The Invisible Man Returns (1940)

A bit torn with this one. You can basically look at the movie two different ways: As a direct sequel to the original 1933 film, in which case it completely pales in comparison and feels like an entirely unnecessary addition to the Invisible Man story. But on the other hand, if you were to look at it as its own standalone movie that just happens to prominently feature invisibility as a plot device, the movie actually has a certain harmless charm to it that makes it quite enjoyable to watch. Essentially, you can have fun with it, but more than likely you will find yourself asking why was it ever even made in the first place. Overall, it is very much a positive experience.

Like I said, the invisibility is merely used as a plot element here rather than the entire focus of the story itself, and for what its worth, it does it well enough, with  plenty of room left for improvement. I did appreciate the fact that they came up with a rather sound and logical explanation why Vincent Price becomes invisible in the movie: he is sitting on death row, for the murder that he did not commit, and on the eve of his execution he has his scientist friend visit him and gives him the invisibility potion to help him escape.  As a nice little addition, they even factored in a subplot about attempts to cure Price before he goes entirely bonkers, just like Griffith did in the original movie. Of course, that’s easier said than done, and to have conflict, Price slips to the deep end quicker than they had anticipated and runs off to abuse his powers. I was a bit worried that might sidetrack the main plot, but much to my surprise Price’s rampage actually ends up factoring to a relatively satisfying climax where Price’s innocence is proven as a side product, but never the less, it does get wrapped up very conveniently.

The ending itself also proved to have some unexpected level of ingenuity in it. In the climax, Price is injured badly and rushed to the hospital, but they can’t operate on him because he’s invisible. To add even more drama to the mix, they have manufactured an antidote to Price’s invisibility, but they are unsure whether or not to use it, because it could just kill him on the spot. This small burst of nerve racking conflict helps the actual ending from being too sappy, as the dilemma is suddenly proven to be for nothing: Price had been given a transfusion of blood when being treated in the limited capacity that his condition allowed, and as the new blood starts to replace his own, Price slowly becomes visible again and we can finish the movie with a happy ending.

Visually, it was a very well made, though it doesn’t quite live up the marvel of the original. Still, the movie certainly earned its Academy award nomination for that year, even if it did not win it. Most of the invisibility effects were retreads of the original, which was to be expected, but there are few new additions to the invisibility repertoire that looked quite spectacular. The one that caught my eye the most was the scene near the end where we see the Invisible Man slowly strip a scarecrow and put the clothes on himself, with everything done as a continuous scene done entirely on screen. It was a sequence that only lasts couple of minutes in the movie but took several hours to complete in real life. Another effect that looks great is in the scenes where you can only see Price’s silhouette when he’s invisible. He appears suddenly as a vaguely visible when he comes in contact with a puff of smoke and is actually a bit of a jump scare when you realize he’s there. It’s soon after repeated slightly differently when he has ran outside the house and it’s raining and you can see his outline in the air where the rain touches his body. It’s very impressive visual given the limitations of the era, and it looks very cool.

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