invisible agent | the invisible man | invisible man | edwin l. marin | curt siodmak | ilona massey | jon hall | peter lorre | sequel | adventure | comedy | romance | sci-fi | sci fi | war | united states | based on | novel | h.g. wells | classic
Film: Invisible Agent
Director: Edwin L. Marin
Writer: Curt Siodmak
Starring: Ilona Massey, Jon Hall and Peter Lorre
This film begins with a group of men entering a store. They come to the counter where Jon Hall is working. Two of the men in this group are Cedric Hardwicke and Peter Lorre. Hardwicke is German and Lorre is Japanese. They ask to buy some nice paper from Hall and when he asks if they want their name on it, they say a name and ask if it rings a bell. It turns out that Hall’s grandfather was the original Invisible Man. At first they offer to buy the formula off him, but Hall states he doesn’t know what they are talking about. They then threaten to cut off his fingers with a paper cutter, but he finally gives in. He removes a box from a hidden spot in a drawer, but flees from the shop.
We then see Hall talking with John Litel. Litel works for the United States government and they ask to use the formula. Hall tells them that he can’t give it to them and that nothing in this world could change his mind. This film begins before Pearl Harbor and then through newspaper headlines, we see that this event happens.
Hall returns to the government and tells them that he will allow them to use the formula on one condition, that he is the one to use it. This creates a stir in that he is not a trained secret agent. Hall tells them though that the serum can drive the user crazy and he knows the risks of using it. There is a plot that the Nazis and Japanese have a joint mission to attack the United States. Hall is tasked with becoming invisible to find out the details of the plan to prevent it.
We then see Hall in an airplane going from Great Britain to Germany. They are attacked by anti-craft guns. When this starts, Hall injects himself with the serum and puts on a parachute. He jumps from the plane and becomes invisible on his way down. The Nazi soldiers are confused as he strips naked and they can’t see him. Hall slips past them.
He then meets up with his first contact, a casket maker. This man is played by Albert Bassermann. He tells him that the next person he needs to see is a woman. She will be able to help show him who and where the information he is looking for is being kept.
Hall shows up at her house and gets inside. He has to convince her of who he is through code and she is interested in him, she is played by Ilona Massey. Hall uses her bath to clean up and she tells him that she has a date coming over, a pretty high ranking member of the Gestapo.
This man shows up and he is played by J. Edward Bromberg. He flirts with Massey who plays along and Hall eavesdrops on the whole conversation. He also eats some of the food and drinks some of the champagne while messing with Bromberg. To end the evening he dumps a bunch of food onto Bromberg. He then leaves the house. After he has gone, Hall asks more questions of Massey and he puts cream on his face, so she can get an idea of what he looks like. He then falls asleep on her couch.
Bromberg returns to the headquarters and Hardwicke asks him about the stains on his uniform. He tells Hardwicke what happened and he is interested. He then goes to visit Massey and reveals information to her. He also checks some of the furniture, but finds nothing.
Later we see a door open between two Nazi soldiers and close. The door is then locked. Hall starts to go through files and Hardwicke enters the room. Hall is now trapped. The two of them talk, with Hardwicke trying again to get the formula. Hall comes up with a plan though by starting a fire and he escapes, with a book of all of the agents for the Nazis and Japan.
Lorre shows up to talk with Hardwicke and is fearful that the book he gave him has been taken. Hardwicke is not very friendly and tells him that it is none of his concern. Can Hardwicke get the book back without Lorre knowing? Can Hall get what day the attack will be and get that information to the British? Can Hall help turn the tide of the war for the allies?
I have to say that I really liked the concept of this film. They took the idea of being invisible and decided to go into a different direction with it. With World War II going on, I think it is brilliant that they came up with the idea that they could make a secret agent invisible to help turn the tide. It was very believable to me that Hall didn’t want to turn the formula over to the government, there is some mistrust there and it could be disastrous if the wrong people use it. I love the idea though of taking a Universal Monster concept and applying to a scary situation in the real world at the time. I thought the acting was good for this film as well. I was also a big fan that the Gestapo and Japanese agents butt heads and turn on each other as well.
My biggest issue with this film, as with most from this era, is that it has a low running time and would have benefited from having a subplot or two to help flesh out the story. This could have been done to help make the characters deeper as well. I did find this film a little bit racist in that Lorre, who is from Austria-Hungary or modern day Slovakia, and had him plan a Japanese person. It was the time period, so I won’t hold that against the film too much. I wasn’t a big fan though of having this film be part comedy. It kind of undermined some of the scenes and made me not take it as serious. I know having someone invisible fight someone does make it slapstick in a way, but I’m not a big fan.
Now with that said, I liked this film better than the one that came out previously to this one. I thought this film had a much better concept and execution. I love that they took a Universal Monster and then made it into a secret agent in World War II, which was currently going on. They really capitalized on what was happening around them. I felt the acting was good. The story could have used a subplot or two to help flesh it out since it did have a running time of about 80 minutes. I will warn you that this film is from the 1940s and in black and white. If that is an issue, then I would avoid this one. If you are interested in seeing all of the Universal Monster films, I would tell you to view this one or if you want to see all of the Invisible Man films. This one could also be viewed as a stand alone film as well.
My Rating: 6 out of 10