Wednesday, 29 March 2023

Dimension 5 (1966)

Dimension 5, directed by Franklin Adreon and released in 1966, tries to combine espionage and science fiction in an ambitious way but the very very low budget stifled those ambitions somewhat. 

Having said that, considering the tiny budget it’s a lot better than one might have feared. In fact it’s rather enjoyable.

Justin Power (Jeffrey Hunter) works for a private spy outfit called Espionage Inc, run by an eccentric billionaire. That sounds sinister but apparently they’re the good guys. The bad guys are the Dragons, and they’re Evil Commies. This being 1966 and the height of China hysteria they’re naturally Red Chinese Evil Commies.

The movie starts in an interesting way. Justin Powers and a woman are fleeing from the military police in some unnamed European country. He reaches over to kiss the woman, she reaches for a gun in her handbag and he knocks her out cold.

And then we get the first science fictional element. Power suddenly disappears, just as the bad guys are about to gun him down.

Espionage Inc have equipped their agents with a super-secret disappearing device. It’s not an invisibility ray. Audiences in 1966 would have scoffed at such a hackneyed idea, so this movie comes up with something that is both much cooler and much sillier. We get some technobabble explaining that it’s all about the space-time continuum and the fifth dimension. The gizmo allows Power to travel instantaneously in space, and in time. But he can only jump forward or backwards in time for at most couple of weeks.

He’ll need this gizmo for his latest mission. The Dragons are planning to blow up Los Angeles with a H-bomb. To help him foil this plan Power has been provided with an assistant, a beautiful Chinese agent named Ki Ti Tsu (it’s pronounced Kitty Sue which is much cuter). She’s a good Chinese, not a bad Chinese. At least Power thinks she’s on the side of the good guys, but he’s not quite sure. She’s played by half-French half-Vietnamese actress France Nuyen.

Power and Kitty have to find the leader of the Dragons in Los Angeles, a man known only as the Big Buddha. Power has some allies but soon discovers that they might be unreliable. They might even be trying to kill him.

It’s basically a spy thriller plot spiced up with some science fiction gadgetry. The gadgetry is much more science fictional than anything in the Bond movies but the problem was that all the science fiction stuff had to be doable with a special effects budget of about twenty-five dollars. Mostly that’s managed quite well. There’s a mind-reading device which is basically a hair dryer from a beauty salon. There’s a high-tech dart gun which looks like it cost fifty cents at a toy store.

The sci-fi stuff is used sparingly, which is a good thing. The time travel device is only used when it can be used in an interesting way.

Jeffrey Hunter’s career was in precipitous decline at the time. He’s OK but a bit colourless. France Nuyen is much better. In fact she makes a pretty good beautiful but dangerous lady spy.

The Big Buddha is played by Harold Sakata, best known as Odd Job in Goldfinger. He makes the Big Buddha more of a hoodlum than a Bond villain type but he’s fairly menacing.

Franklin Adreon directed a few cheap B-movies and serials (such as Panther Girl of the Congo) in the early 50s. He spent the next decade in television before making two very low-budget sci-fi movies (Dimension 5 and Cyborg 2087) and a couple of TV movies in the mid 60s. He does a competent if not overly inspired job on Dimension 5. His main qualification for the job was presumably his ability to shoot quickly and stay within budget.

Kino Lorber have as usual provided a pretty decent anamorphic transfer. They’ve released this movie on both DVD and Blu-Ray. They’ve also continued their policy of providing their releases with completely worthless audio commentaries done by people who have absolutely nothing of value to say about the film.

I hadn’t heard of this movie until very recently but the fairly favourable review at Michael's Moviepalace convinced me to give it a go.

Dimension 5 is enjoyable in a fun lightweight way if you don’t set your expectations unrealistically high. Recommended.


Brian Schuck said...

Justin Power - Austin Powers. Coincidence? :) This one seems like a project where someone said, "Hey, we can get Oddjob from Goldfinger for next to nothing!", and they built a cheap James Bond knock-off around him. Some of the knock-offs, like James Coburn's Flint movies, are pretty amusing, and some are dreadful. Dimension 5 sounds like it's somewhere in between. I think this is available on the Kino Cult app, so I might just have to check it out!

Randall Landers said...

Thanks for the review. I have to be honest, I liked this one. I like most if not all of Arthur C. Pierce's low-budget sf movies. They're incredibly low budget (as someone who makes low budget Star Trek fan films, I can appreciate them on that aspect alone), but they're often very thoughtfully written, if not always well acted or well executed. My personal favorite is Women of the Prehistoric Planet featuring an all-B-star cast that comes across as a low-budget Star Trek. His films never get a lot of love, but I gotta love his drive and determination to do what he loved.

dfordoom said...

Randall Landers said...
I like most if not all of Arthur C. Pierce's low-budget sf movies.

I'll have to look for more of his movies. I know that Arthur C. Pierce wrote Beyond the Time Barrier which is a movie I like a great deal (and it was directed by the great Edgar G. Ulmer).

dfordoom said...

Brian Schuck said...
I think this is available on the Kino Cult app, so I might just have to check it out!

Brian, I think you'll enjoy it.