Written by Bertram Millhauser
Directed by Ford Beebe
Starring Jon Hall, Leon Errol, John Carradine, Alan Curtis, Evelyn Ankers
US Release June 9, 1944
RT 78 min.
Home Video Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Classic Horrors rating = 5 (out of 10)
This movie should really be called “An” Invisible Man’s Revenge, not “The” Invisible Man’s Revenge. I know, it’s just semantics, but the “The” indicates there is one invisible man and this is his revenge. In reality, the last of Universal’s Invisible Man series (unless you count Abbott & Costello Meets…) has nothing to do with the original The Invisible Man. Don’t let the name of the lead character, Robert Griffin, fool you; he’s of no relation to Dr. Jack Griffin.
In fact, he’s not even a doctor. Newspaper headlines would have us believe he’s a “homicidal maniac” that escaped an institution. That’s a reversal of the original story where it was the invisibility serum that drove a man insane. However, we end up in the same place in both cases, with a crazy invisible man running around wreaking havoc. Here, his purpose is more focused, though, as he holds Sir Jasper and Lady Irene Herrick at his mercy for cheating him out of his share of a fortune.
Who created the formula, then? That would be Dr. Peter Drury (John Carradine), a mostly harmless gentleman who owns a menagerie of invisible pets, but sees an opportunity in Griffin (Jon Hall) to experiment with a human being. Griffin is incredulous at first, but Drury tells him, “compared to air that has body or clear water in a bottle, it’s not so strange.” Before long, Griffin is transparent and Drury is fueling his delusions of grandeur by telling him he’s immortal.
I wrote that Invisible Agent was finally a fun movie about invisibility, but The Invisible Man’s Revenge tops it. At the local pub, Griffin helps Herbert Higgins (Leon Errol) win a bet in a hilarious game of darts. And in the finale, Griffin fights rival Mark Foster (Alan Curtis) in the wine cellar. It’s the most action we’ve seen… er, not seen… between two characters in one of these movies, and it’s well done and effective. Bottles crash and tables flip, seemingly of their own volition.
Alas, there’s one huge plot development that makes no sense, other than to advance the story. At first, Griffin makes sure that Drury can keep him invisible: “There’s no chance of turning visible until you’re dead.” But then when he thinks being visible will somehow change the Herrick’s minds about sharing their wealth, he changes his mind and fights to stay in sight. Oh, well, he’s supposed to be crazy, so I guess making a decision and sticking with it isn’t his strong point.
Plus, this gives him an even more sinister purpose. Since only the blood of another man will keep him visible, he first drains Drury and when it doesn’t last, goes after Foster. Hence, there’s the fight in the wine cellar. It’s also a little convenient that with only 15 minutes left in the movie, Griffin announces that a dog is the only living thing he’s afraid of. It’s not going to be a surprise, then, that this dog will provide his ultimate demise. (“Rin Tin Tin Meets the Invisible Man”?!?)
Again, don’t think there’s a relation, but Hall was the Invisible Agent, also. I didn’t notice him much in that one, probably because he was invisible most of the time, but in The Invisible Man’s Revenge, his face gets a lot of screen time. A good-looking man who’s a cross between George Clooney and Johnny Depp, he’s quite charismatic. I’m not familiar with the actor, but this makes me want to research his resume. I’m kind of surprised he didn’t become a bigger star.
Universal’s invisibility movies were more miss than hit. But in the sense that they explored the joy and wonder of being invisible, they actually got better with each subsequent installment. None of them are my favorites, though. I don’t think any of them really took advantage of the concept. Their stories are contrived to fit a gimmick rather than evolving organically from the gimmick. I guess I prefer monsters that I can actually see.