Pretty good blend of sci-fi with film noir. A decent plot, swift pacing, sustained tension, plenty of mayhem, and an elaborate denouement add up to a better-than-expected movie.
Lon Chaney is appropriately menacing as the ‘indestructible’ criminal/monster. In fact, he’d be menacing without the superhuman trappings. A man believed dead reappearing to seek vengeance on those responsible for his execution makes a classic noir plot. The mystery and tension in The Indestructible Man, for the police as well as for Cheney’s victims, derives from their presumption that he’s dead, then their slow but certain realization that he’s very much alive.
The long ending scenes in the sewer and then on the monstrous, robotic crane cap off the plot effectively. Chaney, having been disfigured by the flamethrower, has literally become a monster. As others have pointed out, the seedy atmosphere of 50s L.A. immerses the viewer in a sordid stew of bars, hotels, burlesque houses, and wind-blown streets. The setting hangs around, like one of the main characters.
What doesn’t play so well are the lab scenes near the beginning. A high school science lab would be more convincing as a place to revive a corpse than the mishmash of hubcaps and plumbing on display here as equipment. The scientists are so nebbish that they hardly measure up as modern-day Dr. Frankensteins. At least it makes some sense that the lab is adjacent to a power plant; the 287,000 volts has to come from somewhere.
As much as I liked the ending, the crane shorting out against the electrical tower seems an illogical way for him to die. As noted in other reviews, how can electricity kill him when that’s what has brought him back to life? I could buy a ‘reverse polarity’ explanation, but we’re just simply shown the electrocution. Maybe it’s meant ironically in that he is ‘executed’ anyway, even if by accident.
None of the other characters are really memorable, but with Chaney lurking through the noir cityscape, there’s plenty in The Indestructible Man to stick with us. Definitely worth watching; surprisingly good. 7/10.