Film Review: The Amazing Transparent Man (1960)

Also known as: Search for a Shadow (script title)
Release Date: February 24th, 1960 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Edgar G. Ulmer
Written by: Jack Lewis
Music by: Darrell Calker
Cast: Marguerite Chapman, Douglas Kennedy, James Griffith, Ivan Triesault

Miller Consolidated Pictures (MCP), American International Pictures (re-release), 58 Minutes

Review:

“I must know the full potential of your invention because my aim is to make an entire army invisible. Do you understand that? An entire army.” – Major Paul Krenner

Edgar G. Ulmer isn’t a famous director but he is a fairly accomplished one in that he made a film-noir classic with Detour and also a pretty solid old school horror film called The Black Cat, which teamed up then horror superstars Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and John Carradine. He was also one of the German directors that worked on People On Sunday, as well as helming other noteworthy films: Bluebeard and The Man From Planet X.

Later in his career, he directed this film. And while many can call it a turkey, it does mash up two genres he was known for, crime pictures and sci-fi. Also, it was properly riffed on Mystery Science Theater 3000 and has since become a bit of a cult classic because of that.

The Amazing Transparent Man is an incredibly short motion picture but it didn’t need to be longer and it plays more like an episode of a sci-fi anthology television series.

The plot is about a an invisibility machine that an Army major wants to use to create invisible soldiers in an effort to conquer the world. A prison break is orchestrated to free a notorious safe cracker who is tasked with stealing the nuclear material needed to perfect the machine. There are some noir twists, a femme fatale even and we get to see the invisible machine in all its glory, which actually works quite well considering the special effects of the time, as well as this production’s budgetary constraints.

Still, this is far from Ulmer’s best work and is a pretty hokey and slow paced film with wooden acting and not enough imagination considering the premise and how this could have gone in more interesting directions. Additionally, it looks cheap, it doesn’t have anything close to the great atmosphere of his better films and if I’m being honest, I don’t know if he even cared about this picture or if he just needed a paycheck.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: other low budget sci-fi pictures from the era, especially those that were featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Film Review: The Undead (1957)

Also known as: The Trance of Diana Love (working title)
Release Date: February 14th, 1957 (San Francisco premiere)
Directed by: Roger Corman
Written by: Charles B. Griffith, Mark Hanna
Music by: Ponald Stein
Cast: Pamela Duncan, Richard Garland, Allison Hayes, Val Dufour, Mel Welles, Richard Devon, Billy Barty, Dick Miller

American International Pictures, 75 Minutes

Review:

“Hickory dickory dorse / My guest is dead, of course / The clock struck two / He’s turning blue / With little or no remorse.” – Smolkin, the Gravedigger

Man, Roger Corman certainly had a lot of films appear on Mystery Science Theater 3000. But it was all for a good reason and it’s a lot of fun seeing the master of schlock dominate the way he did.

Fans of Corman will probably enjoy this film, even though it’s what I would consider to be below Corman’s normal quality. Normies out there will probably be bored shitless and wonder why anyone would watch this but it takes a special someone to have a real love affair with Corman’s great and uniquely impressive work.

The reason why it is impressive is because Corman can create so much with almost nothing. Now this specific film isn’t the best example of that but for a movie that was made for less than a dime, he’s able to pull this off better than any other director in a similar situation would be able to.

Although bizarre, the story is kind of interesting. A psychic researcher sends the mind of a prostitute back in time in an effort to study her past-life experiences. So the film takes place in the Middle Ages and we soon discover that the prostitute’s older self is going to be killed over suspicions that she’s a witch. The psychic sends himself back in time to convince the prostitute to avoid death but in doing so, her future incarnations can never exist. Ultimately, the psychic ends up stranded in the past.

I wouldn’t call the plot wholly original or anything but it is kind of ambitious for a cheap-o ’50s motion picture.

While the acting isn’t good, it also isn’t atrocious. We also get to see a very young Billy Barty and Dick Miller.

Overall, this is far from Corman’s best but I think that this is a notable picture in his oeuvre, as it almost feels like a spiritual predecessor to his Edgar Allan Poe adaptations of the 1960s, which would primarily star Vincent Price and were some of his absolute best pictures.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: Roger Corman’s other late ’50s/early ’60s films, as well as his Poe adaptations.

