THE AMAZING TRANSPARENT MAN *** USA 1960 Dir: Edger G. Ulmer. 58 mins
Being “Transparent’ works initially well for H.G. Wells’s The Invisible Man in both book and film. Not so good for the unnamed black man in the Ralph Ellison novel Invisible Man. A host of other people have been invisible in film for evil and for fun purposes with that in mind you have Edgar G. Ulmer’s The Amazing Transparent Man (1960).
Joey Faust (Douglas Kennedy) is busted out of jail in ‘Humphrey Bogart/ James Cagney style to become The Amazing Transparent Man. Joey Faust’s last name involves classic literature and refers to a man who deals with the Devil because he is dissatisfied with his life. Faust submits to the laboratory experiment by Dr. Peter Ulof (Ivan Triesault) under the direction and the control of Paul Krenner (James Griffith). Krenner is a Major who wants to perfect the invisibility formula so he can apply this to a military force of the highest bidder. The trouble is that radium is in short supply, so more is needed. That’s where Joey Faust will step in and steal money to purchase more radium. You wonder why not steal radium in the first place yet being in 1960, this would be too exotic an object for theft plus would push up your film budget. One would also need miniature weapons for the military to use.
Faust is a safe cracker who instead dreams of more than one bank job. You add into the mix Femme Fatale Laura Matson (Marguerite Chapman) who helps to bust Faust out. Naturally, the relationship develops between the two of them resulting in conflict between the Majors’ dreams of conquest and Faust plundering the banks.
I use the term Femme Fatale because this film is more of a crime picture with two people hurtling to a fate that they don’t know. Its Film noir themes are brought no doubt by Director Edgar G. Ulmer who directed the quintessential shoestring budgeted classic Detour (1945). Other films in the underrated director’s resume include John Carradine’s talkie version of Bluebeard (1944), the brilliant Universal horror cycle The Black Cat (1934) and an early look at the ravages of STDs with Damaged Lives (1933).
The Amazing Transparent Man (1960) is shot fast and loose with visual effects reflecting time and budget. Similar in scope to Columbia Pictures’ bigger budget Most Dangerous Man Alive (1961) gives the bank robber Eddie Candell an indestructible body after walking into an atomic blast. Through all the bombastic acting, and scene-chewing you have Ulmer’s theme of what would you do with absolute power that can be used for evil or good. The picture was made at the height of the cold war with events to come that would nearly plunge the world at theme into a nuclear conflict. Hence there is a certain poignancy to the last shots, as Triesault ends up addressing us directly, hoping that we find the idea of an “invisible army”.
The Amazing Transparent Man (1960) is a competent film that tells a large story of conscience beneath the bank robber façade. It is cheaply made with a good heart telling a cautionary tale that rings true today. The trouble today is that the monsters are not of the gigantic fire breathing variety, however, they do still walk on two legs.
Review by Terry Sherwood