The Invisible Man's Revenge (1944)

APRIL 8, 2010


After three films, it’s pretty obvious that The Invisible Man was simply not as franchise-ready as the other Universal Monsters. The Invisible Man’s Revenge borrows heavily from the other two entries, doing nothing new even though it’s the longest one. Hell, it doesn’t even have the improved effects one would expect from 11 years’ progress and experience - if anything they’re actually worse. It also makes a critical error with its protagonist, making him neither truly crazy (like the original) or a hero (like in Return).

Nope, this guy (Robert Griffin this time around - though if he’s related to the previous two Griffins I must have missed the explanation. Maybe invisibility just naturally gravitates toward guys named Griffin) is basically just kind of a greedy jerk. But it’s spurned on by getting screwed over by some friends who took his share of a treasure discovery, and they try to kill HIM, so at first his Revenge is pretty understandable. And he even helps his buddy mess around with some drunken bullies down at the bar. But then he wants to turn visible again, which is what makes him a villain, as he needs blood to do it. The change from hero to villain is sort of clumsy, and worse, he DOES become visible again for a large chunk of the film’s third act, only to turn invisible again for the final 5 minutes.

By the way, he turns invisible again after the clumsiest foreshadowing attempt of all time. Griffin (while visible) is telling the reporter (the film’s actual hero) that the invisible man might have become visible again, along with explaining pretty much every other plot point in an attempt to sound clever to the audience. So the guy replies “Pity him if he starts fading out, at some crucial moment” - and then Griffin immediately begins turning invisible! Jeesh.

And you’d think with A. the advance in skill from the effects guys in the eleven years in between the two films and B. the fact that he’s only invisible for about 30 minutes’ worth of the film, that the effects would be really good, with a lot of money shots. But no! Not only is nothing as impressive visually as say, the footsteps in the snow in the original, or putting on the scarecrow’s clothes in Return, but they all look like ass! The matte/shadow marks are visible constantly, John Carradine’s head partially disappears when he crosses in front of Griffin, and the standard “look at my eyes” part is botched by the fact that they don’t even move the plaster head around. And the strings/wires! Look at this crap:

Gee, how did they DO that... with only three strings? Come on guys. You’d think with the Code keeping the horror films from being, you know, horrific, that they’d put more effort into this, of all movies. Dracula can’t bite people, Frankenstein’s Monster can’t drown little girls, etc. But the Invisible Man can still move objects around the room and unwrap his bandages, which are HIS signature moves - at least make them look good. And really, Invisible Man could have been a sort of reprieve for horror fans during the 40s, but it’s lazy in ways that have nothing to do with the Code.

Speaking of Carradine, was this guy EVER young? At first I was like “Will I recognize him, 30-40 years younger than the stuff I usually see him in?”. But trust me, I had no trouble. Apparently I’d have to go back to the 1910s to see him as a young dude, and even then I bet he has old man hair. He’s the scientist who helps Griffin out (another blunder with these films over the original - why aren’t the protagonists ever the ones with the scientific know-how?), and he also has an invisible dog and bird. And this prompted me to think about if my cats were invisible - would there be any discernible change in how I react to them? They just sit there all day anyway, and never where I sit down. And even though he’s obviously visible, I never manage to see Meeko in time when he decides to use my groin area as a midway point to jump up to the back of the couch. At least if he was invisible I wouldn’t feel so dumb for not catching him in time.

Anyway, this movie’s not that good (and it’s long! What the hell kind of Universal Monster movie runs over 80 minutes?), even though it’s the closest any of the “sequels” got to being an actual horror movie again. Maybe Invisible Agent or Woman are fun, but as they aren’t even considered horror by the (increasingly lax) IMDb standards, I can’t use them for HMAD, which means I’ll probably never watch them. A shame really. Did Hammer ever do one? Hollow Man and the original Rains Invisible Man (which itself wasn’t exactly full blown horror) can’t be the only scary invisible men, can they?

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