OOM #29 – The Invisible Man Returns (1940)


Hello, do you read me? Do you see me? Do you hear me? Good. Welcome to the October Overlook Madness, and after a couple of really crazy days, I must finally admit that I’m insane for doing this during what has been one of the most overloaded months of my work life. I deserve a recognition, but I guess making people happy is enough, or at least it should be. Today we follow the initiative of the Cinemassacre’s Monster Madness, but with a caveat, as his video (which you can see here) tackles six films, the six movies that comprise the Invisible Man series produced by Universal. Starting with ‘The Invisible Man’ (1933), which is my favorite Universal Horror Film, and one of my favorite films of all time, he goes through the rest talking about their strengths and weaknesses. The second film, ‘The Invisible Man Returns’ (1940), is one I haven’t seen, so is the chosen one for today. Maybe in time I can tackle the rest, but today I can barely finish one.

So, this science fiction/horror piece is contaminated with the elements and the special effects that made the original ‘The Invisible Man’ (1933) famous and successful and one of the most amazing and funny pictures that the Universal Studios released in the 30’s, and this is mostly a redo of similar imagery in a much less interesting context and with a weirdly less interesting voice, this time done by the wonderful Vincent Price, who was still shaping his acting style and voice, in his horror debut here we only see him towards the end when the whole invisible thing ends, much like in the original film, and I guess that’s the main problem with this particular film: it’s derivative and asks constantly to make those connections. Why all the people that turn invisible have the urge to use bandages and those dark glasses, now before someone says that it’s the perfect disguise, maybe just think about it for a second, you know, just a second, and tell me again that that ghastly imagery was the best way to disguise oneself against the views of the rest. So, instead of playing a game of different perspectives and how the formula that the original scientist turns people insane and makes them disguise weirdly, why not make it something different? That’s why I think that the rest of the sequels will be better as they are less connected to that masterpiece that was the initial film, which seems to be the fault of the studio by killing off its main star at the end. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie, but it’s not a great one either.

The film follows the premise of a convicted murderer that is set free with the help of the formula that once aided the protagonist of the earlier movie invisible, the brother is who has inherited that formula and helps his friend who has been wrongly accused of that crime. Most of the film there’s a lack of urgency in terms of solving anything, but instead we are left with effect shots that render the common life of the Vincent Price character into a curiosity, as a way of answering, how would an invisible man live his normal love life being completely invisible? That prevents the movie from being fluid, a constant stop and watch that life and those special effects, that are astounding for the era, but that kinda takes away everything that made the 1933 film lovable: a character that constantly is on the edge of being caught, doing bad stuff, doing incredibly dangerous stunts, revealing himself, and while there are some scenes in this movie that are similar to the things I describe, it’s nothing much else but that: similar scenes that mimic the shock and the incredible effects of the first one. There are a couple of sequences that render some originality, like the final ones where he dresses up with clothes from a scarecrow, or when he tries to scare someone into a confession, which also goes on for too long at times, as it never seems to be satisfied with what it has achieved. Hm, I’ve noticed that I’ve been way too negative with this film that I don’t necessarily hate, but maybe I just love the first movie way too much for me to consider this a worthy successor, but it kinda is, and it kinda gave us Vincent Price in a very young age. At least there’s that.




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