Countdown to Halloween: "A" is for The Amazing Transparent Man (1960)
The problem with invisible man movies, as I’ve said before, is that no one seems to take advantage of the power invisibility potentially provides. Be honest, if no one could see you, would you simply play pranks on your friends, or would you at least consider using it in some way to make financial gain? Enter Joey Faust (Douglas Kennedy), the perfect subject for invisibility testing because he’s a criminal.
Faust is sprung from prison by an even bigger criminal, Major Paul Krenner (James Griffith), who has delusions of grandeur about creating an army of invisible men… I’m not sure why. He needs Faust to steal additional radioactive materials for him to continue his experiments. It’s not long, though, before Faust devises a plan to take control of his situation as… The Amazing Transparent Man.
The closest person to a good guy in this movie is Dr. Peter Ulof (Ivan Triesault), who’s being blackmailed to run Krenner’s laboratory while his daughter is imprisoned behind a locked door. However, he’s not the center of the story, which instead focuses on the criminal aspect more than the fantastic. It’s all about the crosses and double-crosses. It’s merely coincidental that one of the characters is occasionally invisible.
I recently criticized The 4D Man for its lackluster special effects. In contrast, The Amazing Transparent Man succeeds with its effects by keeping them simple. When a guinea pig strapped to the table disappears, it’s via an optical that makes it appear that it’s shrinking, leaving a dark shadow of its skeleton, and then blinking out. (Later, the same effect is repeated, accompanied by the tinkling of music as if a fairy godmother is waving her wand.)
Likewise, the movie keeps its invisible man truly invisible. If he weren’t wearing clothes when he transformed, you might think he was naked. That plot hole aside, it’s easy to show a bag of money moving in midair across a bank floor and not have to worry about showing a suit worn on an invisible body. No annoying optical lines! You can assume using such techniques here maximized what must have been a low production budget.
Edgar G. Ulmer directed The Amazing Transparent Man near the end of a 57-year career that arguably peaked earlier with The Black Cat in 1934. He shot the film back-to-back with Beyond the Time Barrier during two weeks in Dallas. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie. All things considered, and with only a 58-minute running time, it’s pretty entertaining. Perhaps in less capable hands, it would have been awful.
As counterintuitive as it is to say this, The Amazing Transparent Man might be considered a better movie… if it were worse than it is. In fact, it’s perfectly… OK, with only a conclusion that exceeds necessity. We’re warned early in the story what would happen if the material kept locked in a lead-lined safe were exposed; however, we don’t expect familiar stock footage of atomic bomb testing and a giant mushroom cloud. If nothing else, that makes it memorable.
Written by Jack Lewis
Directed by Edward G. Ulmer
Starring Marguerite Chapman, Douglas Kennedy, Jame Griffith, Ivan Triesault Released Feb. 24, 1960 (Los Angeles) RT 58 min.
Home Video Alpha Video (DVD)
Part of the Countdown to Halloween. Click here for a list of all the blogs participating. Each offers its own distinctive month long celebration of the chilling holiday we all love.