I first saw The Indestructable Man (1956) when I was about ten on the late night local Cleveland horror movie show Big Chuck and Lil’ John, and loved it from the beginning, mostly because I was a big Chaney fan at the time, having already seen most of his Universal films by that time. The plot is an interesting mix of Frankensteinian horror and a heist gone wrong Noir film.
The basic plot has Chaney playing a convicted murderer who is sentenced to the gas chamber thanks to the machinistions of his crooked lawyer who got the other members of the gang to turn States evidence when Chaney hid the half a million haul with plans to start a new life with his stripper girlfriend. Chaney tells the lawyer he will get revenge on all of them (in his only dialogue scene in the film). After the execution a scientist working on a cancer cure bribes a guard for the body and during the experiment not only brings Chaney back to life, but endows him with enhanced strength and a skin so tough it is impervious to knives and bullets. The downside of his new lease on life is that his vocal cords where burned out during the process, leaving him mute (this plot point was actually due to Chaney’s alcoholism having reached the point where he had trouble remembering lines). After dispatching the scientist and his assistant Chaney hits the road for LA, leaving a trail of bodies along the way. When his fingerprints show up at the murder scenes this brings in veteran character actor Casey Adams as the detective who was on the original case and has been working off the clock to find the missing payroll money. Along the way he ends up romancing the stripper, who it turns out was only Chaney’s girlfriend in his mind.
This is a neat little horror thriller where the low budget works to the film’s advantage by utilizing a lot of location work, most famously the since dismantled Angels Flight Railway that took passengers up and down Bunker Hill. Another novelty is having Adams narrate the story into a tape recorder as his case notes for his final report, giving the film a Jack Webb Dragnet feel as the show was at it’s most popular at that time.
As befits the title, Chaney gets to demonstrate his invulnerability several times during the course of the film, mostly shrugging off bullets and one memorable scene of him stabbing himself in the hand to show what has happened to him to the stripper. Chaney’s stalking of his victims is well done as his hulking 6′ 4″ body towers over the other men. After an intense closeup of his madly gleaming eyes Chaney will then choke his victim before lifting them over his head and tossing them over stair banisters or down stairways. These scenes are well handled by Chaney, who always excelled at mime in his acting more than he did at dialogue delivery.
Though only generally watched by bad film afficionadoes, I rather like the film, not just for childhood nostalgia, or to be a Chaney completist, but just as a nifty little horror flick.
Till next time…..Keep Watching.