Cult Movies: The Projected Man is a slow-burning atomic age shocker

Bryant Haliday in The Projected Man
Bryant Haliday in The Projected Man Bryant Haliday in The Projected Man

British science fiction films of the 1960s were notoriously budget-free affairs, on the whole. Often big on ideas but severely strapped for the actual hard cash required to put those ideas successfully onto celluloid, it’s a genre that’s easy to love if often pretty hard to actually watch. The Projected Man is a perfect example. 

Released in 1966, it was directed by Ian Curteis and starred Bryant Haliday, Mary Peach and Ronald Allen. Haliday, fresh from a lead turn in the decidedly odd ventriloquist’s dummy flick Devil Doll, is Paul Steiner, an enthusiastic scientist who’s working on a projection machine that allows him to transmit any object over a short distance.

He’s joined in his work by the smarmily charming Dr Christopher Mitchell, played by future Crossroads smarm king Ronald Allen, and a dynamic pathologist called Patricia Hill (Mary Peach). 

Everything appears to be going swimmingly - if alarmingly slowly, it must be said - until their boss, a certain Dr Blanchard (Norman Wooland) allows the project to be sabotaged with disastrous results. Desperate to prove his invention is worth another go, Steiner attempts to transport himself to Blanchard’s house with predictably messy results.

Now mutated and charged with a current of electricity that allows him to electrocute people just by touching them, Steiner sets off on a murderous road of revenge.  As you would, frankly, if your one good career idea had been scuppered and you were left with a face that looks like road kill and the watts of Battersea power station surging through your fingertips. 

While that all sounds dramatic enough, it’s worth remembering the miniscule budget we’re talking about here.  Like a Poundland Quatermass Experiment or The Fly if made with actual fly paper rather than real money, this a film that intrigues as a concept but delivers little in terms of finished product. But that doesn’t mean there’s not a lot of fun to be had within its hastily sketched stock characters and wobbly sets, of course. 

Bryant Haliday in The Projected Man
Bryant Haliday in The Projected Man Bryant Haliday in The Projected Man

While it’s so slow moving at times you could be forgiven for thinking your DVD player may have accidently paused, there’s still laughs to be had trying to make out the dialogue mumbled by Haliday behind his mutated face mask that was clearly a nightmare for the sound man, or in watching the director cut away from any electrical incident that might actually cost money to show on screen.

Stateside, this slow-burning atomic age shocker originally graced US flea pits and drive-ins as the lower-half of a double bill with the Peter Cushing-fronted Island Of Terror, a similarly impoverished B-movie that boasted aliens who looked like little more than oversized fried eggs. Viewed side by side with the 'visual thrills' of The Projected Man, it looks positively Hollywood blockbuster by comparison.  

That said, The Projected Man is an effective little sci-fi chiller in its own no-budget way. Cheap, cheerful and played with a totally straight face by all concerned, its wattage may not be that high but it can still deliver the odd small shock or two.