The Amazing Transparent Man
Invisible and Deadly!
Year of Release: 1960
Genre: Science Fiction
Running Time: 58 minutes
Director: Edgar G. Ulmar
Douglas Kennedy ... Joey Faust
James Griffith ... Maj. Paul Krenner
Marguerite Chapman ... Laura Matson
Ivan Triesault ... Dr. Peter Ulof
Boyd 'Red' Morgan ... Julian
Cormel Daniel ... Maria Ulof
Bankrobber Joey Faust is subjected to atomic rays by a gangster and a mad scientist, rendering him invisible and capable of plundering the world's most guarded vaults. The ring of criminals embark on an unstoppable crime wave, gathering resources towards their ultimate goal - the creation of an invisible army to conquer the world. As the shadowy thief begins to suffer the poisonous side effects of the radiation, a beautiful woman forces Faust to re-think the horrific plan. Unable to turn to the law for help, the invisible safecracker becomes the final unlikely obstacle between the power-hungry madman and world domination.
The Amazing Transparent Man, remindin' us that if life were fair humans would be drafted in for experiments dedicated to the betterment of rodent-kind.
And speakin' of things better left unseen, if there's one thing I can't stand it's a man who refuses to act his age. I'm not gonna go into the specifics of exactly why that is 'cause I just had that discussion with Juanita at the concession stand after I was forced to give Sage Yoder an atomic wedgie for sayin' our movies "sucked." Normally I wouldn't do that to an 8-year-old, but it was clear the kid was rackin' up a pretty serious respect deficit and needed his attitude/shorts adjusted.
Like I was sayin' though, eventually a man reaches an age where he's either gotta conduct 'imself with a certain degree of maturity or be rushed to Chickawalka General with 38" lacerations caused by incurable Young at Heart Syndrome. That's why I'm sittin' in the waitin' room two hours later writin' up this review instead of doin' it at home in my underwear like God intended. Guess I prolly oughta back up for the foreigners who weren't in attendance at the Grime Time tonight before some cynical person gets the idea these're nothin' more'n the incoherent ramblins of a worn-out drive-in derelict with too much time on his hands rather'n the sincere, cautionary tale it is.
This whole deal's Skunky Hernandez' fault anyway - if he'd just paid the extra $2 to have Rocky Pogue plow the snow out into the cow pasture instead of up against the projection booth none of this woulda happened. Rocky's real good with that caterpillar too; musta had the snow piled up eight, maybe nine feet high on the forward-facin' side of the buildin' before it froze the next night and turned into a halfpipe so perfect that Shaun White almost flew home from Beijing to take a crack at it. Sombitch was so slick that I had to do some serious soul searchin' before finally decidin' to go ahead with my plan to charge kids a quarter a trip to climb the projection booth steps and ride their sleds down it. 'Course somebody always comes along to try puttin' the squeeze on the small businessman.
"Absolutely not! Thees much too dangerous! Somebody'z keed land on cabeza ane POOF! Sue us beck to Juarez!" Skunky hollered, waivin' his arms around like he was tryna direct air traffic from the tarmac.
"I'll cut you in for 25%," I offered.
"Feefty!" Skunky demanded.
"35 and I won't tell anyone how long it took you to get up offa that yellow patch of ice Apollo made yesterday night," I haggled.
"Deal. I, um, be beck een beet," Skunky agreed before startin' to shamble toward the house favorin' his right hip.
"Four and a half minutes. I timed it," I leaned over to tell Billy Hilliard.
Billy didn't say nothin' though and really hadn't mosta the night.
"What's eatin' you?" I prodded.
"I unno," he shrugged. "'Membo when we u'fa do vah?" he mused, pointin' toward the kids takin' turns ridin' their sleds down the ice wall.
"Sure. Was a lotta fun when we were forty, forty-five. Can't imagine doin' it now though; think I tore my rotator cuff brushin' my teeth this mornin'," I winced, rubbin' my shoulder.
"I aihn 'ol yeh. I feel av young av I evow have," Billy challenged.
"Look, I'm not suggestin' you're in the market for a Buick LeSabre or a Life Alert bracelet, I'm just tellin' ya, you-- WE -- needa take it a little easier'n we have been. And I'll tell ya somethin' else too - it's a pretty sorry state of affairs when I become the voice of reason," I chided.
