Universal Monsters: The Invisible Woman (1940)

Written by Robert Lees, Frederic I. Rinaldo, Gertrude Purcell
Directed by A. Edward Sutherland
Starring Virginia Bruce, John Barrymore, John Howard, Charles Ruggles
US Release Dec. 27, 1940
RT 72 min.
Home Video Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Classic Horrors rating = 5 (out of 10)


With the exception of the “Abbott & Costello Meet…” movies, I never really expected other comedies to be part of a Universal Classic Monsters DVD box set. I was quite surprised when I popped The Invisible Woman (1940) into the DVD player and quickly learned it was a romantic screwball comedy.

This angered me at first and I almost stopped watching, but then something odd happened. When I put my pen down and stopped taking notes, then just sat back and watched, I ended up enjoying the movie, even though I still debate whether or not Kitty Carroll (Virginia Bruce) should be considered one of the Universal Monsters.

The Invisible Woman has absolutely nothing to do with either of the previous two Universal “invisible” movies, The Invisible Man or The Invisible Man Returns. In fact, it’s not just a potion that turns Carroll invisible.  There’s also a machine that Professor Gibbs (John Barrymore) invented working in conjunction with the formula.

Neither device slowly drives its victim insane. There’s no race against time to return Carroll to visibility.  Perhaps the point that finally lowered my defenses is that when she gets drunk, it alters her physiology and makes the results unpredictable.  More importantly, this is the first invisible person who knows how to have fun with her affliction.

The first thing she does is to visit her boss and literally give him a swift kick in the rear. This may be a comedy, but that is realistic.  She also has great fun with teasing her unlikely playboy suitor, Richard Russell (John Howard) about what she really looks like.  Proving to him that she’s not fat, she slowly puts on her hose to give form to her lovely legs.

It’s all very light and entertaining, if not extremely old-fashioned. A subplot about a Mexican mob’s plan to steal the invention is less so.  I’m not much for slapstick, so when the butler tumbles down the stairs and the maid gets locked in the closet, I cringe.  I have a feeling there are better movies similar to The Invisible Woman, so while I enjoyed it, it still made me want to watch something else.

One thought on “Universal Monsters: The Invisible Woman (1940)

  1. I had the same reaction as well when I first saw it many moons ago; but you’re right; if you just sit back and let it run, it grows on you.


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