Seeing The Invisible Man chapter 5: The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944)


The Invisible Man’s Revenge sees the return of The Invisible Man as a villain. In fact, this time he borders on being a vampire!

The Invisible Man hasn’t always been a bad guy. In The Invisible Man Returns he was only kind of villainous, with the story (and Vincent Price’s performance) emphasizing his humanity more than his cruelty. The Invisible Woman not only had a female as the invisible character, but she’s not villainous at all.

In fact, the film is basically a romantic comedy! 1942’s Invisible Agent had an Invisible Man character, except he was a good guy, and the movie was obviously a war-time propaganda film.  In my review of that film, I suggested a sorely missed opportunity to have an invisible spy struggling to retain sanity and loyalty to any side, or to anyone but himself and his power.

So, in all of these films, what was missing? The Invisible Man as an obviously bad guy! Well, in 1944 that changed right back around.

Ford Beebe’s The Invisible Man’s Revenge is not only comparable to the original, but it makes the character similar to a vampire! It’s actually a pretty smart gimmick, too. Robert Griffin (Jon Hall) starts as sort of a rampaging killer, but becomes even more so after becoming invisible.

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He is actually required to have human blood in order to regain visibility. It’s kind of a clever twist, right?  Sure, there is a story here, and Griffin even has some reasons to be angry at the Herrick family that he torments (they seemingly left him to die in the jungle and made off with a fortune in diamonds).

However, most of the focus will be on what Griffin does with his invisibility — which he received by being a test subject of Dr. Peter Drury (John Carradine). Griffin and his pal Herbert Higgins (Leon Errol) get involved in a web of blackmail attempts, intimidation and murder, as well as hustling locals to cheat at darts (Hint: Invisibility makes it easier for darts to hit a bulls-eye).

A Good Film with Some Missed Opportunities

The Invisible Man’s Revenge is a well-done movie, and certainly a return to form. In fact, it comes pretty close to matching the mania of the first installment (though Claude Rains and James Whale couldn’t be beat). At the same time, there are a few pesky little missed opportunities here.

For whatever reason, none of the Invisible Man films have examined the potential for invisibility itself to make someone power mad.  In the original film, Rains’ character is driven nuts as a quirk in the formula itself, and this is made oddly clear right from the start.

In a few other films, the characters had to fight it off like an alien force, if they had to deal with it at all. In The Invisible Man’s Revenge, the character is already basically loco, as he had already killed before invisibility ever entered the character’s mind.

However, what if these characters became mad because, you know, they’re invisible?  Put yourself in their shoes.  Wouldn’t there be an increased temptation to do bad stuff, simply because one could get away with it?  Okay, maybe you wouldn’t fall into that pattern, but is it so hard to imagine the potential for abuses of all kinds?  That would be the real horror of invisibility, it seems.

The Invisible Man – The Invisible Man’s Revenge – Courtesy of Universal

However, these moral elements are sort of side-stepped, and it may have been due to moral concerns at the time. To suggest that every person is potentially corruptible by such power might have been too bleak of a concept. We don’t want to think of ordinary people becoming perverted spies, thieves, murderers, etc., simply because they could get away with it.

Would someone who becomes invisible believe they’re invincible?  It’s a startling, uncomfortable question, but it could have been addressed more fully by any one of these films.  In contrast, it could have addressed cynical minds which reach such conclusions.  The options are endless!

Final Thoughts

The Invisible Man’s Revenge delivers the goods, and is possibly scarier than you would think. Jon Hall is a competent madman and John Carradine does what he’s supposed to do. The other main actors — Alan Curtis, Evelyn Ankers, Gale Sondergaard and Lester Matthews — do a satisfactory job, even if their role is primarily to look scared. Also, the idea of someone needing human blood for visibility is interesting.

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Maybe Robert Griffin could have struck a deal with a blood bank. However, this was still 1944, so most blood was probably spared for the war effort. Too bad this Invisible Man didn’t know The Invisible Agent!  Griffins of a feather apparently don’t flock together.

What are your thoughts on The Invisible Man’s Revenge? Let us know in the comments!