Quick Hit: Academy Award winning special effects and a solid voice performance by a young Vincent Price buoys this sequel into rare territory.
After the extraordinary success of The Invisible Man, Universal Studies had to capitalize with a sequel. So in their second time around with a lot of the movies, in the forties, Universal released The Invisible Man Returns.
Now, minor spoiler alert for the first movie – how did they make a sequel when the original Dr. Griffin died at the end of the first movie? Well, Dr. Griffin’s brother gives the invisibility serum to Sir Geoffrey Radcliffe so that he can escape being wrongly convicted of murder. Rather than just hiding while Dr. Griffin tries to find the cure to his invisibility, Radcliffe searches for the men who set him up and framed him.
Whereas most sequels (especially early sequels – I’m looking at you, Son of Kong) are content to simply have a retread of events that occurred in the first movie, Returns did a great job of separately itself from the original. While the fact that it was a different man playing the invisible man helped, you can tell that care was taken within the script to distance itself from the original. There is less humor here, and more frightening scenes that allow you to wonder how much a man with the power of invisibility could really get away with.
The effects are an improvement upon the original, which is amazing. There is one scene where Radcliffe takes the clothes off of a scarecrow and puts them on ON CAMERA. For the forties, that is a tremendous technical accomplishment. Vincent Price stated that scene took nearly three hours to shoot, but ended up only being on screen for three minutes or so. It’s that extraordinary attention to detail with the effects that ended up garnering not just a nomination for special effects, but an Academy Award – Universal’s only for its classic monsters.
Vincent Price, one of the horror godfathers, plays Radcliffe. Now, despite spending most of the picture as a disembodied voice, or hidden behind clothes and bandages, he knocks it out of the park. That’s because he gets to straddle the line a bit more than Raines did. Radcliffe struggles and fights the impending madness that the invisibility is forcing on him for much longer than Griffin did. And he has a convincing reason for doing some of the more grey moral activities – he was framed by some really bad men for murder. In this way, the movie is an improvement on the original.
However, I tend to prefer a bit of the madcap comedy, so I give the original a slight edge in my ratings. I’m going to give this one an “A-“. Thanks for joining us for oldies week. I think it's obvious that these types of movies are some of my favorites. I'm looking forward to some more "David" themed things - like Stephen King weeks and a special month for Halloween. See you then!
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The Invisible Man
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"