Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Indestructible Man (1956)

Like last Tuesday's movie, this film stars Lon Chaney.  It is not, however, the same man.  This film features the original actor's son, who was billed as "Lon Chaney, Jr" earlier in his career but dropped the extension starting with the 1941 hit The Wolf Man.

Chaney's got a fairly challenging brief in this flick, as for narrative reasons he is unable to speak for most of the run time.  He must instead communicate his desires and emotions non-verbally, and on the whole it must be sad he does a fine job.  Admittedly, the range of emotions he's required to convey are fairly limited.  This is not a nuanced film.  Still, I'd definitely rank him a cut above the rest of the cast.  "Adequate" might be the best one word appraisal I can give of their performances.

Still, "adequate" is a cut above the script, which might rate a "tolerable" if it wasn't drowning in narration.  If you wanted to be really, really charitable you might suggest they're shooting for a noir-esque tone, but I think it far more likely the writers are just not up to the task of telling a story without it.

Chaney plays "Butcher" Benson, a convicted felon on death row.  His former compatriots sold him out, but Benson hid their $600,000 haul (about $5 million in today's terms), and - in the one scene where Chaney has lines - chooses to go to the gas chamber without revealing its whereabouts.

And that might be the end of it, except that a scientist purchases Benson's body for medical purposes (he's trying to sure cancer), and accidentally restores the dead man to life.  Benson's vocal cords are burned out by the electricity that ran through his body during the experiment, which is why he does not speak again in the film.

Meanwhile, the Police lieutenant who caught Benson is trying to find the money, and find evidence that Benson wasn't working alone, and romance Benson's former girlfriend.  He's certainly a busy boy.

Benson's body has been changed by the experiment, leaving him with superhuman strength and toughness.  Bullets cannot harm him, and he is able to lift a car with his bare hands.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, he has unpleasant things in mind for his former accomplices.  He's not exactly subtle about it, though, and leaves a large and obvious trail.  So large and obvious that the police are soon forced to admit that either he had an identical twin, or the dead man is up and walking around.

This is a largely inoffensive film.  It's got too much narration and there are some dated attitudes on display, what with being made in the 1950s, but it filled the 70 minute runtime without making me shout at the TV.  So it's several steps above many of the other films in this boxed set ... but it's not good enough that I'd be saying to anyone "oh, you should see Indestructible Man".

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