THE INVISIBLE MAN’S REVENGE (1944) was the last of the serious Universal INVISIBLE MAN series. There would be one more, but that one would include Abbott and Costello in the cast, in the appropriately named ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE INVISIBLE MAN (1951).
Previous films in the series include THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933), THE INVISIBLE MAN RETURNS (1940), THE INVISIBLE WOMAN (1940), which was also played for laughs, and INVISIBLE AGENT (1942). The best film in the series remains, by far, the first one, THE INVISIBLE MAN, which was directed by James Whale and starred Claude Rains as the invisible one.
THE INVISIBLE MAN’S REVENGE is considered to be the weakest of the series, and while I can’t disagree, I do still enjoy this one. It has its moments. Its biggest flaw is its story just isn’t very good.
It also has no connection to the previous films. And while the main character’s name is Robert Griffin— Griffin being the surname of the original Invisible Man and his various relatives in later movies— in this film, the character in spite of his name is no relation to the Invisible Man Clan.
In THE INVISIBLE MAN’S REVENGE, shady character Robert Griffin (Jon Hall) recently recovers from amnesia and remembers that his “friends” owe him half their fortune. When he returns to their mansion, both Lady Herrick (Gale Sondergaard) and Sir Jasper Herrick (Lester Matthews) are shocked to see their former friend, who they believed was dead. They are even more shocked when he not only demands half their fortune but also their daughter Julie (Evelyn Ankers), even though she’s engaged to a reporter Mark Foster (Alan Curtis). Rather than call their attorneys, they drug Griffin and toss him out of their home.
Infuriated, Griffin happens to stumble upon a house in which a scientist Doctor Peter Drury (John Carradine) lives, who just happened to discover the secret to invisibility! How convenient! So, Griffin becomes invisible, and with the help of a comical local sidekick Herbert Higgins (Leon Errol) attempts to coerce the Herricks to give him their fortune and win back Julie. Standing in his way is heroic reporter and fiance Mark Foster, and when he can’t get the job done, it’s up to Dr. Drury’s loyal pet dog (Grey Shadow) to save the day!
It’s never a good sign in a movie plot that the film’s hero turns out to be a dog. Don’t get me wrong. I love dogs. A lot. But when this happens, and it’s not a movie about a dog, that’s just not saying much about the film’s human characters.
And overall, the entire story in THE INVISIBLE MAN’S REVENGE is not a very good one. The screenplay by Bertram Millhauser doesn’t give us much of a conflict or characters that are all that interesting.
Robert Griffin isn’t the most sympathetic character, and for most of the movie is a demented villain, which is par for the course for an invisible man in these stories, but there’s just something unlikable about him throughout the movie. Not that a character has to be likable. But some characters you enjoy watching them be evil or dark, but that isn’t quite the case here.
This was Jon Hall’s second time playing an invisible man. He played an entirely different character, also invisible, in INVISIBLE AGENT.
Leon Errol chews up the scenery as the comedic Herbert Higgins who decides to assist Griffin enact his revenge, as long as there is some money in it for him. The dart throwing contest is one of the highlights of the movie, where Higgins challenges the local dart champion and receives help from his invisible friend.
But the best performance in the movie… no surprise… is from John Carradine as Dr. Drury. It’s a small role, but Carradine is on point throughout, and he makes for a really interesting scientist, not your cliche movie mad scientist. It’s a shame he’s not in this movie more.
Evelyn Ankers, who appeared in THE WOLF MAN (1941) and THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN (1942), among others, has very very little to do here as daughter Julie Herrick. She’s hardly in this one. Another Universal monster movie veteran, Lester Matthews, who starred in WEREWOLF OF LONDON (1935) and THE RAVEN (1935) is very good here as Sir Jasper Herrick.
THE INVISIBLE MAN’S REVENGE was directed by Ford Beebe, and like most of the Universal classic monster movies, looks terrific. The black and white photography, the huge mansion, the raging thunderstorm outside Dr. Drury’s laboratory, keep this one steeped in creepy atmosphere.
The special effects, while not as impressive as the effects in the original INVISIBLE MAN, are still pretty good, and make for a lot of fun.
Again, the biggest knock against THE INVISIBLE MAN’S REVENGE is its story just isn’t all that exciting or interesting, and the same can be said for its characters, with the possible exception of Dr. Drury and his pet dog, and Drury just isn’t in the movie all that much.
Yup, when all is said and done, when summing up THE INVISIBLE MAN’S REVENGE, it’s pretty clear that regarding this movie, there simply isn’t a lot… to see.
Wasn’t it WC Fields who said “never work with kids or dogs- they always steal the scene”?