From these meager resources Ulmer spun a dark, despairing tale of Atomic Age breakdown. Each character nurses a private tragedy, egged onward to self-annihilation. For most of its life the film has been an object of scorn — it was the subject of a Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode — but seeing a 16mm print projected at Anthology Film Archives (in their series on American International Pictures) was something of a revelation.
The film’s raison d’être is Ulmer’s way with invisibility: loopy theatrical trickery (as when actors, alone in the frame, pretend to be attacked) and well-rigged props (such as a bag of money floating through a bank) aid in evoking the unseen burglar, and Ulmer’s camera eerily conjures the invisible Faust’s presence by taking his point of view. The simple yet striking optical effects contrast wildly with the story’s apocalyptic implications.
Ulmer was, as Andrew Sarris once noted, the unintentional master of the maudit, and this charming oddity, like nearly all of the director’s work, rises impressively from its own ashes.