Monday, August 11, 2008

Movie Review: The Invisible Man Returns

The Invisible Man Returns

Starring: Vincent Price, Cedric Hardwicke, Nan Grey, John Sutton, and Cecil Kellaway

Directed by: Joe May

Written by: Joe May, Curt Siodmak, Lester Cole, and Cedric Belfrage (uncredited)

Production Company: Universal Pictures

Release Date: January 12, 1940

Sir Geoffrey Radcliffe is moments away from execution for murdering his brother when he disappears. While the police search for the runaway Radcliffe, Inspector Sampson rfom Scotland Yard beliefs the fugitive may have developed a peculiar quality...invisibility. It's a reasonible deduction considering Radcliffe's friend is Doctor Frank Griffin, brother to the original Invisible Man (played by Claude Rains in the 1933 original). Indeed, Griffin did help Radcliffe escape so that he could hunt down the real killer. Can Sampson catch a new invisible man? Can Radcliffe discover the identity of the real murderer before he's captured? Can Griffin develop an antidote for the invisibility before Radcliffe goes crazy?

This is a by-the-numbers sequal that still manages to entertain. The plot is nearly identical to the original, but, unlike modern sequels, doesn't make the mistake of one-upping its predecessor into idiocy.

Playing Radcliffe, the Invisible Man, is a young Vincent Price. This was Price's fourth role and first real major lead role. While he doesn't quite have the Vincent Price deliver that would one day make him a horror icon, and while he didn't quite hold a candle to Claude Rains's role, Vincent still plays the role quite well. Scenes where Radcliffe descends into madness are convincing and eerie.

Playing the part of Radcliffe's rivel, Richard Cobb, for the love interest is Sir Cedric Hardwicke. Because he has his eyes on Radcliffe's love, Cobb gets tormented by the Invisible Man. Hardwicke plays the confident, slimy businessman who becomes the cowardly weasel well. Watching Hardwicke, you'll be able to see why he had already been knighted in 1934, one of the youngest actors at the age of 41.

Playing the love interest, Helen, caught between Radcliffe and Cobb, is Nan Grey. Grey holds her own with Price and Cobb in one of her last roles before retiring from the screen in 1941. She's attractive and plays Helen with finesse, though the role was kind of limiting in its depth.

Our connection with the first The Invisible Man movie, Doctor Frank Griffin, is played by John Sutton. Sutton delivers a performance effectively showing us a character who is concerned for his friend, but with a touch of the mad scientist that Griffin must have shared with his more famous brother. After all, for a man who claimed to not have anything to do with his brother's work, he was quick to use it to free his friend.

The most entertaining character, however, is Inspector Sampson played by Cecil Kellaway. Kellaway's brusque, cigar puffing Scotland Yard inspector steals the scene when he appears.

The Invisible Man Returns is a fun sequel and if you like the Universal Silver Screen Horrors, then you should include this along with the original Invisible Man. The effects are improved upon and often even look better than some modern special effects look bad. It's one of those films that should be shown to modern special effects people to let them know, sometimes a simple trick is better than all of the computer effects you can come up with.

Where Else Can We See Them?

Vincent Price was a horror movie master and has a long list of impressive horror movie roles. His last horror related roles include the renowned Tim Burton fantasy Edward Scissorhands in , and the 1988 horror comedy Dead Heat, a buddy cop movie starring Joe Piscopo and and Treat Williams. Williams's character, Roger Mortis, is brought back from the dead to help partner Bigelo (Piscopo) track down his killer. Following The Return of the Invisible Man, Price returned to horror in 1946 in Shock. Dr. Cross (Vincent Price), a psychiatrist, is treating a young woman, Janet Stewart (Anabel Shaw), who is in a coma-state, brought on when she heard loud arguing, went to her window and saw a man strike his wife with a candlestick and kill her. As she comes out of her shock, she recognizes Dr. Cross as the killer.

Cedric Hardwicke appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's Suspicion about a shy young English woman who marries a charming gentleman, then begins to suspect him of trying to kill her. Hardwicke's last horror role was the 1964 TV movie The Unknown, a twisted tale in which two women, Kassia and Leonora, are driven by a fanatical blackmailer, named André, in a white Rolls Royce at full speed. A murder, a strange blind man, and a time machine that can bring the dead back to life, this tale was shown as an episode of "The Outer Limits".

The Invisible Man Returns was Nan Grey's last horror film. She also appeared in the 1936 Dracula's Daughter, based on Bram Stoker's "Dracula's Guest", the excised chapter from Lugosi's Dracular published two years after his death. Hungarian countess Marya Zaleska seeks the aid of a noted psychiatrist, in hopes of freeing herself of a mysterious evil influence.

John Sutton's last horror film, The Bat reunited him with Price. A crazed killer known as "The Bat" is on the loose in a mansion full of people.

Cecil Kellaway's last horror film was Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte, the 1964 film won the 1965 Edgar Allan Poe Award for best picture and was nominated for 7 Academy Awards. The arrival of a lost relative, engulfs terror upon an aging southern belle, forever plagued by a horrifying family secret.

This was Joe May's only horror as a director, but is credited as one of the writers in the 1940 continuation of the Invisible Man series The Invisible Woman, a horror comedy where an attractive model with an ulterior motive volunteers as guinea pig for an invisibility machine.

Curt Siodmak's work continues to influence movies. In 2001, his screenplay I Walked with a Zombie was adapted into Ritual with Tim Curry. Dr. Alice Dodgson gets her medical license revoked after the death of one of her patients. She accepts to be the nurse for Wesley Claybourne who suffers from cephallitis. Aside from the sickness he's suffering, Wesley believes he has been "touched" by some voodoo cult. While she stays in Jamaica, Dr. Dodgson discovers that voodoo is not only a "state of mind" and could be a real threat to her life and Wesley's. She'll have to discover why she and her patient are targets of the voodoo curse. His novel Donovan's Brain was adapted for the 1962 horror The Brain. A millionaire businessman's brain is kept alive after a fatal accident, and communicates clues to a doctor on the trail of the killer. He had an uncredited hand in the writing of the 1961 horror The Devil's Messenger, a 50,000-year-old woman is found frozen in an ice field, and a man's death is foretold in dreams, starring Lon Chaney as the Devil. Siodmak followed The Invisible Man Returns with 1940's Black Friday. When his friend Professor Kingsely is at deaths door, brain surgeon Dr. Sovac saves his life by means of an illegal operation that transplants part of injured gangster Red Cannon's brain. Unfortunately, the operation has a disasterous Jeckll and Hyde side effect and under certain conditions the persona of Cannon emerges starring Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff.

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