Friday, 11 January 2013

The Amazing Transparent Man

Director: Edgar G Ulmer
Writer: Jack Lewis
Producer: Lester Guthrie
Cast: Douglas Kennedy, Marguerite Chapman, James Griffith
Country: USA
Year of release: 1960
Reviewed from: UK DVD (Classic Entertainment)

Although this film runs less than an hour, it nevertheless took me three attempts to get through it. That was partly because, on the first two attempts, it was very late and I was tired - but it is also directly attributable to The Amazing Transparent Man being one of the most boring, soporific pictures I have seen in a long time.

A promising start sees Joey Faust (Douglas Kennedy: The Land Unknown, The Alligator People) escape from prison and make his way through the day-for-night forest to the road where a mysterious woman (Marguerite Chapman: Flight to Mars) is waiting for him in a large car. She has a clean set of clothes for him which he puts on - I was very impressed at his ability to knot a perfect bow tie while bouncing around in the front seat of a convertible - and when they are stopped at a roadblock she is able to pass him off as her drunken, sleeping husband.

She turns out to be Laura Matson and he wants to know who she is and why she sprung him from jail, although there is no evidence of her doing any ‘springing’, merely waiting with a getaway car. Laura takes him to the isolated house of Major Paul Krenner (James Griffith: Mark of the Vampire, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow), a beaky megalomaniac who has a tame scientist, Dr Peter Ulof (Ivan Treisault: The Mummy’s Ghost, Cry of the Werewolf) in a lab in his attic.

Ulof has perfected a machine which can make a subject invisible and then restore him to normality. To continue the work requires some nuclear material which Krenner wants Faust to steal, seeing as he is the best safecracker in the State. The ex-con reluctantly agrees but as soon as he is invisible he starts throwing his weight around, demanding that he be paid 25,000 dollars instead of the one thousand previously promised.

So Faust knocks out a security guard, opens a vault door and strolls out with a small canister of ‘X-13’ - something which frankly any invisible man could have done. Treated with this X-13 (whatever the heck that is) he then robs a bank on Krenner’s behalf - again by just strolling in and out - but finds himself becoming visible as he leaves. There is a great unintentional laugh as the fully visible Faust jumps into Laura’s waiting car outside the bank and she asks, “What’s the matter?”

Halting down the road from Krenner’s house, Faust gives Laura half the money and tells her to skedaddle, then finds himself turning invisible again. Having heard on the radio that witnesses have identified the ‘invisible man’ thief as escaped convict Joey Faust, Krenner fears a visit from the cops and wants to take Ulof to a new location. The scientist has been working under protest because Krenner has his daughter locked up; now Faust frees the girl, locks up Krenner and prepares to take Ulof south of the border to continue his experiments. It all ends with Laura shot and Faust and Krenner duking it out in the lab where the canister of X-13 becomes irradiated (or something) causing a massive stock footage nuclear explosion.

It is difficult to know where to begin in highlighting everything that is rubbish about this movie. There are the expected inconsistencies in the invisibility process: for example, why does it also make Faust’s clothes invisible given that, when tested on a guinea pig, the straps holding the creature down remain visible? Ulof’s daughter is simply behind a locked door leading off the lab so springing her would have hardly presented a problem. I actually had my doubts that she existed until she appeared near the end (the actress, Carmel Daniel, doesn’t speak).

Krenner - who has no visible source of income nor any indication of where his ‘Major’ rank comes from - has a typically bonkers idea about creating an army of invisible soldiers. But it is never explained quite what he is planning or why precisely he needs Joey Faust and couldn’t make do with some other criminal who doesn’t require busting from jail.

The epilogue is particularly dumb as two government agents survey the devastated countryside from behind a police cordon. “There’s not enough there to make ashes,” says one as he surveys the still partially standing house through his binoculars. Then, in an editing decision so ridiculous it makes my head itch, the same ‘binoculars POV’ shot of stock footage, with its traditional double-circle frame, cuts to a close-up!

All this might be okay if the movie was fun in any way but it’s not, it’s dull dull dull. Most of the scenes are long and talky and go on slightly too long with characters standing around for a couple of seconds after the scene should have ended. The direction is tedious, flat and on occasions downright inept, which is bizarre because this is Edgar G Ulmer we’re talking about, the guy who directed Karloff and Lugosi in The Black Cat. This is the guy who made Bluebeard, The Man from Planet X and Daughter of Dr Jekyll. In 1960 he made this film and Beyond the Time Barrier back-to-back then moved to Europe where he shot a couple more pictures before retiring. It’s obvious that he had no interest in this movie whatsoever.

Boyd Morgan, who played Adam Link in the original Outer Limits version of ‘I, Robot’, here plays Julian, Krenner’s henchman, who switches sides immediately that Laura tells him that Krenner lied about Julian’s son being still alive. This statement is taken absolutely on face value without any sort of proof. Also in the cast are Jonathan Ledford (Zontar the Thing from Venus, The Eye Creatures) and Patrick Cranshaw (Curse of the Swamp Creature, Mars Needs Women, Alien Avengers II).

This was Lester Guthrie’s only film as producer although he had a stack of credits as production manager and/or assistant director (Terror in the Haunted House, The Cosmic Man, The Boy Who Cried Werewolf, The Man from Planet X). Cinematographer Meredith Nicholson also lit Frankenstein’s Daughter, Missile to the Moon and She Demons plus episodes of Batman, The Invaders and Mork and Mindy. Jack Lewis wrote episodes of The Cisco Kid and a handful of completely forgotten movies. Other notable crew include production designer Ernst Fegté (Destination Moon, Monster from Green Hell), assistant director Leonard Shapiro (The Crime Doctor’s Courage, The Monster and the Ape), costume designer Jack Masters (It! The Terror from Beyond Space), editor Jack Riggiero (Varan the Unbelievable) and composer Darrell Calker (who wrote music for both Sadlers Wells Ballet and Woody Woodpecker cartoons!).

But the most remarkable name in the credits is make-up man Jack Pierce, the guy who created all the Universal monsters, slumming it on this ultra-low budget indie nonsense. Apart from anything else, there’s no monster make-up to be done here, not even prosthetic wounds. He must have just been doing blusher and eye-shadow. What a comedown.

The special effects, which enable Faust to disappear entirely or just partially, are an early credit for Roger George who also worked on The Human Duplicators, Destination Inner Space, The Dunwich Horror, Blacula, Invisible Strangler, The Howling, Mausoleum, The Terminator, Ghoulies, Munchies and even Nightflyers.

The Amazing Transparent Man certainly isn’t an amazing film. In fact it’s the most lazily cobbled together piece of disinterested work-for-hire crap I have seen for quite some time. The print on this Classic Entertainment triple bill is okay - a bit scratched in places and not enormously sharp but perfectly watchable, which is more than can be said for the film.

MJS rating: D+
Review originally written 31st January 2006

No comments:

Post a Comment