by Larry Ham
My first 1950’s Sci-Fi review was 1954’s Target Earth. This time I present for your consideration the second of the three movies from my childhood that scared the living cookies out of me, Indestructible Man, from 1956.
Butcher Benton has been sentenced to die in the Gas Chamber for his role in the theft of 600,000 dollars. Why he has gotten the death penalty for a robbery is not explained, but either someone was killed in the commission of the crime, or the Judge in the case was Judge Smails from Caddyshack.
Benton has one final meeting with his sleaze ball Attorney, Paul Lowe, and vows revenge against Lowe for Lowe’s part in his conviction, as well as revenge against the two rats who turned State’s Evidence against him, Joe Marcelli and Squeemie Ellis. Amazingly, his conversation with Lowe are the last words Benton
speaks in this movie.
While Dick wines and dines Eva at a Hamburger joint, they tell each other their life stories and bore the audience unmercifully.
Meanwhile, Benton is brought back to life by Dr. Bradshaw, a cancer researcher with a giant electrocuting machine. Benton can’t speak because his vocal chords have been “burned out”, and the electrical shock that brought him back to life has also made him Indestructible!
Benton overhears Dr. Bradshaw and his assistant discussing the various ways to deal with Benton, and he kills both men. He then embarks on his quest for revenge. He kills and old guy and steals his car. He kills a couple of cops and finally ends up in Los Angeles. He gains revenge against Joe Marcelli and Squeemie Ellis by throwing Joe down a flight of stairs and throwing Squeemie off the balcony of his apartment building. Paul Lowe, fearing for his life, gets himself arrested by punching a cop, so Benton concentrates on recovering the
stolen loot, which he has hidden….. wait for it… in the SEWER SYSTEM.
He wanders through the sewers, finds the money, is ambushed by the cops with a flame thrower (a very dangerous piece of equipment to use in a sewer, if you catch my drift), and is finally destroyed by a huge electrical charge at a power station.
Butcher Benton is played by horror legend Lon Chaney Jr. This is really an exceptional performance, because he doesn’t speak a word after the first scene. He’s menacing, scary, and totally believable. After a long and distinguished career in movies and television, Chaney died in 1973.
Lt. Dick Chasen is played by veteran movie and TV actor Casey Adams, who later in his career began using his real name, Max Showalter. He played many varied roles in a decades long career, and is noteworthy for having played the role of Ward Cleaver in the pilot for Leave It To Beaver. Showalter passed away in 2000.
Attorney Paul Lowe is played by the legendary Ross Elliott. Legendary? Yes. I know you’ve probably never heard of him, but he was in a lot of TV shows and great Sci-Fi movies. He is also one of a handful of actors to appear in all three of my favorite TV shows from the sixties, Andy Griffith, Leave it to Beaver, and Gomer Pyle. Elliott died in 1999.
Joe Marcelli is played by veteran character actor Ken Terrell. He was in just about every TV show you can name in the fifties and sixties. He was also featured in the classic 50’s turkey The Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman. He died in 1966
Indestructible Man works well, because it doesn’t try to be anything more than it is – a familiar story of betrayal and revenge. Chaney is terrific, and the rest of the cast is excellent, especially Ross Elliott. The grimy street setting for much of the film captures the mood perfectly in black and white. It scared me as a kid and it’s a lot of fun as an adult. And the really good news is the film is now in public domain, so don’t waste your money buying a copy, just go to archive.org and download a pristine version in MP2 format, burn it to DVD on your computer and enjoy a classic Sci-Fi film from the fifties.
If you’re in the mood for a new movie, check out what is now playing at Dinuba Platinum Theatres 6. Showtimes can be found on their website.