I thought for sure I'd gotten through to 'im after we watched Harley Pankins plow his toboggan into the rear bumper of Marla Ostman's car and get up wobblin', so I decided to change the subject.
"Must have about $40 here," I said, shakin' the Maxwell House can fulla cover fees. "I'ma go grab a burger, you want anything?" I offered.
He just shook his head, so I figured I'd take the scenic route and give 'im a little time to sort through whatever was botherin' 'im. Deep down I guess I knew what was comin' and just didn't wanna witness it from my courtside seat, but about the time Juanita'd smeared a healthy heap of relish on my bun the screen went black, as if blocked by a rather large silhouette, and everyone not currently involved in the act of outdoor cinemus aardvarkus turned to watch Billy jump off the deck with a trash can lid in hand.
I didn't realize it at the time, and I don't think Billy did either, but evidently the kids'd built a jump outta some plywood and covered it with snow for a little added excitement, and unfortunately, the added momentum created by Billy's additional mass sent him sailin' through the air and into the back window of Marla's El Camino.
It's kinda funny when you think about it, 'cause if it'd been an Integra, or a Cutlass, or even a goddamned Ford Escort he prolly woulda just left a dent the size of whiskey cask in the trunk and shook it off but that El Camino's so low to the ground that he cleared it and... well, I don't wanna get too personal, but there was some pretty serious window-foggin' goin' on in the backseat, and needless to say, Marla and Willie Forsythe were a little surprised when their private function became a threesome.
Sheriff Hardassian prolly woulda hauled Billy in right then and there if the glass hadn't sliced his legs from calf to crack; necessitatin' a trip to the emergency room and six feet wortha stitches. Took two paramedics, Tetnis, Duke Tankersley, Buzz McCulloch, and Boyd Tibbets to lift Billy into the ambulance, but he should be alright in a month or so soon as he stops leakin' plasma like the Starship Enterprise after a shootout with the Romulans.
In the meantime, Mrs. Sadie's volunteered to stay with 'im and help out with his recovery, which, hopefully, should be excruciating enough to convince 'im not to do anything that stupid again.
I'da gone to the hospital with Billy straight away but when you've got a guy that big in an ambulance it's basically standin' room only for the medics and plus Harvey Yoder found out it was me that wedgied his boy and threatened to file assault charges if I didn't review the second feature in time to make the Sunday paper - like all 12 of his readers couldn't wait till Monday or somethin'. Joke's on him though, 'cause this flick barely has a plot and only manages a runnin' time of 58 minutes. I've been stuck waitin' behind old ladies tryna make a right-hand turn outta the Jiffy Mart parkin' lot longer'n it takes to get through this movie, but don't let that fool ya 'cause they still packed a whole lotta insightful stuff into this baby, and I'm gonna share it with ya even though I'm not gettin' paid by the line like I deserve. First, if a discharged soldier is carryin' the shrapnel that ended his career everywhere he goes - assume the PTSD treatments didn't take. Second, it may be prudent to question the plans of a man who orchestrates a jailbreak that begins in the dead of night but doesn't end until the midday sun's beatin' down on ya. And third, the assumption that a well-dressed man can't possibly be guilty of any wrongdoing perfectly illustrates how we got to this point as a nation.
The movie begins with a prison break at a correctional institution designed to house comic book supervillains staffed by disgraced ex-border patrol agents armed with miniguns, only nobody's able to hit the fugitive (Faust) with a single round 'cause the guy operatin' the spotlight's swirlin' it around in circles like he's waitin' for the curtains to part in advance of the Academy Awards ceremony. The guards try to trail 'im with bloodhounds but by that time he's already been picked up by a getaway driver (Laura) in a Buick with a front end that looks like it wants to run over its agent for gettin' it involved with this picture. Eventually they come to a roadblock, but Mayberry's finest wave 'em through after Laura explains that the guy passed out in the seat beside 'er's her husband and that they're welcome to confirm his identity if they feel like rootin' around in the pants he hosed down after his ninth dry martini proved to be anything but. Then they drive to an old dilapidated Victorian in the country where a retired Army major (Krenner) and a German scientist (Ulof) who can't go home on account of the regime change are experimentin' with the viability of invisible pet technology as a means of keepin' children outta their parents' hair. Faust sees endless possibilities for illegal rodent smuggling operations south of the border and a sure-fire method of peekin' at women tryin' on brassieres in the fitting booth at Montgomery Ward, so he agrees to undergo the procedure even though it ain't been tested on anything smart enough to know better. The experiment succeeds and Krenner wants Faust to sneak into Fort Nukes to steal a top-secret compound used in the production of glow-in-the-dark condoms, only he's shocked to discover that a career criminal held under threat of a return to police custody may go rogue when graced with absolute power, and so the two of 'em hafta renegotiate the specifics of their financial arrangement while Faust wrings Krenner's wormy neck.