Film Review: Foxy Brown (1974)

Also known as: Burn, Coffy, Burn! (working title)
Release Date: April 5th, 1974
Directed by: Jack Hill
Written by: Jack Hill
Music by: Willie Hutch
Cast: Pam Grier, Antonio Fargas, Peter Brown, Terry Carter, Sid Haig

American International Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

“I don’t know… vigilante justice?” – Michael Anderson, “It’s as American as apple pie.” – Foxy Brown

Originally released by American International Pictures on a double bill with Truck Turner, a dynamite film by the way, Foxy Brown was sort of the spiritual successor to Pam Grier’s earlier film with director Jack Hill, Coffy.

I think that this was originally written to be a sequel to Coffy since it’s working title was Burn, Coffy, Burn! but that was changed at some point. Regardless of that, the Foxy Brown character is very similar in style and temperament to the title character in Coffy. Both are characters that become vigilantes, use their sex appeal to their advantage and also have a nurturing nature.

While most people seem to prefer Coffy a bit more than this film, I actually think I like this one better. It felt more fluid and Pam Grier had a little extra level of confidence this round. Not that she was lacking that before but in Foxy Brown she seems a lot more at home in the role.

I also liked the dynamic between Foxy and the villains of the story. They end up catching her and sending her off for a really horrible experience with some piece of shit rednecks in the country but ultimately, she survives, thrives and destroys the bad guys’ lives.

Plus, this also re-teams Grier with Sid Haig. They never spend a lot of time onscreen together but I always like seeing them share a scene.

This isn’t my favorite film within the blaxploitation style but it is one of the best with a female lead and Grier was the best female lead of her era. Although, I prefer Black Mama, White Mama a little bit more.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Coffy, Black Mama, White Mama and other Pam Grier films from the ’70s.

Film Review: Terror From the Year 5000 (1958)

Also known as: The Girl From 5000 A.D., Cage of Doom (alternative titles)
Release Date: January, 1958
Directed by: Robert J. Gurney Jr.
Written by: Robert J. Gurney Jr., Henry Slesar
Music by: Richard DuPage
Cast: Ward Costello, Joyce Holden, John Stratton, Salome Jens, Fred Herrick

La Jolla Productions, American International Pictures, 66 Minutes

Review:

“In the year nineteen hundred and fifty-eight, Man launched the first satellite and pierced the space barrier.” – Narrator

Even for 1950s American International Pictures sci-fi outings, this is a giant turd. By comparison, it makes AIP’s other sci-fi films look great. But I guess this was used for an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 for a reason. But even then, this is the bottom of the barrel for the AIP movies used on that show.

The biggest problem with this flick is that it has no energy, it’s boring as hell and when you get to the big finale, it’s as if no one put any effort into it.

Now I can enjoy total schlock. In fact, most of the things reviewed on this site are just that. However, this bores me to tears, even when seen on MST3K.

However, I’m not sure how original the idea for the plot was at the time but this could have actually been ripped off for the basis of the Species film series. While the villain here isn’t an alien, it is a woman from the future who shows up to take men to breed with. There are definite similarities between the two movies besides them both being dull. Granted, Species is much, much better than this film.

The special effects are shit, the acting is boring and Mike Nelson and the ‘Bots are the only reason this motion picture didn’t put me to sleep.

But if I’m being fair, I’ve still seen many movies that are much worse than this one.

Rating: 2/10
Pairs well with: other ’50s schlock that was on MST3K like The Screaming Skull and I Was a Teenage Werewolf.

Film Review: Sisters (1972)

Also known as: Blood Sisters (Ireland)
Release Date: November 18th, 1972 (Filmex)
Directed by: Brian De Palma
Written by: Brian De Palma, Louisa Rose
Music by: Bernard Herrmann
Cast: Margot Kidder, Jennifer Salt, William Finley, Charles Durning, Olympia Dukakis

American International Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

“I saw a murder, and I’m going to prove it!” – Grace Collier

Brian De Palma is a very talented director. This early film from him has him tapping into Alfred Hitchcock territory. While De Palma is no Hitchcock, this is as good as Hitchcock’s ’70s films, after he moved on from his prime.

Funny enough, De Palma got Bernard Herrmann to do the score for this film. For those that don’t know, Herrmann was a regular collaborator with Hitchcock. He also did the scores for Citizen KaneThe Magnificent Ambersons, The Day the Earth Stood Still and a slew of other classic pictures.

Herrmann’s score here is incredible and this wouldn’t be the same movie without Herrmann’s melodic, enchanting and otherworldly music. Sometimes the score is slow and beautiful, other times it is pounding, a bit shrill but always interesting.

