Indestructible Man (1956)

Indestructible Man is a 1956 American crime horror science fiction film, an original screenplay by Vy Russell and Sue Dwiggins for producer-director Jack Pollexfen and starring Lon Chaney, Jr., Ross Elliott and Robert Shayne.

Told in a narrative style, popularized by the television police series “Dragnet“, by police detective Dick Chasen (Max Showalter), the story concerns a 72-hour period of horror for the city of Los Angeles. Charles “Butcher” Benton (Chaney) is a double-crossed convicted robber and murderer who was executed in the gas chamber. His body is unlawfully sold to a scientist (Robert Shayne) who plans to move his experiments into the cause and cure of cancer to human subjects. Benton’s corpse is subjected to chemical injection and massive jolts of high-voltage electricity in order to study the effect on human tissues. But Benton’s heart is restimulated and he completely revives (though rendered mute due to electrical damage to his vocal cords), immensely strong and with skin virtually impervious to scalpels, police bullets, even to bazooka shells.

Indestructible Man (1956)  Directed by Jack Pollexfen Shown: Lon Chaney Jr.

After killing the doctor and his assistant (Joe Flynn), Benton sets out to avenge himself on his two henchmen and his attorney (Ross Elliott) who, in collusion with the attorney, had betrayed Benton in order to steal his loot. Benton had left the location of his stash to his stripper-girlfriend (Marian Carr), who had since gone straight and begun dating the detective who brought Benton to justice, after she had rejected the lawyer’s own advances.

The story then follows Benton’s revenge on his enemies; the police who first learn of a wave of mysterious killing, then of Benton’s reanimation; and the developing relationship between the detective and the stripper. The lawyer, fearing for his life after the two henchman are murdered, confesses the plot to the police, and reveals that Benton had always used the sewer system to evade detection; and to find a hiding place for the money, as it turns out.

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Tracked down by the police, Benton takes a direct hit in the solar plexus from a bazooka, and is heavily burned by a flame thrower. Weakened, he flees to a power station, where he climbs atop a gantry, inadvertently setting it in motion. As he watches the actions of the police down below, he fails to notice the gantry is moving toward the main power terminals. A dangling hook catches on a wire, and the gantry erupts in sparks as masses of electricity surge throughout its metal frame, searing Benton to ashes. On a quiet night a few days later, Chasen successfully proposes to his girlfriend.

It’s Electrifying Fun!

First let me say that this is…without any hesitation….a bad film. It has choppy transitions, cheap sets(wait till you see the lab equipment), mediocre to horrible acting, and some of the most ridiculous plot developments to grace any film. Yet, this is one fun film to watch. Charles “Butcher” Benton is killed in the electric chair only to be sold to scientists who bring him back to life. No scientific explanation is really given for this feat, but Lon Chaney comes back to life and with a vengeance. See, he wants to kill the three guys that put him in prison, a sleazy lawyer and two small hoods.

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Chaney is definitely fun to watch, and except for a few lines early in the picture, is mute throughout. He is a mute killer who literally throws people all over and kills with no discrimination at all. Chaney has many close-ups of his face and the way his eyes move is hilarious! I laughed myself silly any time he got mad and started to throw people. The cast is pretty average to below average with a couple exceptions. Max Showalter does a good job as the cop hot on the trail of the Butcher and the lovely blonde playing Eva Martin is nice to look at and has some talent as well. Look for Joe Flynn…yes, Captain Binghamton himself in a small role as a scientist’s assistant. Lots of fun!

Interesting 1950’s Offering

Author: Tom Fowler (tom.fowler@sbcglobal.net) from Overland Park, KS
8 February 2004

I viewed this film recently for the first time in many years, then went to the IMDb to see what other viewers had to say about it. I was pleased to learn that many feel the same way as I do about this film; that it is entertaining and holds up well within the limits of it’s time and 1950’s B film genre.

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In case you are unfamiliar with the storyline: A small time hoodlum known as `The Butcher’ (Lon Chaney, Jr.) is executed for a crime his underworld companions set him up for. A bizarre scientific experiment brings him back to life via a massive dose of electricity, which destroys his vocal cords but makes his skin impenetrable, thus becoming the `Indestructible Man.’ The story revolves around the Butcher seeking revenge on those who double-crossed him and a zealous police lieutenant chasing he and a missing $600,000 down, with said policeman, (the versatile Casey Adams), falling in love with the Butcher’s would-be love interest, (Marion Carr). The Indestructible Man reminds sci-fi fans of Them!, as much of the action takes place in Los Angeles’ massive sewer system. This is not the best film to come out of it’s era, but it was not meant to be. I would say it rates in the top half of it’s class. The editing is a little weak, but there are some good 1950’s era location shots of downtown LA which should be of interest to historians, plus it contained some interesting players. Casey Adams, AKA Max Showalter, is not generally known to the viewing public but appeared in hundreds of film and television programs throughout his lengthy career. Joe Flynn had an interesting bit part as the lab assistant, this coming several years before McHale’s Navy fame. Female lead Marion Carr should have had a more successful career, as she was very attractive with a pleasing screen personality.

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Of course, Lon Chaney, Jr. was the lead. In 1956, he still looked fit and menacing. It would not be long until his well documented personal troubles would diminish him physically and professionally. All in all, a solid effort by director Jack Pollexfen. View this one when you have a chance. It is interesting and will be time well spent.

