The Amazing Transparent Man
Cast & Crew
Edgar G. Ulmer
Ex-army major Paul Krenner, assisted by his girl friend, Laura Matson, engineers the prison break of safecracker Joey Faust. After Laura brings Joey to an isolated, old ranch house, Krenner explains to Joey that he wants him to steal nuclear fission materials from a government facility for an experiment he is conducting. Krenner threatens to kill Joey if he refuses to cooperate, then takes him to a laboratory within the house. There, nuclear scientist Dr. Peter Ulof demonstrates a ray machine that renders a guinea pig transparent then returns it, unharmed, to visibility. Krenner explains that he plans to use the ray to make Joey invisible to the facility guards. Later, Joey discovers that the lab contains a lead-lined safe in which the highly volatile fission materials are stored to protect them from exposure to the rays, which would cause a nuclear explosion. That night, Ulof, a European refugee, tells Joey that during World War II he was forced to perform experiments on hooded patients, one of whom he discovered was his wife. After the war, Ulof fled Europe with his baby daughter Maria and became involved with Krenner, who is coercing him to participate in the experiment by holding Maria hostage and threatening to kill her. When Joey tries to free Maria, he is stopped at gunpoint by Laura. Later, Joey suggests to Laura that she join him in a bank robbery, utilizing the ray's transparency inducing abilities, but she declines. After Ulof succeeds in making Joey transparent, Joey demands $25,000 to open the government's nuclear vault. Krenner is forced to agree to his terms, and after bewildering the facility's guards with his invisibility, Joey removes the nuclear material from the vault and delivers it to Krenner. Later, Ulof informs Krenner that the guinea pig has died as a result of overexposure to radiation, leading him to believe that Joey will also die. Nevertheless, Krenner orders Ulof to continue working on Joey and articulates his goal of rendering entire armies invisible. When Krenner has Laura drive the once more invisible Joey back to the facility, Joey tells her that he intends to rob a bank instead. Joey enters the vault area of a bank and takes a sack of cash but, before he can leave, his invisibility begins to wear off and parts of him suddenly become visible. Although Joey escapes, he has been recognized and, as they return to the house, they hear a news broadcast over the car radio reporting that the police are looking for him. While considering how best to take refuge, Joey suddenly becomes invisible again. He enters the house, where he finds Krenner preparing to flee. After freeing Maria, Joey locks Krenner in her room, then, becoming visible once more, begs Ulof to return him to normalcy. Ulof agrees on the condition that he and his daughter be allowed to leave immediately. Meanwhile, Julian, Krenner's guard and henchman, has captured Laura and now prevents Joey, Ulof and Maria from leaving. Laura then informs Julian that Krenner had bought his loyalty by promising to help free Julian's son, who is imprisoned in Europe. When Laura tells Julian that in truth his son is dead, Julian surrenders his rifle. Leaving Laura in the house, Joey and the others head outside where Ulof reveals that Joey has radiation poisoning and will live for only another month or so. After Ulof persuades Joey to destroy Krenner and his insane plan, Joey reenters the house while the others drive off to summon the police, Krenner escapes from the locked room and kills Laura. Armed with Julian's rifle, Joey chases Krenner into the lab, where Krenner breaks a bottle of acid on Joey's arm and points the ray machine at him. As they struggle for possession of the nuclear material, the proximity of the material to the ray causes a massive explosion, killing them both. Later, as authorities deal with the fallout from the explosion, Ulof confides to a federal agent that the government's intelligence agency has discussed with him the possibilities of making agents and armies invisible. Ulof, however, fears that the invention could be stolen and used against them and believes it would be better that the secret formula die with Krenner and the self-sacrificing Joey.
Edgar G. Ulmer
Lester D. Guthrie
Robert L. Madden
Meredith M. Nicholson
Leonard J. Shapiro
The Amazing Transparent Man
Produced for Miller-Consolidated Pictures (MCP), a short-lived concern that hoped to tap into the low-budget drive-in market which thrived on exploitation pictures, The Amazing Transparent Man (1960) would test the limits of how quickly and cheaply a film could be made. Ulmer was given a small crew in Dallas, Texas, and was afforded only eleven days to shoot not one but two films. One of these films, Beyond the Time Barrier (1960), was a science fiction spectacle and, by its very nature, consumed the lion's share of Ulmer's production budget, requiring more sets, costumes, props, actors and perhaps the most precious commodity of all: time. The futuristic drama was filmed first, and any remaining time was devoted to the second feature.
