12/15/06

409 The Indestructible Man

(1956, Horror-Mad Science, b&w), with:

Undersea Kingdom, Chapter Two: The Undersea City
(1936, SciFi-Serial, b&w)

Here’s the bill from Winchell’s…

Rating: **1/2

In a nutshell:

Short: People in ridiculous outfits ride around aimlessly.
Film: Resurrected by a mad scientist, an executed murderer seeks money and revenge.

Short Summary:

Crash Corrigan: Destroyer of Worlds.In our last episode of Undersea Kingdom, we watched in mild terror as the cliff holding the heroic Crash and his plucky pal Billy rapidly disintegrated under a withering fire of invisible (read: clearly visible) ray guns and hot dog missiles. We get to watch it again this time. The barrage stops before the cliff can fall completely, so Crash and Billy easily hop about 200 feet to the ground. They rejoin their cast of expendables and get captured by some equestrian men dressed in revealing white nun habits, who will take them back to their leader in the rumpled miter. Some sinister people with lightning hats don’t like that, so they send out people in opera capes to stop them. Oh, what will become of Crash and his pals?

Film Summary:

In The Indestructible Man, “Butcher” Benton (Lon Chaney, Jr.) threatens to kill his crooked lawyer and his traitorous friends while awaiting execution in prison. Meanwhile a suspicious deadpan cop (is there any other kind?) works nights and weekends attending burlesque houses to look for clues, hoping to implicate the crooked lawyer in Benton’s criminal activities. He makes passes at Benton’s former lady friend, an exotic dancer named Eva, and hides from the crooked lawyer on a shoeshine stand.

Meanwhile, a mad scientist attempts to cure cancer by electrocuting stolen corpses. The scientist accidentally resurrects Benton, frying out his vocal chords and imbuing him with super strength. Benton kills the scientist and his assistant and takes off, jiggling his eyebags menacingly across the countryside. He kills a carney, steals his car, shrugs off bullets, and kills two cops on his way back to L.A. Meanwhile, the cop takes Eva to get a hamburger, where they discuss their irrelevant life stories in excruciatingly lengthy detail.

In L.A., Benton bursts in on Eva, trying to find a map to some stolen money. He soon figures out that the crooked lawyer stole the map, so he goes on a killing spree, throwing his former friends (guys with colorful gangster names like “Squeamy”) from very high places. Eva follows him around for a little while, rather ineffectually trying to warn the guys before they get squished. She finally goes to the police, who drag her around to every crime scene for the rest of the movie.

The crooked lawyer gets himself arrested to avoid being squished, but the police threaten to let him go unless he confesses. Confess he does, surrendering the stolen map to Benton’s loot. Everyone heads down the sewers where they find Benton in the act of collecting his money. They hit him with a bazooka shell, and then immolate him with a flamethrower. He staggers away and emerges from the sewers in a power plant/dock/warehouse, where he climbs up a dock crane and moves it aimlessly around until it gets tangled up in some high-voltage wires. The whole place goes up in smoke.

In the epilogue, the deadpan cop gets Eva fired so she’ll marry him.

Introduction:

The Joel Robinson eye thing.There’s something different about the ‘Bots, but Joel can’t quite figure out what it is. Tom has switched voices with Crow, while Gypsy has switched voices with Magic Voice. Joel figures it out while they all try to convince him he’s crazy.

Host Segment One:

The Mads are having a rockin’ party filled with celebrities, or so they would have us believe. They’ve invented something very suggestive and sensual, for men only, but they won’t say what it is. Joel has invented the cereal novel, which is cereal box with a book on the back. Among others they showcase a box of Lucky Charms with a copy of Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon attached to the back. “It’s magically obscure.”

Host Segment Two:

Joel and Crow do commentary for the annual “Any Excuse For A Parade Parade.” Tom portrays a hydrogen-filled submarine, while action figures of the Undersea Kingdom characters scroll by on the desk. When the pepper shaker/evil tower float arrives, Gypsy sneezes and somehow ignites Tom. Smoke and chaos ensue.

Host Segment Three:

Joel and the ‘Bots decide what they’d do if they were indestructible. Crow would be a high-performance drill bit. Tom would throw himself into stump grinders for the amusement of his friends. Joel would wear a wool sweater without a shirt.

Host Segment Four:

Joel stares into Cambot in extreme close-up, trying to do the Lon Chaney “eye thing” (i.e. trying to make his eyebags jiggle with sinister menace). The ‘Bots lick him until he stops.

Host Segment Five:

Tom and Crow have devised the cop/donut contract, which contains a lot of redundant legalese forbidding the Satellite crew to do any further jokes linking law enforcement with pastries. Down in Deep 13, deadpan policemen Mike and Kevin issue a citation for noise violations to Dr. Forrester while they elucidate the cop/donut issue further.

Stinger:

A burned and bazookaed “Butcher” Benton pushes his way out of the sewer.

Thoughts:

...is not the subject of this movie.  Please enjoy a film about a mute but fully destructible zombie instead.The first third of the short is a slide show of the characters, with a short biographical caption under each one. It’s utterly useless except for the crazed look on Crash’s face, which is worth a laugh. The middle third is comprised of actionless scenes recapping the last episode. The last third is comprised of actionless scenes that will be used to recap this episode in the next non-exciting chapter. Thank goodness we don’t have to watch another one of these on MST3K.

Any mad scientist worth his salt ought to know better than to electrocute the recently deceased corpse of a mass murderer, and yet they do it over and over again in movie after movie. I suppose if they had any common sense they wouldn’t be mad scientists to begin with, but still… At least this one was trying to cure cancer, though I don’t know how he was planning to do that with some injections, a few thousand volts, and a vasectomy.

I don’t know who thought it was a good idea to take a bazooka into the sewer. If I were going to fire a high-speed explosive, I'd want as much open space around me as possible. Also, why would any civil engineer in his right mind string high voltage wire across a dock crane’s path? Every time you hired a new crane operator you’d have to warn him, “don’t ever take it near the end of the dock—you could kill us all!” Maybe the mad scientist from the opening scenes designed it. The last and perhaps most egregious bit of implausibility in the film is the portrayal of the death penalty being applied in San Francisco.

The Butcher does the eye thing every time he’s about to make a kill. That’s fairly often. While simply filmed, it looks physiologically difficult, since it seems to require independently mobile eyebags three times the size of the eyes themselves. Getting just your eyebags to jiggle has got to be a pretty specialized ability, like wiggling your ears or flaring your nostrils. Lon Chaney, Jr. was fortunate to have such a cinematic talent.

The cop/donut contract is a necessary bit of MST3K legislation, and the cop cameos by Mike Nelson and Kevin Murphy were well done. My favorite part is when Mike asks Frank, “Is that your car out front?” just as he’s pushing the button. You never want a cop to ask you that. The “Indestructible” sketch includes the classic philosophical meandering that Joel and the ‘Bots are so good at, and it’s really funny to watch Joel try to jiggle his eyebags.

Joel really lets fly with the cop/donut jokes during almost every cop scene in the film. Since the film is mostly cop scenes, that’s a lot of donut jokes. Referencing the bad sound, Crow says, “The soundtrack is drunk.” After heavy-duty weaponry slows Chaney down, Tom says, “I guess he’s just the incredibly resilient man.” If you can get past the empty short, the movie’s actually kind of entertaining, donut jokes and all.