By 1956, any movie producer willing to hire Lon Chaney Jr. for a role in a genre film, knew that the legendary horror actor had a drinking problem. Stories abound about having to get all of Chaney's scenes filmed before noon on various productions, because he was known to drink his lunch and be absolutely useless for the rest of the day.
Creative producers came up with a serviceable solution to this problem. Make whatever character Chaney was playing a mute. With no lines to memorize, it was much easier to handle the frequently inebriated horror icon. This approach can be seen in THE BLACK SLEEP (1956), in which both Chaney and a close-to-death Bela Lugosi, play characters unable to speak. It's used again in INDESTRUCTIBLE MAN (1956) with Chaney given only one scene with dialogue early in the film.
Presented in the style of a police procedural drama (see any episode of DRAGNET), INDESTRUCTIBLE features voice over narration by police detective Dick Chasen (Max Showalter), relating the story of Charles "Butcher" Benton (Chaney), who is sentenced to death for a robbery and subsequent murder. He's been set up by crooked lawyer Paul Lowe (Ross Elliott) and Benton claims he'll somehow kill the attorney and his other two partners in crime. How will Benton return from the dead to enact his revenge?
Enter mad scientist Dr. Bradshaw (Robert Shayne who played Inspector Henderson on TV's ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN) and his lab assistant played by an uncredited Joe Flynn (Captain Binghamton on TV's MC HALE'S NAVY). Bradshaw bribes a morgue attendant to deliver Benton's body to his lab where he jolts the body with an incredible amount of electricity. Benton is returned to life, his vocal cords conveniently fried by the voltage and with a now indestructible body. Thus revived. he sets out to wreak havoc on those who wronged him.
The sets in INDESTRUCIBLE MAN are pretty basic but there's a ton of on location footage of Los Angeles in 1956 that adds greatly to the atmosphere. There's also a lot of stock footage used but cinematographer John L. Russell does solid work throughout with some scenes having a hint of film noir.
At one point, the narrator refers to Benton as a "monster man made", which sounds like it should be a "man made monster". Trouble is, that is the title of a Universal Chaney horror film from 1941 and most likely producer/director Jack Pollexfen probably didn't want to risk getting into trouble with the studio.
Both the bad guys and the police are searching for the money from the robbery that Benton was convicted for. The only clue is, I kid you not, a piece of paper with several intersecting, curved lines and a big black "X" to mark the spot. There's no writing on the paper but a character takes one look at the paper and instantly knows that it represents the Los Angeles sewer system.
Apparently the electric jolt also makes Benton's clothes indestructible as he is repeatedly shot at point blank range with no bullet holes visible in his jacket.
The action climaxes in a well shot sequence in the Los Angeles sewer system (reminiscent of the climax of THEM! (1954)). Here heavily armed police officers (one man has a bazooka, another a flame thrower), track Benton down. Benton escapes them (but is badly burned in the process) and meets his spectacular demise in an LA power plant.
INDESTRUIBLE MAN moves at a pretty good clip, slowing down only long enough for an expository scene at a hamburger drive-in stand that fills us in on the back stories of Detective Chasen and Eva Martin (Marian Carr), a burlesque dancer briefly involved with Benton before he was convicted.
Far from a great film and certainly not a jewel-in-the-rough worthy of reconsideration, INDESTRUCTIBLE MAN is nonetheless a fun little time waster (72 minutes), in which the great Lon Chaney Jr. gives the best he was capable of at the time.