As if matters could not be worse, The Amazing Transparent Man faced another obstacle when the hotel which housed the cast and crew burned to the ground after the first day of shooting. But Ulmer was contracted to deliver two films and two films he delivered. One (Time Barrier) is a tidy little sci-fi thriller, laced with political allegory. The other film is less easily categorized: a remarkable exercise in cinematic thrift and reckless creativity.
"The Amazing Transparent Man got short shrift," remembers Ulmer's daughter, Arianné Ulmer Cipes. "It didn't get as many days production as Beyond the Time Barrier and it certainly didn't have as large a cast.... People talk about how inexpensively he could shoot... well the contributing factors were that he would utilize two, three, four, five productions simultaneously in different stages that were cannibalizing from each other. Costumes, cast, design, writing, musicians -- you could juggle them all at one time."
There were no illusions about the fate of The Amazing Transparent Man. The finished film lasts just less than one hour, barely long enough to qualify as a feature, guaranteeing its place on the lower berth of a double or triple bill. Ulmer was therefore relieved of the burden of narrative coherence and deep meaning. He could weave an extemporaneous thriller that was swift, energetic and perfectly fitting the designation of "added attraction."
Douglas Kennedy stars as Joey Faust, a hard-boiled bank robber who is sprung from prison by a seedy mob boss, Krenner (James Griffith), who has secret plans for the gunman. Krenner takes Faust to his criminal lair -- a large Victorian farmhouse -- and reveals to him a state-of-the-art laboratory within. There, Dr. Ulof (Ivan Triesault) is experimenting with a radical form of radiation therapy that can render living creatures invisible. Krenner's intention, revealed mid-film, almost as an afterthought, is to create an army of invisible, anti-American soldiers to take over the world. The more selfish Faust defies Krenner, teams up with a tough moll (Marguerite Chapman) and instead uses the power of invisibility to rob bank vaults. Everyone's plans unravel when the experimental process begins to fail. Faust is identified during a robbery and returns to the criminal farmhouse to avenge himself upon neo-Nazi Krenner.
Scripted by Jack Lewis, The Amazing Transparent Man compensates for its technical shortcomings by sending itself in a half-dozen thematic directions. On one level it is a modernized retelling of Goethe's Faust, as the criminal sells his soul for magical powers that promise wealth, power and love. It is also a Cold War thriller (complete with stock-footage A-bomb detonation in the final reel). It is a heist picture. It is social commentary (a German doctor during WWII, Ulof was forced to experiment on concentration camp victims). It is an homage to the classic horror film (specifically James Whale's The Invisible Man, 1933).
But no single film can be all these things. Eventually, the entire plot explodes and Ulmer abruptly ends the film with the cinematic equivalent of a question mark: a character, faced with a moral dilemma of monumental proportions, turns to the camera and says, "What would you do?" Roll credits.
There is enough material in The Amazing Transparent Man for three films, but Ulmer compacts it all into a single hour. "You have only a short time to tell a story," Ulmer said, "and therefore...you must have two sides, as in the commedia dell'arte, and later in our great Western successes as: the man with the white hat, the man with the black hat."
Corners were cut not only in narrative structure but in the special effects as well. Only a handful of optical shots were used to depict the "transparency" of Faust. Instead, Ulmer was satisfied to show doors opening and closing, objects hanging from wires and, most brilliantly resourceful of all, to merely focus the camera on empty sets, as if someone were actually there.
The publicity artists of MCP likewise reaped the value in invisibility, and released the film with the following warning: "Joey Faust, escaped convict, The Amazing Transparent Man, has vowed to 'appear' invisibly in person at every performance of this picture in this theatre. Police officers are expected to be present in force, but the management will not be responsible for any unusual or mysterious happenings while Faust is in the theatre."
