Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Amazing Transparent Man (1960)

Hell o Prisoners

Time for Movie #4, Disc #1, "50 Greatest Horror Films".  That remains to be seen....

Miller Consolidated Pictures
Presents Douglas Kennedy
Edgar G. Ulmer's The Amazing Transparent Man (1960)

Joseph "Joey" Faust (Douglas Kennedy) is a crook who's just escaped from the State Pen, via help from some chick named Laura (Marguerite Chapman). Their relationship is unclear, but I think they used to team up back in the day. She's not his wife, who evidently narked on him to begin with, and she's not his daughter, whom he's never met. It is clear that she set up his escape, but we don't know how, and I WANTED TO KNOW. 

They get stopped right off the bat via roadblock, and he simply faux sleeps and lowers his hat. Laura's driving, and explains to the cops that her husband's had too much to drink at a party, and besides, his license is suspended for drunk driving. The cops shoo them on.

They soon arrive at a large Victorian Ranch House way out in the boonies, where he meets Major Krenner (James Griffith), whose about to blackmail him into being another pawn in his plan of creating an invisible army. There's a bounty on Faust's head, 5k, dead or alive, and the Major would have no qualms collecting. 

The major has a couple other people he's blackmailing or deceiving as well. There's Professor Ulof (Ivan Triesault), German Scientist and Refugee, who accidentally killed his own wife during experiments he was forced to carry out in the concentration camps. All of his patients were hooded, and he didn't know it was his wife, until it was too late. Krenner is holding his daughter, Maria (Cormel Daniel), hostage, and will kill her if he doesn't cooperate. And then there's Julian (Red Morgan...whose pretty beastly by the way), his henchman, who works for him only because the Major says that his son is alive in a European prison, and that he can help to get him out....after Julian takes care of some business for him. Turns out, his son is dead.

Professor Ulof has access to a full lab, and has been experimenting to make materials disappear with different types of radiation . The rays neutralizes all tissue and bone structure in the body, and any accidental concentration of rays from the apparatus could set off a chain reaction of the materials kept in the vault and "nuclear fission could result". He demonstrates the disappearing act with a common guinea pig. Seems to work well enough.

Faust  soon realizes that invisibility is a pretty hand trait for a crook, and so once transparent, he takes the upper hand in the lab, and starts pounding on the Major. 

The Major needs more radioactive chemicals, but they're kept under tight security in town, so the Major and Faust, take up a symbiotic relationship: the Major won't turn in him, and Faust will pull off the heist...for 25k. He's able to sneak in the building, cut the breakers to the alarm system, knock out a couple of guards, and break into the vault stealing the necessary canisters. On the way home, why not stop at the First National Bank to make a large withdrawal? Alas, while standing in the main lobby, holding a bag of money, he starts to materialize.

Professor Ulof warns the Major that prolonged treatment makes the process of transparency unpredictable and unreliable. It will come and go as it pleases, and will eventually end in death. It's just not working anymore. He needs to do some more research and work the bugs out. The Major has a better suggestion, he wants him to use the dreaded X13, which is stronger, yet lethal, but it works better, and he doesn't care if Faust dies or not, since he's basically just a test subject anyway--the conduit between an army and an invisible army to wreak havoc and take over the world! 
But Faust kinda likes the Professor, so he breaks Maria out of captivity, and they flee, it's then that the Professor comes clean about his own radiation poisoning and that of Faust's. He appeals to Faust the Father, and deems him a would be martyr in stopping the Major's psychotic plan. So, Faust returns to the house, and in true Dreyfus-Hooper-Jaws style, says, "Don't wait for me." He throws some blows with the Major in the lab, but the canister is lose and unstable and soon explodes, and there's nothing left, but a huge mushroom cloud. 

Professor Ulof is questioned by Drake (Edwin Erwin), the head of the nuclear facility, who thinks the Major's plan is not half bad. Just think what the counter intelligence department could do with an invisible army. Why, the possibilities are endless, but the Professor warns of the consequences, and says that the secret is best left with the dead. Professor Ulof gets the last word, and the last line of the Amazing Transparent Man. With full close up, staring straight into the camera, he poses the question, "What would you do?"

This is your typical Cold War nuclear-scare film. I wouldn't call it a horror film, but the experiments, even the death of Ulof''s wife, the transparency, and the idea of creating an invisible army is scary enough to warrant a flame. I think there were also some pretty good fight scenes, too, between the amazing transparent man and the Major as well as with the security guards. And there were definitely a few cheeky lines. Like, when Julian asks Faust if he knows what his shotgun will do to him, "You know what one of these'll do son? It'll rip up your spine and roll it up like a ball of string." Really? I had know idea. I thought a double barrel would just blow a big God Damn hole in ya. A ball of string? hah. That's good. And then when Faust wants the scivy from the Major, he asks, "What's the score, Critter?" Loved that one. Probably gonna use that one myself. I enjoyed Calker's score as well. There just wasn't enough of it. And sheez, just look at the picture just above. Gotta love that shot of Kennedy. All in all, I think it warrants one flame on the flame scale. It's no worse than The Corpse Vanishes, and although not a full fledged Horror movie, the plot was scary enough. An invisible army....that's some scary shit. Hey, I have a question. Now I want to see a movie that succeeds in creating an invisible army. Can you suggest one?

Next it's Night of the Living Dead (1968) (YAY!)
Until next time....Keep those fires stoked.
Eternally Yours
Warden Stokely


  1. The thing about movies like this is that if they were remade now, they'd really suck. The overuse of CGI kills the tone of everything! Watching something with cheese like this is genuine and enjoyable. That's why these films will be cherished. A blast of nostalgia right to the face haha. Great write-up!

    1. Hey Grimm! Thanks for stopping by! Yes. I agree. Back in the day, tone was dependent on lines, delivery, and expression. There is a visceral grittiness, and a genuine quality, when the actors, dialogue, expression, and images, are familiar and realistic. It sets the bars so much higher for the actors and script writers, since you don’t have to simply click the mouse to obtain some grandiose effect that is unbelievable. Plain old cheese is more inclusive and immersive for the audience, because it’s really happening, and the realistic quality, makes you feel more a part of the action. Before it’s like, Oh my gosh, look at what he did to that guy, now it’s whoa! look at what they did to what he did to that guy. It almost makes it third party. Not, just the actors, stage hands, set, make up, costume, etc. and us, but all of those guys, us, and them—the accentuators. I love CGI for the oohs and awwws of a picture, but it makes everything perfect and smooth and predictable and fabricated, and it makes the settings foreign and surreal. It’s great, and certainly has its place, and is a natural evolution to film; it’s truly amazing what they can do, but sometimes it’s kind of like using too many adverbs in a sentence. Now it’s like what can they do to make what’s going on better, instead of relying on what’s going on. It’s not usually the actors and the lines that you remember, it’s the CGI effects. Kinda lowers the bars for the actors and writers. Movies can get away with little character development, so-so writing, and sub-par delivery of lines, if they have bad ass special effects.

  2. CGI should be one tool in the filmmaker's tool chest, not the only tool. CGI can be a great asset to up-and-comers with limited resources and grand visions, but too often (especially in studio films) it's the be-all end-all.

    Biggest single recurring gripe I have with CGI: computer generated blood splats. Come on guys, how expensive can a proper blood squib possibly be?

    1. Seriously. I have no idea, but I'd say a lot less than the C in CGI. I'd say my single recurring gripe is explosions and flames. So, Come on guys, how expensive can a proper detonation and fire possibly be? lol