Director: Edgar G. Ulmer
Writer: Jack Lewis
From: Pure Terror
An ex-major breaks a safe-cracker out of jail to use as a guinea pig for an invisibility ray with hopes of eventually building an invisible army. Things go awry though when the safe-cracker develops his own plans.
I wrote about this movie almost ten years ago in the second PD Project post. The movie hasn’t improved with time.
Nor is it any worse. The movie itself is just under an hour so it doesn’t get too bogged down with anything—it doesn’t have time to. The basic story is bank robbing safe-cracker extraordinaire Joey Faust is busted out of prison by Major Krenner. Krenner has kidnapped a German scientist, Dr. Ulof, to develop an invisibility ray. Faust will be the titular transparent man dispatched to steal nuclear materials from a nearby government base. After some post-invisibility violent negotiations, Faust agrees to do the job for an exorbitant amount of money.
Krenner’s particularly villainous. He was an Army spy during WWII which is how he found Dr. Ulof. He manages to smuggle Ulof out of Germany, but kidnaps the doctor’s daughter and holds the two of them captive to make Ulof develop the invisibility ray. Krenner’s ultimate plan is to create an army of invisible men and sell the technology to the highest military bidder.
Faust is a bank robber, though, and sees the opportunities invisibility affords him in that field. After doing the first job stealing nuclear material, Faust convinces Krenner’s accomplice to take him to a bank instead of the military base. However, the invisibility starts wearing off during the robbery and Faust is identified.
Krenner hears about the robbery on the radio and realizes he’s been betrayed. Faust arrives in time to knock him out and asks Ulof why the invisibility wore off. Ulof tells him there’s something wrong with the ray and that Faust is going to die. He can either run and live a brief time or sacrifice himself to thwart Krenner’s plans. Faust agrees to stay and Dr. Ulof and his daughter escape. While Faust fights Krenner, the nuclear material stolen earlier explodes and wipes out, we’re told in the epilogue, most of the county. Faust is dead, but so are Krenner’s evil plans. THE END.
The movie’s pretty stripped-down and low budget, but that may be to its credit. The idea at the core of the plot is sound and it ticks every box that you expect from a story like this without any extra baggage. Sure, that does mean certain emotional moments move too quickly, for example, Krenner’s henchman who’s been loyal because he thinks Krenner has info about his daughter breaks down and switches sides when Krenner’s accomplice tells him Krenner’s been lying and the girl is dead. The emotional beats are all the right ones, but they arrive exactly as quickly as I relayed them in that sentence. The henchman’s reason for his loyalty, how he’s been fooled, and him being turned all happens within a minute.
That said, there’s no filler here. Every moment is essential to the plot, defines the characters and their situation, and moves things forward. In other words, it’s competently made, it’s just not remarkably made. When I watched it before, I said it’d be nice to see this redone as a student film because it’s right within the possibilities of what a student film could do. I stand by that assessment.
The movie’s in the public domain and I uploaded it to archive.org here just over a decade ago (how long have I been at this?). The movie’s not a recommend, but I’m not going to warn anyone away from it either. It’s fine for a lazy Saturday afternoon or if you want some easy riffing material. This was featured as episode 623 of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and is available on the forthcoming Vol. XXXIX if you want to see someone else’s take on it.