But Temple was one of the forerunners in clone fiction, that didn’t regularly start popping up until the late forties and early fifties, with authors like A.E. Van Vogt, Jack Williamson, James Blish and Jack Finney.
The main problem with the film (and the book), though, is that it toys with a lot of very interesting notions, but never makes anything of them. First of all the idea of the duplicator, and its horrific ramifications for the world order. What would happen to labour and economy if everything could be copied, without the need for raw materials or work? The value of precious metals would plummet, bankrupting banks and causing widespread inflation. Manufacturers and producers of all walks of life would suddenly become disposable. Materia, in effect, would lose all its value. Similar themes had been explored in earlier sci-fi films: fairly in Algol (1920, review), well in The Man in the White Suit (1951, review) and very badly in Red Planet Mars (1952, review). And then of course, there would be the question of authenticity. Is a perfect replica of a Rembrandt as genuine as a genuine Rembrandt? If you copy a human being, is there one original or are there two equals? Karel Capek had brilliantly covered these issues in his 1922 novel The Absolute at Large. But these questions are completely ignored in the Four Sided Triangle – the only misgivings are that someone might reproduce atom bombs – well in line with the general debate of the era.
Then of course there are the very interesting questions of cloning another human being. What is a clone, complete with your own memories and feelings? Is it you, or another person? Do we have any right to create such a being, a person who, in a sense, is sprung into existence without the right to choose its own path in life, but with a past and a mind forcefully thrust upon itself? What if Lena would have had a crippling deformity or a painful illness? What if something would have gone horribly wrong in the cloning process, resulting in a sentient heap of badly put together flesh and bones – a theme gruesomely explored in Alien: Resurrection (1997)? And I won’t even go into the legal ramifications of the process. Will the clone get her own social security number? What of her possessions? Has she the right to the original’s possessions, and should they all also be duplicated? What of family and friends? Suddenly the clone wakes up and realises all the family members she remembers are not her family at all, but the family of her doppelgänger – just think of the mindfuck! One moment you think you are Lena, with all of Lena’s experience and memories of 25-odd years of life, just to realise after these 25 ”lived” years, that you are now no longer Lena, but her clone without a single family member or friend in the world. I really don’t blame Helen for trying to commit suicide. But, as mentioned, none of this is really explored in the film.
Even the romance story is hokey. First of all, you’d think that Bill at some point would have noticed that Lena and Robin were making out behind the shed. When three people work so closely together as these do, romance is not something you’ll be able to hide, especially if you know one of the people involved as well as your own brother. Second, where is the logic of Bill in creating his Helen? And his opinion of women? First of all, it should have occurred to Bill, as it immediately occurs to each and every viewer, that Helen will be ”born” with all of Lena’s memories and feelings – of course she’s going to be in love with Robin! Second, what makes Bill think that even if Helen wouldn’t love Robin, she would automatically love him? Or doesn’t he care? Does he consider Helen his property because he made her? These are serious oversights in scripting (and book-writing), and themes that could have produced some wonderful explorations.
If this would have been yet another Monogram Bela Lugosi mad scientist film, such considerations would of course have been superfluous. But since the movie presents itself in a very sombre and serious tone, never winking to the audience, never suggesting that it is anything else than a very serious drama, one also expects it to take a serious look at the topics it is dealing with. Instead the film brings up a plethora of interesting notions, skirts along the edges of all of them, and settles for a pretty mundane (and rather colourless) melodrama as the central point. Even the love story fails to produce any noticeable sparks, and is all rather prim and passionless.
Despite these misgivings, Four Sided Triangle is not a “bad” movie. It was made on a slightly larger budget than the usual Hammer quickies, 25 000 pounds, which would have roughly equalled 70,000 USD — pocket money for Hollywood, and certainly also low-budget for London. But it was still more money than for example Monogram or PRC put on their Z films. Most of the extra money was probably put into the creation of the lab and all its gadgets, and the lab is quite an extraordinary little set. Apart from this, there is little extravagance in sets or indeed effects. The movie is mostly filmed indoors at Bray Studios and in a hilly countryside – as mentioned, we don’t really see anything of the actual town we’re supposed to be in. The scenes of Helen’s and Bill’s ”honeymoon” were shot at the picturesque beach at Lulworth Cove in Dorset.
What is clear from this film is the talent of Terence Fisher. The movie looks like an A film, despite the small budget and production team. Fisher knows how to handle the camera, but never does anything unnecessary, and never strives to shock and awe the viewer through camera acrobatics. His style is restrained but never static. The locations are beautifully filmed, from the wide open shot looking down a wooded hill onto a peaceful, idyllic landscape of fields in the beginning, to the energetic close-ups of the frantic lab-work and the sandy beaches of Lulworth Cove.
