Seeing The Invisible Man chapter 6: Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man


Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man doesn’t bring the scares but may elicit some genuine laughs. Let’s look at this entertaining horror-comedy!

By 1951, The Invisible Man franchise was pretty well-established. However, it likely faced the question every ongoing story does: Where do we go next? Most horror films either get sillier or bloodier as they go on. This series interestingly employed both approaches before. The Invisible Woman was a rom-com, with no real horror at all.

In contrast, The Invisible Man’s Revenge almost made the Invisible Man into a vampire!  With Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man, the comedy element is back, but way more successfully than with The Invisible Woman. That’s due to the comedic talents of Abbott and Costello.

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The basics

Fresh out of detective school, Lou Francis (Lou Costello) and Bud Alexander (Bud Abbott) instantly come across as two bumbling yet case-hungry investigators. For better or worse, their first case falls into their lap, as a boxer named Tommy Nelson (Arthur Franz) visits them.

Trying to flee a murder charge, Nelson is seeking their help to clear his name. As it turns out, there isn’t much mystery here. We quickly learn that Nelson’s promoter, Morgan (Sheldon Leonard), had framed Nelson for the murder of his manager, after refusing to throw a fight. In other words, Morgan isn’t only a killer but someone who likes a rigged game (which makes mobsters even lowlier, if you think about it).

Anyway, Tommy Nelson’s fiancée, Helen Gray (Nancy Guild), has an uncle with an invisibility formula. Dr. Philip Gray (Gavin Muir) refuses to help Tommy. He’s concerned that Tommy would go insane in the process, much like the formula’s creator, John Griffin.

However, Tommy is desperate to avoid either imprisonment or death by Nelson and takes the formula himself. This is a story that technically wouldn’t need Abbot and Costello, yet the comedy and drama are rather skillfully blended (which is harder to accomplish than it sounds).

Best moments

While Tommy Nelson’s plight is potentially interesting, almost nobody will be focused on that with Abbott and Costello in the mix. The funniest — yet oddly frustrating — parts involve Costello as a boxer, going undercover and nail Morgan. As one might expect, Costello’s overall boxing ability is the handiwork of The Invisible Man.

However, if you’re invested in the character, you’ll probably be comically frustrated when Costello does a lousy job of making his fighting (and training routine) look authentic. I almost had to pause these scenes and pace around the room, shouting, “What are you doing. Bud?!” Then I remembered it was only a movie, and these jarring sequences are part of the movie’s comic intent.

So what happened here? I was a little invested in this movie, and irrationally so. In other words, Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man had a surprising ability to draw me in and make me care about what happens.

Finally, one should note that the invisibility effects are very, well, effective. Particularly memorable is when The Invisible Man starts shaking someone’s hand while visible, only to have his visibility fade away.

This was 1951, yet the effect was done better than most films would accomplish with CG! Also, toward the end, the comic potential of an invisible Costello is explored, and it is alternately silly and creepy.

Like all of its predecessors, this film doesn’t fully explore the perverted potential of invisibility, but it hints at it. It may be the second-best Invisible Man film in the series (so far).

While it’s not a masterpiece, it’s stable enough to keep your attention and zany enough to merit some laughs. Go ahead and check it out!

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What are your thoughts on Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man? Let us know in the comments!

Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man is available to purchase or rent on-demand.