Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Indestructible Man (1956)

Directed by:
Jack Pollexfen

Charles "Butcher" Benton (Lon Chaney, Jr.) is a ruthless underworld thug on death row at San Quentin who's about to fry in the chair for his criminal dealings. Butcher swears to get even with both his slimy lawyer Paul Lowe (Ross Elliott) and a pair of low-life criminals; Joe Marcelli (Kenneth Terrell) and Squeamy Ellis (Marvin Ellis), for turning over state's evidence that helped to convict him. He also knows the whereabouts of 600 thousand dollars stolen during an armed car robbery, but refuses to cooperate with the authorities. Butcher's fried in the electric chair and his corpse is shipped off to a medical facility in another state when Dr. Bradshaw (Robert Shayne) is conducting cancer research. Despite an ad campaign promising "300,000 Volts of Terror!," Bradshaw sends 280,000 volts of electricity into Butcher's body instead, but that's plenty to create a monster. Now revived with super-human strength and skin tough enough to deflect bullets, Butcher strangles the doctor and his assistant (at the same time!), escapes the lab, kills two policemen and then chokes a used car salesmen, steals a car from the lot and heads toward San Francisco so he can kill the three men he vowed to kill before being executed.

Lt. Dick Chasen ("Casey Adams" aka Max Showalter) gets involved in both the case and with Butcher's former mistress Eva Martin (Marian Carr), a failed actress now working as a dancer at a burlesque house. Eva is also unknowingly in possession of a map leading to the hidden money. When Butcher shows up looking for it, the cops get word that's he's miracularly returned to life and attempt to hunt him down while he tries to hunt down the three men who betrayed him. Yes, there's a lot of running around in this one. Eventually a posse is organized to chase the revived killer around in the sewers toward an electric power plant for the predictable finale. Giving this a slight noir touch, Lt. Chasen narrates the entire film.

I guess this could be considered a pretty plum latter-day Chaney role. He's given little dialogue; only speaking during his first scene... but hey, that's more than what he was asked to do in either THE BLACK CASTLE (1952) or THE BLACK SLEEP (1956), and gets to make some odd, intense faces while knocking other people around. He picks up one guy and throws him down a flight of stairs, throws another from a high rooftop and even picks up a car at one point! There's some amusing dialogue ("You stinkin' rotten mob piece!"), a couple of nice camera shots, including one inside a trolley car as it goes downhill and some slight makeup effects on Chaney's mug as he becomes disfigured toward the end. Sure, it's silly, low-budget schlock, but it's entertaining enough for what it is, reasonably paced and short (clocking in around just 70 minutes). It originally played theatrically on a double bill with WORLD WITHOUT END (1956).
Director/producer Pollexfen and writers Vy Russell and Sue "Bradford" / Dwiggins also teamed up to make the schlock-fest THE ATOMIC BRAIN (1964). Lots of DVD releases for this one: It's part of Retromedia's "Lon Chaney Jr. Collection" set (which also contains 1956's non-horror MANFISH and Chaney special guest episodes of the TV shows Lock Up and Telephone Time). It's paired with THE AMAZING TRANSPARENT MAN on Roan Group's "Horror Classics 2" and is also on Rph Productions' "Horror Classics Triple Feature, Vol. 4" along with DEAD MEN WALK (1943) and SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SECRET WEAPON (1943). In addition, it's available with Mystery Science Theater 3000 "commentary" on a Rhino-released DVD.


1 comment:

CavedogRob said...

The narration gives it an almost documentary type feel which makes it even stranger since it's about a killer brought back to life!

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