Fisher also knows how to handle actors, always giving them something to do in the scenes, adding little items and quirks that flesh out a character or a scene. Like when the boys play with swords in the shed in the beginning, and chickens suddenly start raining down over them from the loft, or when the doctor removes a bottle of brandy that Bill keeps pouring into his glass. The doctor often pulls out his tobacco pouch to fill his pipe during long talky stretches, making the scene look more natural.
The acting is fair. First-billed Barbara Payton was an American film star down and out on her luck, and does tries her best to keep up with the British character actors, and at least she makes a good effort. She refrains from over-acting too much, but is perhaps a little un-nuanced. Her accent is somewhat odd, as she tries to fake a British accent. It’s not too bad an attempt, better than a lot of other Hollywood stars trying to pass as Robin Hoods and whatnot, but does at times sound a bit like a mangled Mid-Atlantic.
The glue that holds the film together is the rotund character actor James Hayter as Dr. Harvey, a fatherly and grounded figure among the fantastic proceedings. Hayter, with his ”fruity” voice, as someone described it, had just come off his two biggest film successes, as friar Tuck in Disney’s live-action film The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men and as Samuel Pickwick in The Pickwick Papers (both 1952). He was equally famous for lending his voice to a British cake commersial in the sixties. The Pickwick Papers gave him a BAFTA nomination.
Stephen Murray does a the habile, but tortured Bill is good but not excellent, and his tortured spell sometimes threatens to descend into Lon Chaney, Jr.-level hulking. The actor has an eerie resemblance to Liam Neeson, and forebodes Peter Cushing as the mad scientist of Hammer films to come. If Murray resembles Neeson, then you can’t watch John Van Eyssen without thinking of the recently deceased Pete Postlethwaite. Van Eyssen is pleasant in his role, without getting all that much to work with, and graciously leaves the centre stage to Murray, doing the best a supporting actor can do: supports and listens.
The rest of the cast is equally good, and it is impossible to review old English movies without tripping over every cast member that has at some point played Hamlet at the Royal Shakespeare company.
Malcolm Arnold’s classical orchestral score is beautiful, evocative and effective, if somewhat generic. We get the boasting strings when introduced to the idyllic countryside, a typical swashbuckler theme during the science montage, foreboding oboes and clarinets during times of, well, foreboding, and the dissonant brass combined with high-pitched violins are old acquaintances from horror films and mystery thrillers, and is sometimes used to drum up a feeling of dread and doom, where the script fails to provide the right emotional cues. Very nice is a piece of subdued, ethereally lingering strings building tension during the cloning scene, leaving room for the sound effects, almost making them part of the score.
Cinematographer Reginald H. Wyer does a wonderful job on the film, suggesting he would have been cut out for bigger films than the B productions in which he was stuck for much of his career. The lighting is sublime, the camera moves smooth as silk and the framing and composition often imaginative – although the latter may have also been thanks to Fisher. Wyer also shot other sci-fis, like Spaceways (1953, although the contrast to this film is striking), Masters of Venus (1962), Unearthly Stranger (1963), Island of Terror (1966), Jules Verne’s Rocket to the Moon (1967) and The Night of the Big Heat (1967).
For a science fiction film Four Sided Triangle is curiously devoid of special effects. The only real effect, apart from all the gadgetry, is the shed burning down. Helen and Lena are seldom seen in the same frame, and when they are, one of them is always turned away, suggesting a double. This hampers the story, as one would naturally like to see the two copies of each other interact at some point, but they never even say a word to each other. This is yet another opportunity to go someplace interesting, that the film throws away.
Another problematic aspect of the film is the casting. When we open the film, the three kids are all the same age. But when Lena returns, she seems markedly younger than the two guys. Murray was 41 at the time, Van Eyssen 31 (looking older, for some reason) and Barbara Payton 26. If we are to believe they are all somewhere around thirty, then the doc should also have aged 20 years, which he hasn’t.
In the US at least, the film opened to rather poor reviews. The New York Times labelled it “an exploitation picture” and called the duplication of Barbara Payton “just about the only attribute of this import”. And Wanda Hale at the New York Daily News wrote: “Four Sided Triangle is an unexciting affair, completely without humor and far beneath British film standards.”
