The Invisible Man's Revenge

04/10/2017 17:16

Film: The Invisible Man’s Revenge

Year: 1944

Director: Ford Beebe

Writer: Bertram Millhauser

Starring: Jon Hall, Leon Errol and John Carradine



This is a movie that I originally sought out after college. I wasn’t familiar with the Universal classic films so after watching them, I dove into the sequels. It had been years since I saw this. I figured I’d give it a rewatch as part of my Foray through the Fours. I’ll be honest, I didn’t remember much about this one coming back in.

Synopsis: an eccentric scientist helps a fugitive from the law become invisible, unwittingly giving him the power to exact revenge on his former friends.

We start this on the docks. We see a crate being taken from a ship. A knife cuts through the canvas and Robert Griffin (Jon Hall) appears. We see him go to a tailor to get new clothes and it is through this that we see he has a temper. He leaves his old clothes behind and in a pocket is a newspaper article saying that he escaped from a mental hospital. He also killed two people in the process.

It then shift to a family in a large estate. The father is Sir Jasper Herrick (Lester Matthews). His wife is Irene (Gale Sonderaard). Their daughter is Julie (Evelyn Ankers) and she is seeing a reporter, Mark Foster (Alan Curtis). They go off on a date as Robert arrives. He sees them leave. It is as they’re going that he says the name of Julie. Something about his character is that he’s having memory issues.

Robert knocks at the door and the butler, Cleghorn (Halliwell Hobbes), answers. He admits entry as well. The Herricks are shocked that he’s there. They went on an expedition together to Africa. Robert was hit in the head and knocked out. He was left with another member of their group. This other person told the couple that Robert died. His being there shows he’s very much alive. He also becomes a thorn in their side. He has a contract they made together about a diamond mine he found. They inform him that they did make money off that mine, but they lost it all in bad investments. This angers Robert and he demands half of their money, but they can’t do that. Robert is given a drink and he can’t handle it. He is escorted out of the house. They think he is psychopathic and that he isn’t the same man they knew.

He then stumbles down to a river and falls in. On the bridge above him is Herbert Higgins (Leon Errol). This man is a drunkard. He helps him out of the river and takes him back to his house. They come up with a plan to try to blackmail the family. They hire Feeney (Ian Wolfe), who is a lawyer, to go with Herbert to get money out of them he feels they owe. This is broken up though when Sir Frederick Travers (Leyland Hodgson) arrives. He’s the head of the local police. This is shut down and the two leave.

Robert is down on his luck, even more with the police running him out of town. That is when he arrives at the door of Dr. Peter Drury (John Carradine). He offers him a place to stay. He also wants him to help with an experiment. Dr. Drury has been able to turn a bird and a dog invisible. He wants to try this serum on Robert, who agrees. This gives him the leg up he needs to get what he wants out of the Herricks. It is when he needs to turn back that this becomes a problem.

That is where I’ll leave my recap and introduction to the characters. Where I want to start is that this is an interesting sequel. Unlike the original one, this man seems to be borderline insane to due to a head injury before he becomes invisible. This to me makes him more dangerous. It doesn’t necessarily borrow as much from H.G. Wells’ short story, aside from the name Griffin. I did like this different take and this feels more like a stand-alone film than a sequel.

Where I want to start then delving deeper with would be Robert and his dispute with the Herricks. Robert has a point. He found the diamond mine and was willing to share it with them. I don’t know if they left him for dead on purpose, but they thought he died. Bad investments happen so that’s a bummer that they wasted the money. They owe him, but I don’t know if he is entitled to half of what they own. That becomes problematic due to the house being inherited so it was in their line prior to that expedition. Due to that head trauma, which does seem to make Robert more aggressive and I like that idea. Hall does a great job here as this villainous character.

I also like this sub-plot with Dr. Drury. It doesn’t seem like he has any connection to any of the previous movies in this line. He is a doctor doing his experiments and wanting to make his name amongst the great scientific minds. He sees a desperate man with Robert, but underestimates what he’ll do after becoming invisible. This is a bit different take on the mad scientist subgenre that we don’t always see. I did appreciate that. I do like Carradine here as this doctor as well.

Now I do have an issue here. Our lead is our villain with Robert. Julie and Mark are supposed to be our heroes, but they fade into the background. Her parents assume more of the story. They just feel wasted and I know Mark fights Robert, but it is the dog that also does more when it comes to the resolution. I thought that was a misstep. I do like having our villain as the lead though.

I’ll then finish acting. I’ve already said that Hall was good in his role as was Carradine. Sondergaard and Matthews were solid as well as the rich parents who started this mess. Ankers is usually a good actor, but her lack of screen time causes her to disappear. Curtis was fine as her boyfriend who steps in as a hero. I needed more there. I like Errol who brings levity. He also brings tension as he’s bullied by Robert. I did like the cameo by Cyril Delevanti as Malty Bill who is the tailor in the beginning. The acting here is solid across the board.

All that is left then is filmmaking. I need to start with the effects. I love what they do with the invisible stuff. There is one point where thanks to high definition, I could see Hall’s face when I shouldn’t. What I love though is seeing through to the back of the bandages when he has the classic Invisible Man look. We also get flour or water to reveal his face. That was a good touch. We do things with an invisible bird and dog. I was a fan there. I’ll also credit the cinematography. They don’t do a lot with it, but I think framing worked well to hide different things. Other than that, the soundtrack fit what was needed. Being that Robert or the animals are invisible, the sound design helps where we think they’re in one place and end up being in another. That’s a good touch.

In conclusion, I thought this was a solid sequel. This one is more of a stand-alone movie from what I could tell so it doesn’t violate continuity. I like that this uses a different take. Instead of having a main character who goes insane from the serum or the power of being invisible, we have someone with head trauma who has anger issues getting power that he shouldn’t have. The mad doctor isn’t necessarily a villain either. I thought the acting was good. It was only Ankers and Curtis who I thought needed a bit more to work. This is also well done with the effects leading the way. I’ll also credit the framing and cinematography to help there as well. I’d recommend this though to fans of this era or out to see the Universal classic sequels. This is a fast watch that is solid.


My Rating: 7 out of 10