Combustible Celluloid
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With: Robert Clarke, Margaret Field, Raymond Bond, William Schallert, Roy Engel, David Ormont, Gilbert Fallman, Darlene Tompkins, Vladimir Sokoloff, Boyd 'Red' Morgan, Marguerite Chapman, Douglas Kennedy, James Griffith, Ivan Triesault
Written by: Aubrey Wisberg, Jack Pollexfen, Arthur C. Pierce, Jack Lewis
Directed by: Edgar G. Ulmer
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 204
Date: 03/29/2022

Edgar G. Ulmer: Sci-Fi Collection (2022)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Fantastic Edgar

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The Austrian-born Edgar G. Ulmer reportedly helped the set design for some of the great German Expressionist films before trying to make a go as a director in Hollywood. He started in "B" movies and never stopped, but created some genuine low-budget masterworks. Sadly, many of his films fell into the public domain, or were difficult to see at all, and few have been released in high-quality DVD or Blu-ray. Happily, Kino Lorber gave us this 2022 collection of three films, nicely remastered, with optional subtitles, and lots of bonuses. It includes The Man from Planet X (1951), Beyond the Time Barrier (1960), and The Amazing Transparent Man (1960).

Ulmer directed this 71-minute sci-fi film The Man from Planet X, and while it contains perhaps too much time-filling footage of people walking back and forth across the Scottish moors to the site of a crashed UFO, it still has Ulmer's unique touch, and a surprisingly sophisticated view of the situation, viewing the alien as neither purely good, nor purely evil. The alien — a fright mask under a glass dome — is also surprisingly creepy. As Professor Elliot (Raymond Bond) tracks the progress of the mysterious Planet X, which is passing by the Earth, the creature is discovered by the professor's daughter Enid (Margaret Field) and journalist John Lawrence (Robert Clarke). It must be decided if the creature is to be studied or destroyed (or both).

Beyond the Time Barrier was one of Ulmer's last films, and arguably one of his cheapest, shot in about a week at the site of a world's fair in Texas, and shot side-by-side with The Amazing Transparent Man. It concerns a test pilot (Robert Clarke, who also produced) who accidentally cracks the time barrier and winds up in the future, where a plague has turned the world into a living nightmare. Darlene Tompkins plays the pretty, mute, telepathic princess who falls for the pilot (I guess she didn't have many options). Ulmer cast his daughter Arianne as " Captain Markova," and his wife Shirley was the script editor.

Surely one of Edgar G. Ulmer's most wretched efforts, the extra-low budget sci-fi thriller The Amazing Transparent Man stars Douglas Kennedy as a master safecracker with the not-so-subtle name of "Joey Faust." Maj. Paul Krenner (James Griffith) arranges to break him out of prison so that he can participate in some invisibility experiments, followed by some bank robberies. Unfortunately, everyone is able to effortlessly outwit everyone else, for the main reason that everyone seems pretty dumb. Marguerite Chapman plays the wisecracking dame whose allegiances keep switching. Ulmer wraps things up with an anti-nuke message! Despite all this looniness, there was a reason that Ulmer only worked in low-budget genre films: he was the best at it. Even something this ridiculous has its inventive charms, not least of which are the wonderfully chintzy invisibility effects.

Bonuses include many commentary tracks. The Man from Planet X comes with a new one by critic Richard Harland Smith, an archival one with critics Tom Weaver, David Schecter, Dr. Robert J. Kiss and filmmaker Joe Dante, and another archival one with critics Gary D. Rhodes and Arianne Ulmer Cipes (Edgar G. Ulmer's Daughter). Beyond the Time Barrier comes with a new commentary by critics Tom Weaver, David Schecter and Gary D. Rhodes, and The Amazing Transparent Man comes with a new commentary by David Del Valle. There are also trailers for all three features. As an Ulmer fan, this set made me very happy. Highly Recommended!

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