The Projected Man (1966/1967) **Ĺ
This movie was something of an unexpected discovery for me. Given the extremely unfavorable reception that greeted The Curse of the Fly in the States, it never would have occurred to me that it had been big enough in its native Britain to inspire imitators. But itís difficult to interpret The Projected Man as anything but a rip-off of The Fly and its sequels, and considering the seven-to-eight-year lag-time between the release of the first two films in that series and that of The Projected Man, it seems inescapable that the impetus for this movieís creation was the appearance of the second Fly sequel the year before.
Dr. Paul Steiner (Bryant Haliday, from The Horror of Snape Island and The Curse of Simba) is a scientist working for a research foundation under the direction of a certain Dr. Blanchard (Norman Wooland, whose sole other foray into the sci-fi genre was the kiddie-oriented serial Masters of Venus). Steiner is working on a teleportation machine that uses a powerful laser to disintegrate, transmit, and reassemble objects anywhere within the range of its beam (apparently a couple of miles in the case of the prototype device). The problem is that it doesnít work with anything living; all of the lab animals Steiner has teleported so far have died mysteriously just moments after being re-materialized. Steiner has no idea what lies at the root of this incompatibility between his machine and live organisms, so he has brought in another researcher, physician Patricia Hill (Mary Peach)ó also his ex-girlfriend, as it happensó to have a look at some of his dead mice and see if she can get to the bottom of the mystery. It turns out that the teleportation machine creates some kind of temporal distortion around anything it transmitsó time speeds up drastically for anything that undergoes the process. With an inanimate object, the effect can go unnoticed, but when a mouse ages at dozens of times its normal rate, itís going to drop dead fairly swiftly. After a bit of tinkering by Steiner and his assistant, Chris Mitchell (Ronald Allen, of The Fiend and Eat the Rich), the problem looks to have been solved.
But Steiner has a bigger problem than the bug in his teleporter, and that problemís name is Blanchard. For reasons that the script never bothers to explain, Blanchard is being blackmailed by a Mr. Latham (Derrick De Marney, from Latin Quarter and Things to Come), evidently one of the trustees of his foundation. And for reasons that the script also never bothers to explain, Latham wants Steiner disgraced and his project terminated. To that end, Latham has Blanchard arrange a demonstration of Steinerís machine for a Swiss scientist named Lembach (Gerard Heinz, from Devils of Darkness and The Legend of Spider Forest) with so little warning that it should be impossible for the teleporter to perform as advertised. This public failure will then provide Blanchard with an excuse to scrap the whole project and move on to other things more to Lathamís liking.
Of course, Latham doesnít realize that Steiner, with Hillís help, has already isolated and corrected the seemingly insuperable defect that would have kept his device from being of use. That means the demonstration Blanchard has ordered will have precisely the opposite effect from the one that Latham desires, in which case Blanchard is going to be utterly screwed. Itís just a good thing for the scheming scientist that word has come back to him regarding Steinerís unexpected success. Thus forewarned, Blanchard is able to arrange the sabotage of the machine, and when Steiner demonstrates it for Lembach and his delegation, the whole apparatus shorts out and bursts into flames. Latham gets his public humiliation of Steiner and Blanchard gets his pretext for canceling the teleporter project.
But again Steiner presents Blanchard and Latham with something they hadnít figured on. Chris Mitchell notices acid burns on the wires that caused the short, and he tells Steiner that the laser was tampered with. Taking the sabotaged part with him, Steiner storms over to Blanchardís house, where Blanchard, Latham, and Lembach are having dinner, and confronts the men with unanswerable evidence that someone has been trying to make a fool of him. Blanchard tries to cut Steiner off by informing him of his decision to halt the project, but Lembach is convinced that Steiner was on to something before his machine was messed up, and he insists that Blanchard allow Steiner another chance to prove himself. But because Lembachís plane for Switzerland leaves in the morning, that means Steiner will have to rig up a new demonstration more or less immediately. He thinks he knows just what to do.
Meanwhile, Mitchell and Hill are out on a date, taking a break from their round-the-clock efforts to repair the damage to Steinerís machine, and thus they are not around to stop the desperate and enraged scientist from carrying out the very risky demonstration he has settled on. Steiner gives his secretary, Sheila Anderson (Percyís Tracey Crisp), a crash-course in the operation of the teleporter, and then straps himself down to the transmission table. If all goes according to plan, he should materialize right in Blanchardís parlor, shocking the living shit out of him and his guests. But all does not go according to plan, for Mitchell and Hill havenít yet completed their repair work. The other two researchers return to the laboratory just as Sheila is about to throw the switch that will zap Steiner across town to Blanchardís place, and her panicked attempts to stop the experiment succeed only in sending Steiner someplace else.
That other place is an alley, where a trio of criminals are attempting to break into some building or other by chopping through the back wall with a pickaxe. (Granted, Iím not exactly a master thief, but it seems to me that thereís got to be an easier way to do it than that!) The thievesí lookout goes to investigate when she hears Steiner moving around at the other end of the alley, and something very bad happens to her. One of her cohorts rushes to her aid when he hears her abrupt, stifled scream, and something very bad happens to him. Finally, the last of the burglars comes face to face with Steiner, and becomes the eveningís third recipient of something very bad at the scientistís hands. The medical examiner who looks over the bodies in the next scene tells his boss, Inspector Davis (Derek Farr), that all three seem to have been electrocuted.
Donít ask me how, but the Steiner teleportation machine has developed a new kink. Instead of aging too fast, Steiner re-materialized with half his face burned off and his entire body coursing with high-voltage electricity. His first stop is a hardware store, where he steals a pair of insulated rubber gloves and an overcoat belonging to the shopís owner. Then he returns to his old lab, where he finds Latham prowling around, trying to steal the data tapes from the laboratory computers. Latham gets cooked in short order, along with the tapes and the main power supply to the building where the lab is located. Itís that last partó the lights going outó that alerts Blanchard, Mitchell, and Hill (who were just then fighting over Blanchardís treatment of Steiner and discussing the mishap that befell the last attempted demonstration of the teleportation machine) that something is amiss. Going down to the lab, they find the charred remains of the data tapes, along with Lathamís corpse. What they donít find is Sheila, who has been kidnapped by her old boss. This is because Steiner figures the secretary might know a thing or two about how and why Blanchard and Latham are trying to ruin him. She doesnító who would tell a mere secretary a thing like that?ó but she is at least able to confirm that Blanchard and Latham had been out to get him, and that they had made her play along by threatening her job. After setting his apartment on fire with Sheila trapped inside it (to punish her for her admittedly minor role in the conspiracy against him), Steiner goes to settle his accounts with Blanchard. And when heís finished there, who knows? Maybe weíll get a little detour through 4D Man territoryó after all, Steiner does seem to be just a bit jealous of the developing relationship between Mitchell and his ex, and Inspector Davis hasnít had very much to do as yet...
While it certainly isnít up to the standard set by either The Fly or its sequels, The Projected Man is a perfectly serviceable little flick. It leaves a little too much unexplained (I, for one, would like to know why Latham was so avidly against Steiner, and to have been given at least some idea what he was holding over Blanchardís head), and certain aspects of its story never quite get around to making much sense, but itís much faster- paced and more tautly directed than most of the 50ís monster-rampage movies from which it takes its cues. The acting is well above the average for movies of this type, and the special effects are excellent, considering the constraints of The Projected Manís obviously low budget. You could easily find a hundred worse Saturday matinee time-wasters than this one.