Today, the film has a half-decent 5.9/10 rating at IMDb (based on little over 550 votes) and no Rotten Tomatoes consensus, but an audience score of 27% Fresh. AllMovie doesn’t have an actual review, but gives the film 1.5/5 stars. Nobody thinks this is a masterpiece, but the film has its defenders. Aaron Christensen at Horror 101 with Dr. A.C. calls it “an underrated […] effort” while pseudonym Capt. Xerox as Scifinds writes: “Perhaps too melodramatic at times and dragging things to a crawl with unnecessary laboratory scenes, the movie still offers a more human story than many science fiction movies of that era.”
Still, movie scholars like Dave Sindelar and Richard Scheib are not impressed. At Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings, Sindelar writes that the film “has more running time than story, the latter of which would neatly fill a half-hour of The Twilight Zone. The movie tries to flesh out the story by concentrating on character, […] but it never really goes far enough; the characters never become compellingly interesting people, and instead you’re left with too many scenes that go on too long, too much unnecessary narration, and too many plot points that are unnecessarily repeated”. At Moria, Scheib writes: “Even the doppelganger theme comes without any real imagination. […] rather than engage in any of the fascinating identity debates and conundrums that modern cloning and doppelganger films […] do, the film prefers to go with its Gothic solution.” Scheib awards the film with 2/5 stars, which is at least more than Richard Cross’ 0/4 stars at 20/20 Movie Reviews: “Any film which contains the invention of a machine capable of duplicating anything really should be about a machine that’s capable of duplicating anything, rather than about a limp love triangle involving a couple of wishy-washy men and a hot woman who wouldn’t give either of them the time of day in the real world. […] The plot also relies on a number of highly intelligent characters being guilty of at best a blinkered view of the inevitable consequences of their actions, and at worst sheer stupidity.” Cross calls the film “a tired story that fudges the opportunities open to it and fails to hold its audience interest.”
This is one of those films that I would like to like better than I do. It’s stylishly directed by Fisher, it’s got decent production design (although the original duplicator looks like a couple of large bread cupboards), and the cinematography is good. Its fault doesn’t primarily lie in the acting, even if actors a few notches sharper than Payton and Murray might have brought more nuance and layers to the central love triangle and the drama that it entails. But as noted above, the script just isn’t where it’s at. The movie has a great premise, but the writers manage to skirt almost all of its interesting potentials, and are forced to intentionally dumb down the main characters to babbling idiots in order not to have to tackle any of the obvious questions that arise from the plot, but that this picture has no interest, time or guts to take on. Despite the fact that it is based on a 1949 book and set in the fifties, the social codes and gender philosophy are stuck in the thirties. And just the basic premise that Bill duplicates Lena, somehow counting on the fact that when she is double, the other double will just simply up and marry him defies all logic. Still, logic and missed opportunities can be remedied if the story that a film does tell is engaging. Unfortunately, the story in Four Sided Triangle isn’t: It was predictable and dull even in 1953 and is even more so 70 years later.
Blonde bombshell Barbara Payton was a real-life femme fatale, infamous for her alcohol and drug abuse, and for working her way through most of Hollywood’s leading men. Payton caused a stir in Hollywood in her first prominent role as James Cagney’s hard-boiled grilfriend in Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (1950), praised for her charisma and acting talent. She followed up with lauded roles in A films like Dallas (1951) and Only the Valiant (1951). However, her partying and multiple affairs destroyed her career as quickly as it started. She was seen publicly with several leading Hollywood men, sometimes while engaged to actor Franchot Tone, and in 1950 went back and forth – all very publicly – between Tone and actor Tom Neal. The affair concluded in Neal assaulting Tone in Payton’s apartment, breaking his nose and cheekbone and leaving him in an 18-hour coma.
Payton became shunned by major studios, and made the B movie Bride of the Gorilla (1951), written and directed by Curt Siodmak. Hammer Films had made a deal with American Lippert Pictures, which stated that Hammer should have an American star in their pictures, and Lippert would distribute and promote them in the States. Timing was ideal for Payton to leave her troubles in Hollywood and try to start anew in London. She did another film, The Flanagan Boy, for Hammer in 1953, and then returned to the US, but her career never recuperated, neither was she able to shed the problems in her personal life. After a handful of B films her career dried up completely in 1955, which led to homelessness, run-ins with the police and eventually prostitution. Despite offers to stay at a rehab, Payton refused to give up her drinking, which got even worse when she moved back to her alcoholic parents in the early sixties. She was paid 1,000 dollars for a blunt and honest autobiography in 1962, and passed away from multiple organ failure in 1967, only 39 years old.
