One third crime film noir & two-thirds cheezy sci-fi thriller, The Amazing Transparent Man (1960) regards a semi-reformed Nazi scientist (Ivan Triesault) with an invisibility formula.
An evil spy (James Griffith) uses the invisibility formula on an escaped convict, instructing him to swipe nuclear material needed for his terrible plan. The plan is badly explained but the main part of it will involve an invisible army sold to the highest bidding government seeking world dominance.
No one suspected a criminal might be self-serving & really not care about science & totalitarian politics. Joey Faust (Douglas Kennedy) decides it would be more cool to rob banks while he's invisible, so the plans to develop an invisible army go all awry.
The invisibility formula turns out to be extremely dangerous & side-effects mean Joey's plans are just as doomed.
Approached with low expectations The Amazing Transparent Man is quite fun, though the only thing amazing about it is it's amazingly short.
A better film (though still a lowbrow cheapie) to mix film noir with s-f thriller is Indestructible Man (1956) starring Lon Chaney, Jr., as Charles "the butcher" Benton who went to the gas chamber full of bitterness against his double-dealing attorney (Ross Elliott) & two gangsters (Marvin Ellis as crippled Squeamy & Joe Terrell as slick Joe Marcelli) who turned state's evidence against him.
Through modern day bodysnatching, a scientist (Robert Shayne) doing well-intended cancer research has Butcher Benton's body delivered to his laboratory. During an experiment with electricity he accidentally reanimates Benton, though burning out his vocal cords. He's become invulnerable, so after killing the scientific researcher & his lab assistant (Joe Flynn) the indestrictible Butcher sets out on mission of vengeance.
It's too bad that Indestrictible Man is one of Lon Chaney, Jr.'s biggest roles. "Too bad" because it isn't a very good film, though it's mostly adequate. We know from his performance in Wolf Man (1941) how capable of performer he was, but depression & alcoholism just about destroyed his career. His name recognition could get him some work, but not many roles that showcased his greater merits.
Lon throws himself into the role of a maniac whom bullets cannot stop, mugging fiercely & frighteningly since he has no speaking lines after his reanimation. He is pursued by a police detective (Max Showalter, though credited as Casey Adams), & during his investigation falls for Benton's girlfriend, burlesque performer Eva (Marian Carr).
A full array of characcter actors populate the corners of the film. They make it all a lot more entertaining than it could otherwise have been. The old alcoholic dame (Madge Cleveland) always sitting the same place in Harry's bar subtly takes over the two scenes she's in. "Carney" the con artist (Eddie Marr) milks his few lines before he becomes one of Butcher Benton's extra victims. There's not an entirely rancid performance, big or small, anywhere in the film, which is acted a lot better than it is written.
It's also shot largely in the streets & penultimately in the sewers of Los Angeles, & the city becomes a character actor in itself, which again adds a layer of effectiveness to the slim story.
As a low budget film from an inconsequential producer trying his hand at direction, it'd be easy to make fun of the film. It even has blatant continuity problems such as Benton being chased down & struck point blank with a bazooka & a flamethrower & getting his face all burnt up but his clothes remain unscortched (though a little tattery). But to give it it's due, it is seedily entertaining.
When I saw this film on a small black & white television as a kid, I didn't appreciate its merits. As a "Frankenstein" theme it had seemed to me that Lon played only a criminal maniac, not a monster, & I wanted to see a monster film, not a crime film.
Plus I had already taken a strong liking for Lon as the sympathetic Wolf Man, plus he resembled my Yakama Indian grampa, so I disliked seeing him purely a bad guy since to me he always had a sweet endearing grandfatherly appeal. Yet seeing Indescructible Man all these many years later, I'm surprised it's as good as it is.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl