Director: Edgar G. Ulmer
Starring: Marguerite Chapman, Douglas Kennedy, James Griffith, Ivan Triesault, Carmel Daniel, Boyd “Red” Morgan .USA. 58m
Even if you’re a criminal on death row there’s always someone out there who’s worse than you, but while the moral compass spins around and around in this balsy film noir sci fi thriller there’s a poignant message that you have to do the right thing once in a while especially when faced with a evil tyrant.
Ulmer was a prolific director, hailing from the Czech republic and claiming to have worked on a number of classics like M and Metropolis, but without much evidence of this, however there is solid proof that he did work on Der Golem. Never really giving up his horror histories, he went on to direct a number of sci-fi, horror and film noir movies, while this adventure came near the end of his career he combined all that he learnt over the years.
There’s a lot of pokes at the average man to do better and be braver especially when faced with adversity bubbling under the surface of this light hearted sci fi movie.
A fast talking thief Joey Faust (Kennedy) is broken out of prison by a stunning blonde, unwilling to say no to a good thing he is relaxed when whisked away to a secret location. While being made comfortable in ihs new abode, he’s soon informed that he’s now in debt to a former US Army major Paul Krenner (Griffith) who plans to make an invisible army of soldiers, but not only does he need a test subject he also needs a master thief to go invisible and to break into top facilities in order to steal more materials and that’s where Faust comes into play.
Without a leg to stand on he feels compelled to go along with the plan, first he watches a little guinea pig go under the process, the test subject seems fine so he goes under and the fun beings.
Faust gets friendly with most of the people in this secret location, the lovely lady who broke him out of prison is almost ready to strike up a bargain to escape the oppressive Paul Krenner who’s quite quick to slap her when he’s displeased, and she’s not as oppressed as the brilliant scientist, Dr Peter Ulof (Trisault) who preforms the invisibility experiments is having a terrible time, not only has he had to flee Nazi Germany but he’s fallen into the hands of a madman who has kidnapped his daughter to force him to work on this diabolical project.
Ulmer uses a range of low budget tricks of the trade for his special effects items being carried about on strings and wires and doors tapped or pulled open with other strings or poles, gives the impression that Faust is amazingly transparent. This was filmed back to back with Beyond the Time Barrier and all in under two weeks so there was little room for experimentation, but it adds to the overall zany slightly ridiculous feeling that the film achieves.
Overall it adds a bit of theater to a somewhat grim story with a massive heartfelt anti war statement. There’s a brilliant tussle for control as everyone steps back into old habits, you can break the thief out of the prison but you can’t stop him from passing a bank while on a mission to steal radioactive materials.
It’s gritty, funny and has a strong message, despite all it’s plot holes, overall rushed nature and being one of Ulmer’s grimiest movies, for me it was really enjoyable to see the complex plot comprehensively played out with easy and a unique style. Nothing to write home about but something to enjoy if only momentarily, it’s a real shame it doesn’t even make an hour
R: The Invisible Man (1933), Hollow Man (2000), Invisible Man (2020)
L: Invisible Characters
5s:Edgar G. Ulmer