Stephen Murray was perhaps a tad unlikely a candidate for playing the lead in a B sci-fi. Murray was a respected actor on stage, and especially in radio, known for his prowess in Shakesperian roles. He did a handful of films, of which the best known is perhaps Fred Zinnemann’s The Nun’s Story (1959), where he had a minor part. Some may know him from the unique live action/stop motion 1961 version of Alice in Wonderland, a film that is both loved and hated much for the same reasons. Murray did the voices of Lewis Carroll and the Knave of Hearts.
John Van Eyssen would return to Hammer in 1954 to play Will Scarlet in the studio’s Robin Hood feature The Men of Sherwood Forest, and had a small role in the sci-fi horror film Quatermass 2 (1957). His best remembered role, however, is that if Jonathan Harker in the legendary film Dracula (1958), starring Cushing and Christopher Lee. Van Eyssen quit acting in 1961 to become a literary agent, and later became a manager and producer at Columbia Studios, first in the UK, and later in the States. He is maybe best known to a broader audience as the companion of Swedish movie star Ingrid Bergman in her latter years.
Sean Barrett who plays young Robin transitioned from child actor to appear in films and TV as an adult, and is best for his voice work, which started with the English dub of The Twelve Tasks of Asterix in 1976. His best recognisable voice work is probably Tik-Tok in Return to Oz (1985), and he had a small part in The Dark Crystal (1982). His most prolific genre, however, has been manga sci-fi, including the TV series X-Bomber (1982), Dominion Tank Police (1988) and the cyberpunk cult classic mini-series Cyber City Oedo 808 (1990). In later years he has also provided his voice talents to video and computer games.
Elderly character actor Kynaston Reeves had one of the major roles, as Professor Walgate, in the oddly fascinating jumping-killer-brains movie Fiend Without a Face (1957). John Stuart who has a small role as a solicitor is interesting inasmuch as he appeared in what may very well be the first science fiction film made for TV. Stuart had a role in the live-broadcast TV film R.U.R., made by the BBC in 1948, back when sci-fi hadn’t even hit TV in the form of kiddie shows in the States. In essence, it was a live broadcast of an adaptation of Karel Capek’s 1920 play with the same name, famous for inventing the word ”robot”.
The producers for Four Sided Triangle were Hungarian-born Alexander Paal and British Michael Carreras. Paal was an obscure writer-producer, who is probably best known for marrying B movie star Eva Bartok to give her entrance into the UK in the late forties. Carreras was a Hammer mainstay who served as writer, producer, director and casting director. Carreras wrote and directed films like The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964) and The Lost Continent (1968), and is probably best known for producing Hammer’s Dracula. He also produced a number of sci-fi films like Spaceways, X the Unknown (1956), Quatermass 2, The Abominable Snowman (1957), The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959), The Damned (1963), Moon Zero Two (1969) and Creatures the World Forgot (1971).
Malcolm Arnold was an up-and-coming composer with a background as a trumpeter. He would go on to become a highly valued composer of light music, in a style sometimes compared with Jean Sibelius’, and during his lifetime wrote nine symphonies and a number of concertos, as well as scores for stage, film and TV. He first composed music mainly for documentaries in the late forties and early fifties, but soon moved on to feature films. He did some of his best films scores in the mid-to-late fifties, including Hobson’s Choice (1954), 1984 (1956), The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958), and Suddenly, Last Summer (1959). His crowning achievement in film was the music for The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), which earned him an Oscar.
Editor Maurice Rootes also worked on Spaceways and First Men in the Moon (1964). Second assistant director Aida Young was one of the rare women behind the camera in the fifties, and worked as assistant director on a number of films for Hammer during the period, she later went on to become a producer. She worked on The Quatermass Xperiment (1955, review) and moved into TV in the late fifties, where she started producing a number of classic TV series, like The Invisible Man (1958-1960) and many TV movies. She kept working into the nineties.
Four Sided Triangle. 1953, USA. Directed by Terence Fisher. Written by Terence Fisher and Paul Tabori. Based on the novel 4-Sided Triangle by William F. Temple. Starring: Barbara Payton, James Hayter. Stephen Murray, John Van Eyssen, Percy Marmont, Jennifer Dearman, Glyn Dearman, Sean Barrett, Kynaston Reeves, John Stuart, Edith Saville. Music: Malcolm Arnold. Cinematography: Reginald H. Wyer. Editing: Maurice Rootes. Art direction: J. Elder Willis. Makeup artist: Dick Bonnor-Morris. Sound recordists: Bill Salter, Percy Britten. Production management: Victor Wark. Produced by Michael Carreras and Alexander Paal for Hammer Film Productions.