Fortunately, there's only one guy who gets suspicious when a radioactive coffee thermos starts levitatin' itself outta the storage vault, and once Faust smashes his atoms he and Laura deliver the payload. Turns out Krenner needs the stuff for fuel so he can crank out an army of invisible infantry to sell to the highest bidder so he can finally afford to hire a roofing contractor, only by now the guinea pigs that Ulof's been Hiroshimizin' with the machine've started developin' resistance toward the process and Krenner wants to turn up the wattage even though it could make Faust eligible for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Ulof draws the line at murderin' men who aren't of the Jewish persuasion, so Krenner hasta threaten to scramble the molecules of Ulof's daughter till he decides to follow orders and hope that particular defense goes better for him than it did for his colleagues at Nuremberg. The next day Faust gets screen wiped again, 'cept instead of goin' back for more urinal cake uranium, he and Laura decide to go into business for themselves and knock over the First National Bank of Topeka till Faust starts phasin' in and outta time and space in the lobby and they barely get there assotopes outta there in one piece. Meantime, Krenner's heard about the robbery over the radio and he's P.O.'d but he can't do jack about it if Faust's invisible, so he orders his grizzled old flunkie to hang out on the porch and listen for anything suspicious while he tries to come up with a plan to ice Faust while he's incorpseoriable. This's about as far as I can go without blowin' the lid off this one, so I'ma shut my trap now before I give away the endin' or accidentally bore anybody to death.
Alrighty, well, not to bum everybody out, but Pacific International (the company that financed the picture) became the amazing transparent studio after entering bankruptcy before the movie ever reached theaters. It was filmed back-to-back with Beyond the Time Barrier over the course of two weeks (with Time Barrier reportedly having absorbed 11 of those 14 days), and while most people's first instinct might be to scoff, I think it really speaks to the talent of director Edgar Ulmar for managin' to complete a movie in such a short period of time. I'm not quite sure I buy that he did it all in three days, but even if it was a couple more - compare the production values of The Amazing Transparent Man to somethin' like Herschell Gordon Lewis's Blood Feast (which took five days to shoot) and it's like night and day. Nearly every problem this flick has is a result of plot absurdities inherent to the script, and while there are a few issues that stem from the crew being asked to do too much with so little time, it's truly impressive that the movie is even able to approach mediocre status in light of the production situation. You'd also have to give credit to the casting director for selecting an ensemble of no-nonsense actors capable of completing their scenes with minimal takes, as well as the producer for cobbling together a film crew that was simultaneously cheap and professional enough to complete the task in the allotted period despite the likelihood that nothing would ever come of the picture. That fate would have been all but certain had the film not been discovered by the folks at Mystery Science Theater. Admittedly, the movie is most enjoyable with wiseass robot commentary, but it's really not one of the better episodes of the show due to the film's combined competence, inherent dullness, and a running time so short it forced the MST3K crew to show a 20 minute short before the feature just to reach the desired episode length. Basically, the flick's stuck in a celluloid limbo where the production values are too high to reach cult status in the field of trash cinema, but far too soulless and incomplete to enjoy on its merits, and consequently, is likely to be forgotten rather quickly.
Nonetheless, these guys made a movie in less time than it takes some folks to have a bowel movement, so at the very least we prolly oughta take a look at what they were able to do and see how this marvel of mid-century mediocrity stacks up against the all-time titans of late-night television tedium. The plot relies upon bad movie science like many sci-fi flicks of the day, but it also suffers from logistical flaws like an explosion that "takes out half the county," yet inexplicably spares the lives of the supporting cast who're parked about a block away in a convertible. It's possible that some of these issues (like how the prison break went so badly as to end with the lead coming under automatic weapons fire) might have been cleared up with pick-up shots had there been more time, but the movie hasta be judged on what is, not what could have been, and what *is* runs about 58 minutes and still manages to have a few plot holes.
