The Invisible Man Returns

04/05/2017 17:15

Film: The Invisible Man Returns

Year: 1940

Director: Joe May

Writer: Lester Cole and Curt Siodmak

Starring: Cedric Hardwicke, Vincent Price and Nan Grey



This film I actually didn’t know existed until I saw the original The Invisible Man and started to do some research. It led me to these and some others as well. I’ve seen al of the movies in the series upon updating this, with giving this one a second viewing due to coming out in 1940. After that one viewing of the original, the Invisible Man is one of my favorite Universal villains for sure. The synopsis here is the owner of a coal mining operation, falsely imprisoned for fratricide, takes a drug to make him invisible, despite its side effect, gradual madness.

We begin around a table. There is talk of a man that is going to be hung that day and the butler who helped raise him believes that he is innocent. There is a woman that loves him and continues to hold out hope that there will be a reprieve because there is no way that he would have killed his brother. This woman is Helen Mason (Nan Grey). There’s also a doctor there that was his friend and co-worker Dr. Frank Griffin (John Sutton). He hopes that he is freed as well. Frank is also the brother of the original Invisible Man.

There’s then a big commotion at the prison as the day of the execution, the prisoner has escaped. They start to do the investigation, but somehow he disappeared. The man who will head up this investigation from Scotland Yard is Sampson (Cecil Kellaway).

We hear someone walking and they come to a suitcase. Clothes are removed. Helen goes to a remote house where she rents a room from Ben Jenkins (Forrester Harve)y, who is the owner. This place actually looks awfully like the place from the original film as well. Helen tells Ben that someone is going to come meet her who is not feeling well and that they are going to need their privacy. He agrees for what she is paying. His dog starts to bark and that is when a man appears. His face is covered in bandages and he is wearing goggles, so no part of his body is exposed. The man is Geoffrey Radcliffe (Vincent Price) and he is the one that escaped from prison.

Sampson visits Frank, knowing that he helped his friend escape. He has suspicion that Geoffrey is currently invisible and that is how it happened. Frank plays it off like he doesn’t know what he is talking about and Sampson now knows that he won’t be helpful in finding the escaped man.

Geoffrey maintains that he didn’t kill his brother and he is out trying to figure out the truth. The problem is the side effect that Frank’s brother experienced from taking this serum, the longer he’s invisible, the crazier he becomes. Geoffrey does visit with Frank at his lab and notices that Willie Spears (Alan Napier), the former night watchmen at the mine is now the superintendent. Geoffrey decides to mess with him and reveals some interesting information. Not everyone who is supposed to be his friend is telling the truth. Can Geoffrey keep it together long enough?

I have to say that this film was a pretty solid sequel to the original. I liked that they tied in characters from the previous film into this one. I should also point out that this is the first horror film that Price was in, so this has a lot of historic significance as he wasn’t typecast yet. Also since continuity is a big thing for me, I don’t recall them ever stating in the original if Adrian had a brother, but I’ll overlook that. This also takes place 9 years after the original if memory serves, so that helps as well.

This story has an interesting start where Geoffrey is set to be executed. He needs to prove his innocence, so he commits a crime. The problem then becomes he is sinking into madness while trying to do this. Because of this, he becomes a bad guy and commits more crimes that are even worse on his way to doing so. The movie is subtle in introducing that Geoffrey becoming invisible was a good man. All these people don’t think he did it and that he did some good things for the mine. There’s a character that is up to some nefarious things and I like the flip, also having characters with dual natures is something I’m a fan of.

Now I did have some issues with this film. The first one being how did Frank get the formula into the prison that was holding Geoffrey so he could become invisible? Now I get that this is the 40’s where things were much more lax, but I still feel like this is a plot-hole. Another issue that I found is when the police are searching the house that Geoffrey is hiding in. They completely ignore a room and go to the next one. If you are doing a proper search, you are going to clean every room in order, but instead they gave him his chance to escape.

To shift this over the pacing, I do think that this movie is much better than many with how deep the story is. Now we really don’t have much in the way of sub-plots, but they really do give some of these characters deeper back-stories. It has a low running time, which I can appreciate. I did find myself losing slight interest for a stretch, but I was never bored. I do like how this ends and how vicious Geoffrey gets. The ending is a bit clinched, but you have that.

Next I wanted to go over the acting. As I’ve stated about the dual nature of some of these characters, I liked seeing Hardwicke here. He was a staple of Universal films I believe and he’s solid. The role he gets to play was solid and how it plays out. It is also fun to see an early role from Price. We really don’t get to see him, so he is mostly in masks. Regardless, he conveys his emotions and makes such a villain here, even though he was good in the beginning. I thought Grey was solid and quite attractive. It is interesting to have the brother of original Invisible Man as a secondary character with Sutton, but I thought he was good. Kellaway brings a bit of humor, but he also knows what he’s doing. Napier, Harvey and the rest of the minor characters also round this out for what was needed.

The last thing to cover would be the effects. Since this came out after the original, they do a bit more and I actually liked it. I’m assuming they’re using early green-screen here. Whatever, it is pretty impressive with minimal flaws in my eyes. It does get a bit slap-stick, but not enough to bother me. I’d say that overall, the effects were really good for the era, especially when smoke and rain are used with the Invisible Man in it. The cinematography was also solid in my opinion.

With that said, I would recommend seeing this film if you liked the original or you enjoy the old Universal classics. This film has a great cast as well as the concept. The story is deeper than the original. I think this is benefited with fleshing out the characters as well as they do. The film is in black and white as well as being from 1940 so keep that in mind. If this one does sound good, I would give it a viewing. This film can be viewed without seeing the original, because the film does fill in what you need to know from that one. This one is deserving of a viewing for its historical significance as well as being the first horror film with Price in it. I find this as I said a worthy successor to the original and a good movie overall.


My Rating: 8 out of 10