The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944) Shows Character While Telegraphing Revenge
This is the last, classic Invisible Man movie from Universal, as the studio tries to claw out a couple bucks from this old franchise, before they give up and play it for laughs with Abbott and Costello. Film noir was king in 1944 and Laurence Olivier owned the screen with Shakespeare, but the most popular movies of 1944 were not war movies as you might expect. This one tries to fit in with a new crop of genre standards. The Invisible Man’s Revenge seems to want to be more than it is, to break the mold and deliver something new, but it doesn’t go far enough.
Claude Rains owned the screen in the original Invisible Man, but Jon Hall and others fail to deliver as powerful a performance. That’s not a bad thing, because Jon Hall and John Carradine do something surprising instead. They try to add two-dimensions to their characters. What a concept. That’s right, everyone is a fully fleshed-out character in this stupid, Invisible Man movie, which is already many sequels in. Even the mad scientist has a moment to be human. It’s something extraordinary I didn’t expect. The Invisible Man has to be villainous, so they do telegraph some of the plot, which is unfortunate. Too bad, because the characters could have been very different and modern if the script really committed. As it is, the movie only touches on the development needed to make this a real classic. Still, it’s nice.
There are the standard things in this movie I didn’t like, but the state of the characters makes me forgiving. Things like the talkative scenes and the telegraphed plot were bad, but even those didn’t bother me. I will note that the “invisible man” is now an escaped criminal, so at first I assumed that they threw out the whole notion that Jon Hall’s character could be anything more than a villain because he certainly acts like a villain in some parts. But he’s not just a criminal, or an insane guy or an obnoxious supervillain like Claude Rains, he’s much more, which is why this movie is underrated, in my opinion.
In 1944, Universal did not have a very good year. Universal sputtered all over the place, releasing a crappy movie with Lon Chaney Jr, a Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes movie (thank you), a few horror sequels, and some musicals. The Invisible Man’s Revenge seems like a second thought, but it has a lot of interesting things like character development and plot twists that make it worthwhile. It telegraphs revenge, but the journey is a good one.