Adequate if unremarkable DVD two-fer of minor SF cheapies
Surfink | Racine, WI | 02/01/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Indestructible Man is probably the most familiar, and beloved, of producer-director Jack Pollexfen's poverty-row epics (Neanderthal Man, Daughter of Dr. Jekyll, Atomic Brain). Pollexfen's name in the credits always means you're in no-budget-land. Another clue this time out is the preponderance of narration (indicating an absence of synch sound, of course). The movie gets what little rep it has from the casting of Lon Chaney as back-from-the-dead killer `The Butcher' Benton, although he actually looks rather thin and haggard here (he was no doubt drinking heavily at the time), and not very threatening at all. Or as the narrator says, "like any normal person on his way to work." Robert Shayne (Neanderthal Man, Inspector Henderson on Superman) makes a brief appearance as "mad" Professor Bradshaw (assisted by Joe "Captain Binghamton" Flynn) resuscitating The Butcher; bland Casey Adams/Max Showalter (Monster that Challenged the World, Niagara) is Lt. Dick Chasen the flatfoot hero; and Ross Elliott (Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Monster on the Campus) plays a sleazy lawyer. The movie tries for trash appeal by making The Butcher's ex-girlfriend Eva (Marion Carr) a burlesque performer, but her sweet-and-innocent manner totally undercuts any bad-girl ambience that might have been generated. Overall the movie is a bit on the dull side, with a few laughs, and a modicum of bad-movie charm. Cinematography is by John L. (Jack) Russell (Hitchcock's Psycho; Thriller TV series), though you're unlikely to be impressed by the source print: it's fairly grainy, with a slightly soft, `dupey' look, and respectable if unremarkable grayscale, brightness, contrast, and shadow/highlight detail. There is also light-to-moderate speckling, scratching, and blemishing throughout, and the sound is merely OK, a bit on the muddy side at times. Kind of makes you wonder what exactly Roan "restored." (The box claims the movies to be "digitally mastered and restored from original film elements." ?!?). Not nearly as nice as some of their other releases (e.g. Svengali, Horror Hotel), if not disastrous either.
The Amazing Transparent Man was cult director Edgar G. Ulmer's final American film and it pretty much feels like a last gasp (it's not nearly as much fun as Beyond the Time Barrier). The mostly no-name cast ranges from annoying (loud, abrasive Douglas Kennedy as safecracker Joey Faust) to cloying (Dr. Ulof [familiar character actor Ivan Triesault] and his daughter Maria). The script is an odd mix of gangster movie cliches, soap opera melodramatics, late 50s topicality (Cold War/espionage subplotting), and Weighty Issues thematics that never really goes anywhere. The laboratory set is quite poverty-stricken, and the invisibility effects, accomplished with traveling mattes, are only mildly diverting. Other special effects are of the pantomime-and-fishing-line variety; almost cheesy enough to be funny. Almost. Legendary makeup artist Jack P. Pierce's talents are completely wasted (it was one of his last movies), and, let's face it, Ulmer is way past prime here, with precious little onscreen to distinguish this from any contemporary Dick Cunha or Herbert L. Strock picture.
At least the source print is better than that of Indestructible Man. It's actually quite decent, presented in anamorphic widescreen at approximately 1.85:1, with generally very good to excellent grayscale, sharpness, brightness, contrast, and highlight detail. The shadow detail looks a little blocked up at times, and there is some sporadic light speckling, blemishing, and scratching (mostly around reel changes), but overall the print's quite acceptable, especially considering the age and history of the film.
Bottom line: neither movie is really indispensable to a 1950s SF collection, both being of interest mainly to bad movie diehards with fairly strong constitutions. The DVD package rates a solid three. The source prints, while nothing to write home about, are basically average to slightly above (especially The ATM), and far better than the crap you typically find on a Madacy or Brentwood disc. Unfortunately, there are no menus, trailers, or any other extras, though both movies are broken into chapters. Fifties C-movie completists and Ulmer fanatics might as well go for it, mainstream consumers beware."
One of the most entertaining "bad" horrors ever made!
Scott A. Nollen | 04/11/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"If you are a fan of low-budget horror and/or film noir, then you must see the struggling Lon Chaney, Jr., as the notorious Charles "Butcher" Benton! By 1956, poor Lon was accepting just about anything he could, being tormented by many demons and having been typecast so severely. (He did, however, also play several good character parts in non-horror Fifties A-films like HIGH NOON, NOT AS A STRANGER, A LION IS IN THE STREETS and THE DEFIANT ONES, something that neither Boris Karloff nor Bela Lugosi did during the 1950s--Karloff being busy with television and the stage, and Lugosi sinking into an endlessly painful morass.) Here, Lon does a fine job with his limited dialogue and then has a heyday as the revived-from-the-dead mute who pummels and THROWS his victims to their deaths (in some of the most humorous killing scenes in horror-film history). The scenes of Lon crawling around in the L.A. storm-drain system and the incredible ending in which the Butcher is cooked alive at a power plant (destroying a multi-million dollar complex while the police recover a fraction of that in gangster's loot) are highlights in this sometimes dreadful yet strangely compelling and nearly always entertaining Jack Pollexfen opus! The DVD version is somewhat superior to most of the cheap VHS copies being peddled everywhere."