DVD Review

“H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man”

By Theo DeRoth

H.G. Wells' Invisible ManOld TV, the stuff clichés are made of. From Lucy in her creepy frilly apron to Andy whistling on his way back from the fishin’ hole, this stuff is embedded in the popular consciousness. But what about the ones that aren’t re-run constantly? The ones you aren’t familiar with, that aren’t instant cultural references?

Well, that’s The Invisible Man. When I mentioned it to my dad, he had some vague memories of it, but other than that, it seems to have disappeared. And then MPI re-released it. So here we are.

Surprisingly, portions of it are quite good. The special effects – things like cars without drivers and chairs being picked up and thrown by an invisible man – are pretty smooth for the time. And there is a certain style to it, without doubt, though of the type that involves ascots and plaid button-down shirts. But the series suffers in several ways, mostly because of dated writing, out-and-out lousy acting and no series continuity.

Take the third episode, Behind the Mask, as an example. In it, our hero the Invisible Man – known in the series as Doctor Peter Brady and voiced by Tim Turner – is forced to aid a mysterious, heavily scarred man in a half mask to become invisible. This man, also known as Dennis Price and introduced as “the fabulous Raphael Constantine” is revealed to have an ulterior motive: He wants to kill the South American president Dobecq (since, as we all know, South America is one big country) in an attempt to right some largely unspecified wrong. In his attempt to become invisible, Constantine is killed, his daughter (played by Barbara Chilcott) tries and fails to kill Dobecq and the day is somehow saved by Dr. Brady.

In between, there’s much crying of things like “How I hate that smirking, unmarked face,” an awesomely bad fight scene between Dr. Brady and one of Constantine’s toughs, and shots of Constantine’s remarkably unattractive daughter, Maria. The acting in this episode, as in all the others, is uniformly bad and many things are, unfortunately, left to the imagination. It’s one thing to not show the full extent of the damage to Constantine’s face; it’s quite another to never say exactly how it got there or what Constantine’s beef with Dobecq is (there’s vague talk of a bomb and the loss of many factories, but beyond that the viewer is left in the dark). And, as far as I could tell, none of the characters ever reappear in the series for closure. This episode is, sadly, a perfect representative of the flaws of the entire series – lack of continuity from one episode to the next, poor scripting, bad acting, strangely incoherent storylines and bizarrely unappealing female leads.

To be sure, The Invisible Man is the kind of series that’s ripe for network resuscitation – all the elements of a good modern series are there, from a potentially angst-y main character to opportunities for disfigurement and good looking women. But as it is, the series hasn’t held up for modern viewers. It’s very much “of a time,” to put it delicately. It’s the kind of thing that’s great to put on at a party with friends so everyone can make snarky comments and laugh at the driverless cars. It’s worth a watch, if you’re into fifties TV, or if you’re an Invisible Man fanatic, but for most of us, it wouldn’t matter if the series disappeared as easily as the main character.

Contact Information:
Dark Sky Films
Post: MPI Media Group, 16101 S 108th Ave., Orland Park, IL, 60467, USA
Phone: (708) 873-3177
E-Mail: chris.hester@mpimedia.com
Web: www.mpimedia.com

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