Producer: Lester D. Guthrie
Director: Edgar G. Ulmer
Screenplay: Jack Lewis
Cinematography: Meredith M. Nicholson
Production Design: Ernst Fegte
Music: Darrell Calker
Cast: Douglas Kennedy (Joey Faust), Marguerite Chapman (Laura Matson), James Griffith (Major Paul Krenner), Ivan Triesault (Dr. Peter Ulof).
By Bret Wood
The Amazing Transparent Man
Patrick Cranshaw (1919-2005)
Born on June 17, 1919 in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, Cranshaw became interested in acting while entertaining the troops with the Army Air Forces during World War II. After the war, he worked in radio, and slogged his way though bit parts in a few films before landing his first notable (if still uncredited) part as a bartender in the Claudette Colbert western Texas Lady (1955). It took a while before he got his next strong part, but he was memorable in his brief scene as the fidgety bank teller in Arthur Penn's classic Bonnie and Clyde (1967); and appeared as a hayseed in some wildly bad camp fare such as Mars Need Women and Hip, Hot and 21 (also 1967).
But so what if the good movie roles weren't coming? Cranshaw, with his small, expressive eyes, crinkled smile, and scraggly white beard, made for an ideal comic foil in sitcoms; and anyone with a passing interest for spotting character actors can't help but be impressed with his resume on that medium in the '70s: (The Odd Couple, Sanford and Son, The Bob Newhart Show, Mork and Mindy); the '80s: (The Dukes of Hazzard, Growing Pains, Perfect Strangers, Night Court, Diff'rent Strokes); '90s: (Coach, Ellen, Married...with Children, Just Shoot Me!, The Drew Carey Show); and even the 21st century: (Suddenly Susan, Monk).
Most impressively, Cranshaw should serve as model for all struggling actors that sheer persistency can pay off when you're hungry for some good roles in motion pictures, for he was in well in his seventies when he started gaining some decent screen time in The Beverly Hillbillies (1993), The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), Everyone Says I Love You (1996), and Best in Show (2000). However, his most memorable moment in film came in the Will Ferrell/Vince Vaughn comedy Old School (2003). Here he played a octogenarian frat boy named Blue; and in one terrific sequence, he's dressed in his longjohns ready to wrestle two topless girls but dies of a heart attack due to overexcitement! He may have not won an Oscar® for his performance, but he developed something of cult following after that great comic turn.
Most recently, he played a Derby owner with Lindsay Lohan and Matt Dillon in Disney's Herbie: Fully Loaded (2005); and just completed the movie Air Buddies due for release next year. Cranshaw is survived by three children, Jan Ragland, Joe Cranshaw and Beverly Trautschold; his sister, Billie Gillespie; six grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.
by Michael T. Toole
Patrick Cranshaw (1919-2005)
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
I did not agree to kill a man by deliberate radiation poisoning.- Dr. Peter Ulof
You're too old-fashioned to be a genius.- Major Paul Krenner
This was shot back-to-back with Beyond the Time Barrier (1960). The combined shooting schedule was only two weeks. They became Edgar G. Ulmer's last American films.
The working title of this film was The Invisible Snatch. The viewed print listed The Amazing Transparent Man as "an Exclusive Roadshow Attraction," which May have been the name of a later distributor. The film ends with Ivan Triesault, as "Dr. Peter Ulof," facing the camera and asking the audience, "What would you do?" Although the film's credits include a 1960 copyright statement for Miller Consolidated Pictures, it was not registered for copyright at the time of its release. However, according to copyright records, a videocassette of the film was registered by Miller Consolidated Pictures on July 11, 1986 under the number PA-307-928.
The Amazing Transparent Man, which was filmed back-to-back in Dallas, TX with another Edgar G. Ulmer film, Beyond the Time Barrier (see below), was originally released by its producers, according to a December 7, 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item. The item also noted that at that time, the film had been "booked in more than 100 theatres in the Pacific Northwest. According to modern sources, upon the bankruptcy of MCP Film Distributing Co., the film was picked up by American International. The picture marked the final feature film appearance of actress Marguerite Chapman (1918-1999). The Amazing Transparent Man was featured on the television series Mystery Science Theater 3000 in March 1995.
Released in United States 1960
Released in United States 1960