De Palma channels his inner Hitchcock in his style and narrative structure. This is like a Hitchcockian thriller turned up to 11. This is a murder mystery story but it has very dark and unusual twists. In fact, I had never seen this before and having now seen it, I can see where all these other films and novels I’ve enjoyed have taken cues from the story’s twist.

The visual style is also heavily borrowed from Hitchcock but De Palma does it so well that this is much more of a strong and respectful homage than the director simply emulating a master.

The dream/hallucination sequence towards the end is majestic and nightmarish.

De Palma also taps into Hitchcock’s cinematic obsession of voyeurism. There are elements of Rear Window and Psycho in this but De Palma pulls this all off without a hitch.

This was a really cool film, which makes me appreciate the early work of De Palma even more.

Plus, Margot Kidder was absolutely superb in this. Jennifer Salt was a lot of fun too.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other early De Palma films: Obsession, Dressed to Kill, Phantom of the Paradise and The Fury.

Film Review: Breaker! Breaker! (1977)

Release Date: April 1st, 1977
Directed by: Don Hulette
Written by: Terry Chambers
Music by: Don Hulette, Terry Chambers, Denny Brooks
Cast: Chuck Norris, George Murdock, Terry O-Connor, Michael Augenstein, Jack Nance

Paragon Films, Worldwide Distributing, American International Pictures, 86 Minutes

Review:

“I’m gonna stick ya!” – Hillbilly

I had to watch the RiffTrax version of this film as it was too dull and dreadful to watch without riffing. And to quote Mike Nelson from the RiffTrax version, “David Lynch saw this movie and said, “What the Hell?””

If you are a hardcore Chuck Norris fan, you’ll probably still hate this movie. It’s that bad.

This is what happens when you take the quickly played out trucker genre from ’70s cinema and mix it up with Chuck Norris before most people knew who he was. Hell, Norris barely even talks in this film. He mostly just stares as the camera zooms in on his face Bruce Lee style.

This film is batshit crazy but not the kind of batshit crazy that makes it awesome or at the very least, worthwhile. It’s baffling to watch and frankly, it’s a stupid fucking movie.

Hell, at the end, a bunch of truckers are told over the CB radio that some shit’s going down in a small Cali town and they respond by driving to the town and then mowing down all the buildings with no care in the world if there are people inside… and there are! Basically, they are down to commit mass homicide just because they got some hot tip over the CB. Hell, it could be a damn prank for all they know but truckers have no morals, just truck stop breakfast and rest stop syphilis.

The highpoint of the film, which still sucks, is the final fight in the horse pen. It’s full of slow motion roundhouses and a horse locking eyes with Chuck in some sort of metaphorical way that isn’t clear. Maybe they’re old lovers? Anyway, Chuck kicks the scumbag to pieces and then the horse escapes to run wild because I guess I’m supposed to find some deep meaning in a movie that can only be compared to drowning in deep shit.

I don’t know what else to say, so fuck this movie.

Rating: 2.25/10
Pairs well with: other cheap-o trucker movies and other early Chuck Norris movies like A Force of One, Good Guys Wear Black and The Octagon.

 

Film Review: The She-Creature (1956)

Release Date: August, 1956
Directed by: Edward L. Cahn
Written by: Lou Rusoff
Music by: Ronald Stein
Cast: Chester Morris, Marla English, Tom Conway, Cathy Downs, Spike

Golden State Productions, Selma Enterprises, American International Pictures, 77 Minutes

Review:

“I hate this place. I hate the sound of the ocean. I hate you.” – Andrea Talbott

This film suffers greatly in that it doesn’t feature enough of the She-Creature.

While I like the creature design for the time, which kind of looks like the Gillman mixed with a bug and the demon from Night of the Demon, it’s truly underutilized. But that’s also not too uncommon with creature features from the era. Especially those made for barely a dime and distributed by American International Pictures.

This, like many films of its type, was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000. It is rife with riffing material and it makes for a good episode. However, as a motion picture trying to stand on its own, this really is a boring dud.

The acting, directing and just about everything else is at the level one would expect from this sort of picture. There is nothing unique to help it stand out and without it being the focus of an MST3K episode, it probably would have been lost to time.

This certainly isn’t a must watch movie, even for fans of the genre and era. It’s not a complete waste of time though, either. But if you do give it a chance, you should probably just watch the MST3K episode.

Rating: 2.5/10
Pairs well with: Voodoo WomanIt! The Terror From Beyond Space and The Horror of Party Beach.