The acting is surprisingly competent, and despite the fact that the most sympathetic character is the one that fled Germany during the war after being forced to participate in medical experiments, the small cast carry off their cliched, time-tested character archetypes (criminal with a code of honor, the treacherous woman always on the lookout for a better deal, the reluctant scientist blackmailed into doing the villain's dirty work, and the ambitious supervillain willing to sell out God and country for personal gain) admirably. That may be a little too unkind as there is a change of heart during the climax, although it only comes about after said character realizes they have nothing left to lose. Still, it's a well-acted picture; shockingly so when taking into account the budget and shooting schedule.
Here's who matters and why: Marguerite Chapman (Flight to Mars), Douglas Kennedy (The Land Unknown, The Alligator People, Invaders from Mars 1953, The Ghost Breakers), James Griffith (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow 1980, The Vampire 1957), Ivan Triesault (Batman: The Movie 1966, Journey to the Center of the Earth 1959, Cry of the Werewolf, The Mummy's Ghost), Boyd 'Red' Morgan (Beyond the Time Barrier, Evil Town, Creature with the Atom Brain), Ed Erwin (Ring of Terror), Jonathan Ledford (Zontar: The Thing from Venus, Attack of the Eye Creatures), Denis Adams (The Naked Witch), Stacy Morgan (Munster, Go Home!), Patrick Cranshaw (Ed Wood, Nightmare Honeymoon, Mars Needs Women, The Yesterday Machine, Curse of the Swamp Creature).
Mainstream credits: Marguerite Chapman (Miss Morris in The Seven Year Itch), Douglas Kennedy (Steve Donovan on Steve Donovan, Western Marshal), James Griffith (Deputy Tom Furguson on U.S. Marshal), Ivan Triesault (Eric Mathis in Notorious).
The special effects (for the time) aren't terrible - though it could be easily argued that Universal did it better 27 years earlier with The Invisible Man. Essentially it's just guinea pigs, people, and select body parts fading out and reappearing, but it sorta almost works if you've had at least five beers by the time the experiments begin. 'Course there's also the requisite floating objects on strings signifying their acquisition by the invisible man, but the strings aren't visible and the shots are generally in focus so I see no reason to dogpile on 'em for doin' the same stuff that better movies got away with. In other words - kinda bad, but not bad enough to stick in the memory for subsequent recall during an argument about hokey special effects.
The shooting locations are few but decent, with principal photography being completed at United National Studios in Dallas, Texas. Obviously, due to the limited budget and time crunch, the shoot would only allow for a small number of sets, but they do serve their purpose well enough despite sheet metal roofing in the interior of the 2nd story laboratory that looks suspiciously like the inside of a quonset hut. The props are a little dated, and the vault door in the laboratory has an unfortunate habit of swinging freely as if made from spray-painted styrofoam, but if you've seen many low budget science fiction flicks from the '50s you'll probably find that you've seen worse. The exteriors are a nice change of pace despite the locations not being especially photogenic, although they do tend to remind the viewer just how bottled-up and constrained the rest of the production is every time we're given a fleeting glimpse of the outdoors. Nothing special, but acceptable.
The score isn't likely to be released on a limited edition pressing by a boutique soundtrack label anytime soon, but while it's droning, dreary, and very repetitive, it does strike the right tone. The composer employs instruments from most family groups but relies primarily on the piano, violin, and horns to produce a score with a bit more variety and individuality than most low budget compositions of the era. That said, there's nothing here that's especially memorable, catchy, or capable of producing more than the bare minimum of atmosphere. It's right around this time that ya begin to expect a little more from a film's soundtrack now that there were guys like Bernard Herrmann producing amazing music for flicks like Psycho, but at the same time, soundtracks really hadn't become an artform critical to the success of a film quite yet, so this kinda interchangeable scoring was still pretty typical. That said, Darrell Calker had a prolific career scoring films, and composed soundtracks for several other genre titles including: Voodoo Woman, From Hell it Came, The Earth Dies Screaming, and Beyond the Time Barrier, though he would probably be best remembered for his contributions to several dozen classic cartoons.
Overall, The Amazing Transparent Man has better production values than you'd expect from a movie featured on Mystery Science Theater, but ultimately, it's just too dull for an audience below the age of 70. Even at 58 minutes it feels slow, stodgy, and is generally a film to be endured rather than enjoyed. That said, it may be of interest if you're alternating movie selections with someone who's recently subjected you to a Hallmark Christmas movie and you'd like to send the message that a line was crossed and that you are not to be trifled with.