The Amazing Transparent Man: A 50th Anniversary Celebration of 1960

The Amazing Transparent Man (1960) posterOriginally created to be a co-feature for BEYOND THE TIME BARRIER, THE AMAZING TRANSPARENT MAN is the Rodney Dangerfield of low-budget Invisible Man movies: it gets no respect, even though it’s really not a bad little effort.
Like BEYOND THE TIME BARRIER, THE AMAZING TRANSPARENT MAN was produced by Miller Consolidated Pictures, directed by cult director Edgar Ulmer, and shot in Texas with very limited funds. Naturally, if one has limited resources, making a special effects film usually isn’t one of the more effective options, but THE AMAZING TRANSPARENT MAN does feature an interesting combination of gangster and science fiction plots, some decent performances, and unlike many similar productions, a decent pace that keeps things moving rather than eating up running time with endless dialogue scenes.
The movie opens on the run, in a way, with searchlights illuminating the opening credits (an interesting choice on Ulmer’s part), which quickly transition to Joey Faust (Douglas Kennedy from INVADERS FROM MARS and THE LAND UNKNOWN), an imprisoned safecracker, making his escape from prison. (We see a guard firing a machine gun from one of the prison’s guard towers, but it isn’t clear just what is being shot at as Faust seems to be running along the same wall). Faust gets picked up by Laura Matson (Marguerite Chapman from FLIGHT TO MARS), who drives him to see Krenner (James Griffith from THE VAMPIRE), the man who arranged Faust’s escape.
Krenner is a mercenary who has given himself the title of major and who plans to take over the world by creating an army of invisible soldiers. He has arranged for Faust’s escape because he needs Faust to steal some fissionable materials used in the transparency experiments of Dr. Peter Olof (Ivan Triesault from THE MUMMY’S GHOST). Kremer is clearly a megalomaniac whose ambition far exceeds his ability. He offers Faust a thousand dollars to steal radioactive materials from a military nuclear weapons laboratory nearby and seems surprised that the prospect of imperiling his life and freedom for such a small amount does not appeal to the escaped convict.
The Amazing Transparent Man (1960)To secure Ulof’s cooperation, Krenner keeps Ulof’s daughter (Carmel Daniel) locked away in a small room in the attic laboratory. Ulof is depicted as a weary, resigned but brilliant scientist who admits to Faust that he killed his own wife when he was forced to conduct medical experiments while in a concentration camp and was given subjects whose faces were hidden. Krenner keeps Faust in line by threatening to kill him and collect a reward from the police (Fauts is wanted dead or alive), and Krenner’s personal thug Julian (Boyd “Red” Morgan) seems quite prepared to carry out the threat.
We first see Dr. Ulof use his transparency ray on a guinea pig, which is strapped down and has parts disappear from view, leaving only some leather straps to indicate its location. Krenner warns the doctor to keep the projector away from the safe containing the fissionable materials needed to make it work, planting a piece of information that will prove significant later. (The minimal visual effects are handled by the Howard A. Anderson Co., which have parts of the subject turn into film negative before disappearing from view. The Anderson company handled optical effects for the original STAR TREK TV series).

The Amazing Transparent Man (1960) robbery
The Amazing Transparent Man steals some fissionable material, then robs a bank.

The Amazing Transparent Man (1960) bank robberyRunning less than an hour in length, THE AMAZING TRANSPARENT MAN wastes no time in rendering Faust invisible so that he can steal the special “fissionable material” (called X-13) from what looks like a bank vault. The reckless Krenner has Dr. Ulof use the new material immediately on Faust before ascertaining whether it will work as well as the prior radioactive material. The next time Faust becomes invisible, he chooses to rob a bank rather than follow Krenner’s orders to steal more X-13. However, in the midst of the robbery, Faust’s hands and head make an unexpected appearance, causing him to be recognized and take off with Laura on the run.
Returning to the farmhouse, Faust demands Dr. Ulof inform him what’s going wrong. Dr. Ulof urges him to put a stop to Krenner’s plans and gives him the bad news: given his exposure thus far, Faust only has a month left to live. (Naturally if recruits are informed about this minor drawback, it won’t be easy for Krenner to assemble his invisible army).
Laura, who is attracted to Faust, also turns against Krenner, who has done little more than exploit her or slap her around. She reveals to Julian that his son is dead, so Krenner will never be able to keep his promise to rescue the boy. Krenner kills Laura, and upstairs in the laboratory, he and Faust get into a major tussle after Faust releases Ulof’s daughter, during which the transparency projection ray hits the fissionable material and fission occurs, setting off an explosion that wipes out half the county.
THE AMAZING TRANSPARENT MAN ends on what it hopes will be a thoughtful note. A police officer asks Dr. Ulof what should be done about his invention of the invisibility ray. Ulof muses that perhaps it would be best if the secret of transparency were lost, and then turns to the camera to ask the audience “What would you do?”
The performances by Griffith as the unrealistic criminal mastermind and Triesault as the coerced, largely uncaring scientist are both interesting. Except for Morgan, the cast acquits itself professionally. Ulmer’s direction is not particularly inspired, but he got the job done effectively in a short amount of time. This was his last American-made movie. Jack Lewis’ dialogue can be a little strained at times, but it never makes you wince. The film never really amazes, but it is a lively, fast-paced, B-movie thriller.
The Amazing Transparent Man (1960) horizontal posterTHE AMAZING TRANSPARENT MAN (1960). Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer. Written by Jack Lewis. Cast: Marguerite Chapman, Douglas Kennedy, James Griffith, Ivan Triesault, Boyd “Red” Morgan, Cornel Daniel, Edward Erwin, Jonathan Ledford, Norman Smith, Patrick Cranshaw, Kevin Kelly, Dennis Adams, Stacy Morgan.
The Amazing Transparent Man (1960) Faust
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