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The Death of the Incredible Hulk

Director: Jack Pollexfen

USA - 1956

    Hoff! Hoff!    


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After an armored truck hold-up goes awry, Charles “The Butcher” Benton (Lon Chaney, Jr.) is hung out to dry by his three partners-in-crime. With evidence supplied to the police by crooked lawyer Paul Lowe, The Butcher is quickly arrested, tried and subsequently sentenced to death in the gas chamber for stealing a whopping six hundred thousand dollars, killing some folks, and being an all-around nasty fellow. Benton vows revenge against his treacherous chums up until the very day of his execution. He is then executed, thus ending the threats rather abruptly. Relieved that their nutty former colleague is finally out of the way, the remaining gang members, Lowe, Joey Marcellia and Squeamy Ellis, begin searching for the six hundred grand Benton had hidden away before his capture; the secret of its location taken with him to the grave.

Charlie's Angels
"Building code under fire!"

Meanwhile, resident path-blazing scientist Professor Bradshaw obtains a fresh corpse from the morgue as a component to the final test in his search for a cure for cancer. Whose corpse does it turn out to be? I’ll give you three guesses. (Give yourself half a point if you guessed Herve Villechaize.) Basically, the experiment involves charging a dead body with ridiculous amounts of electricity that should…uh…kill the cancer. Right. This raises a few questions: How exactly could a copious amount of electricity cure cancer? Secondly, does The Butcher even have cancer? And finally, with all disbelief conveniently suspended, how would one go about monitoring the effect of an ungodly amount of electricity on cancer by simply looking at an x-ray of a ribcage? Call me a skeptic, but I’m willing to bet that this particular experiment had little to do with actual science. It was more like two little boys on a hot summer day burning ants with a magnifying glass. Instead of accomplishing anything constructive, Dr. Bradshaw manages not only to bring the maniacal Butcher back to life (doh!), but to make him indestructible as well (double doh!). Well, “indestructible” might not be the right word. What it really boils down to is Benton being blessed with the ability to stick forks in his hands and throw straw-stuffed dummies considerable distances. What would be a more apt description of these powers? I’m leaning more towards “goofy” myself.

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Rand McNally he wasn't.

After dispatching of the two eggheads (despite the overused but rarely heeded “But I created you!” spiel), our indestructible hero steals a car and makes his way to L. A. The Butcher wants his money, his girl, and revenge on those who betrayed him -- and he’ll destroy anyone that gets in his way (and that also applies to those in the less-than-immediate proximity). Only one man, an omniscient detective by the name of Richard Chasen, can possibly stop him. That’s right. Dick Chasen.

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Despite being labeled as such, The Indestructible Man is by no means a classic film. At least I don’t think it is. To be completely honest, I am rather ignorant as to what’s perceived as “classic” film. It is old, black and white, and stars Lon Chaney Jr., a name associated with such cinema greats as Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. Do these qualities alone make a film classic? Does it not also have to be good? I mean, correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought the words “classic” and “good” went hand-in-hand. Where does “dull” and “tedious” fit in? It is old and black and white. I’ll give it that.
Charlie's Angels
In those days, burlesque was all about saucy women and big black sombreros.

The simple story, unable to fill the normal running span of a feature length film, is padded out with endless scenes of people walking and driving. Granted, they do try to spice things up a bit by varying the speeds of the walking and driving, but still, you can only stretch the excitement so far. The filmmakers also seem to have an unhealthy obsession with Chaney’s eyes, zooming in on them at several points throughout the film. And what exactly are we, the viewers, suppose to derive from this? An appreciation for the effects of an apparent lack of sleep? The importance of a good skin moisturizer? Or is that supposed to be pathos? I find it odd how halfway through the film they stop portraying The Butcher as a maniac, but more as a monster that should be pitied. Pick a theme and stick to it, folks. Allow me to be the first to tell you that Frankenstein this isn’t.

Charlie's Angels
"New petitions against tax!"

On a positive note, it is actually entertaining when Chaney finally gets around to exacting revenge on his former business associates. There’s a great dummy-tossing scene down a flight of stairs. I was also amused when Detective Chasen stumbles across a crime scene and asks one of the bystanders what happened: “A guy called ‘Squeamy’ was killed,” says the man. “Squeamy Ellis?!” replies Chasen. No. Another Squeamy, jackass.
Charlie's Angels

His powers of perception aside, Detective Chasen is even more amazing in his role as narrator of the tale. Not only can he recount the events that transpired, but he is also privy to the feelings and intentions of the other characters: “The Butcher felt both angry and betrayed when he discovered that his map had been stolen. He also felt repressed. Repressed by a society that failed to understand him. ‘Man, I could go for a burger right about now,’ he thought, his stomach rumbling.” No job is easier than that of omniscient detective.

I would also like to take a moment to reflect upon man’s inhumanity to his fellow man. Or quite simply, how human beings generally suck. It takes approximately ten minutes after The Butcher’s execution (and that’s giving them the benefit of a minute or two) for someone to hit on his newly-ex-girlfriend, Eva. Jeez, isn’t there at least a 24 hour mourning period? And how tacky is it that out of her newfound multiple suitors she picks Detective Chasen, the guy who arrested (and ultimately killed) her former beau? In the final scene, Chasen drives Eva out to the country where he drops the bombshell that he had her fired from her job. Like any semi-rational human being, Eva asks for a reason (surprisingly, she doesn’t punch him in the nose first). “Because,” he says. “You’ll be too busy being my wife!” And she buys it! Either Eva has some serious self-esteem issues or that’s the slickest come-on line I have ever heard.

Charlie's Angels
Larry Hagman, as you've never seen him before.

Despite its dummy-tossing and bizarre betrothal rituals, The Indestructible Man just isn’t worth your time. If you want to check out Lon Chaney Jr.’s work, find Spider Baby. Or even Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Or perhaps start a stamp collection. Begin blueprinting that addition to the house your husband has been nagging you about. Catch a nap. In any case, forget about The Indestructible Man altogether.


-- Copyright © 2003 by J. Bannerman



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