Lon Chaney; furious avenger!

6/10
Author: Coventry from the Draconian Swamp of Unholy Souls
6 July 2005

I cherish a great deal of respect for the late Lon Chaney Jr. His acting career must not have been easy, since he’s the son of his father (Lon Chaney Sr.; the father of silent cinema) and since he always somewhat stood in the shadows of fellow horror icons Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi.

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Chaney Jr. starred in several really good horror gems (“Spider Baby”, “House of Dracula”) but also in many overlooked B-movies like this “Indestructible Man”. The plot is more ambitious than you’d think Chaney fits into his role perfectly. He plays the murderous gangster Charles “Butcher” Benton, sentenced to death and taking the secret of a hidden loot (worth over 600.000$) with him in his grave. He swears vengeance on his attorney who double-crossed him and he’s offered the opportunity when an experimenting scientist accidentally brings the Butcher back from the dead. Even though filmed on a minuscule budget, “Indestructible Man” is a very entertaining crime/horror movie with fairly good acting and a couple of nice special effects. The plotting is rather incompetent (for example: though the shock, Butcher loses his vocal cords but his memory stays intact…) but you’re not supposed to take it too seriously, anyway. Chaney’s eerie madman-charisma is more than enough to make “Indestructible Man” a worthwhile effort, if you ask me. This is just one of those many well-intended 50’s films that got wrongfully ridiculed by MST3K.

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“There you are old boy, you respond properly and my theory is sound, you’ll be more famous dead than alive…, throw the switch!”

6/10
Author: classicsoncall from Florida, New York
3 September 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

“Indestructible Man” is one of those 1950’s pseudo horror gems that threaten to implode into comedy at any minute, but chalk one up for Lon Chaney Jr. here, he holds this thinly scripted melodrama together long enough to provide some entertaining moments. Chaney’s character is Butcher Benton, about to die in the electric chair for his role in a six hundred thousand dollar robbery. Masterminding the heist, as well as taking the fall is Paul Lowe (Ross Elliott), Benton’s attorney. Vowing revenge from beyond (like he knew he was coming back), Benton declares “Remember what I said, I’m gonna getcha, all three of ya”, including partners Squeamy Ellis (Marvin Ellis) and Joe Marcelli (Ken Terrell).

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First major suspension of disbelief – how does a lab professor’s assistant score a celebrity corpse, even if he WAS a criminal? You’ll recognize future Captain Binghamton from “McHale’s Navy” as that assistant, and boy does he play it without emotion. When Professor Bradshaw (Robert Shayne) brings Benton back to life with an untested combination of a special blood transfusion with a kick of two hundred seventy thousand electrical volts, the most Flynn’s character can muster is “How do you explain this?” When Benton revives, he’s left without his vocal chords, they were burned out in the electrical shock. The good news however is that his cellular structure was changed to acquire super human strength. The indestructible man can now withstand gun shots at close range without harmful effect, and as an added bonus, so can his clothes. They hold up well (his clothes) after repeated police encounters, including a bazooka round, and a blast from a flamethrower.

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The film tries to get some mileage from repeated close up shots of Lon Chaney’s eyes, similar to footage of Bela Lugosi’s signature eye stare in films like “Dracula” and “White Zombie”. It doesn’t work as well for Chaney, the menace that Bela achieved with his glare is far superior. Maybe Chaney had too much on his mind, like what did I sign up for here?

Balancing out the cast and the story are Max Showalter as Police Lieutenant Dick Chasen and Marian Carr as showgirl Eva Martin. Eva had a somewhat platonic relationship with the Butcher, a shoulder for him to cry on when the Butcher’s girl left him high and dry. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but it seems a more than generous smile came across Eva’s face when she learned the lieutenant’s first name.

Ultimately, Benton exacts his revenge upon attorney Lowe and the rest of his no-goodnik partners, just as he vowed earlier from a prison cell. Alas though, he meets his end atop a gigantic crane high above a power plant. The scene is reminiscent of James Cagney’s farewell in “White Heat”, but without the defiant “Top of the World, Ma”. As Butcher Benton succumbs to a massive high voltage charge, I couldn’t help thinking that here in fact was the basis for the film’s real title – “Almost Indestructible Man”.

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It’s Electrifying Fun!

Author: BaronBl00d (baronbl00d@aol.com) from NC
5 March 2001

First let me say that this is…without any hesitation….a bad film. It has choppy transitions, cheap sets(wait till you see the lab equipment), mediocre to horrible acting, and some of the most ridiculous plot developments to grace any film. Yet, this is one fun film to watch. Charles “Butcher” Benton is killed in the electric chair only to be sold to scientists who bring him back to life. No scientific explanation is really given for this feat, but Lon Chaney comes back to life and with a vengeance. See, he wants to kill the three guys that put him in prison, a sleazy lawyer and two small hoods. Chaney is definitely fun to watch, and except for a few lines early in the picture, is mute throughout. He is a mute killer who literally throws people all over and kills with no discrimination at all. Chaney has many close-ups of his face and the way his eyes move is hilarious! I laughed myself silly any time he got mad and started to throw people. The cast is pretty average to below average with a couple exceptions. Max Showalter does a good job as the cop hot on the trail of the Butcher and the lovely blonde playing Eva Martin is nice to look at and has some talent as well. Look for Joe Flynn…yes, Captain Binghamton himself in a small role as a scientist’s assistant. Lots of fun!

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