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Universal Monsters in Review: The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944)

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Let me start by saying  that I am a fan of the Invisible Man. The original book by H.G. Wells is a work of utter brilliance, and the original 1933 film, The Invisible Man, starring Claude Rains, is a wonderful screen adaptation and true to the “mad scientist” theme. Its a difficult story to pull off in a movie. The effects have to be decent and the actors have to be good enough for everything not to come off feeling comical. The original with Claude Rains as the invisible man gave us the building blocks of what to expect in later invisible man movies, a scientist driven mad by his own formula and desire for recognition in his field of study. The Invisible Woman has yet to make it on Universal Monsters in Review, so we’ll leave that one out for now, but the rest, The Invisible Man Returns, the Invisible Agent, and Abbot and Costello Meet the Invisible Man, while trying to do things different, end up coming off strangely out of sync. Of these, at least The Invisible Agent was cinematic and entertaining, despite its obvious propagandic agenda. The Invisible Man Returns was kinda of a bore with too many complicated themes going on, and A&C Meet The Invisible Man was entirely way too long. The Invisible Man’s Revenge seemed…well, different then the rest. The Invisible Man is no longer the protagonist, which is fine because he is the monster, right? But with the story of some maniac wanting to get back what’s owed to him (money), blackmailing and murder and what not to achieve his goals, well…I didn’t really see the need for the invisible man aspect of the film. This easily could have been a straightforward noir mystery without the need of the “mad science” of invisibility, in fact, I’d be as bold to say the entire invisible man part was tacked on and not the central theme, as it should have been. We don’t even get “the invisible man” until the second act. And the encounter with the “mad scientist” was utterly coincidental. The one saving grace for me (though the movie was entertaining regardless of non-monsterism) was John Carradine as Doctor Peter Drury and Leon Errol who played bumbling drunk Herbert Higgins. Leon stole the show, in my opinion, and was truly a pleasure watching preform. Okay…as it seems, I’ve again gone on waaay too much. Lets see what our estimated guest author had to say about The Invisible Man’s Revenge.

 

The Invisible Man’s Revenge

By: Jeffery X. Martin

“The Invisible Man’s Revenge” is the fifth film in the series, and how did that happen? As far as monsters go, the Invisible Man isn’t that impressive. You can’t see him. He’s not even malformed or hideous to look at when he’s visible. Imagine people paying money to go see nothing and being frightened by it.
Historically, this counts as a horror film. It’s not. It’s a pot-boiler, a melodrama with sparse horror elements. A man returns to London only to learn he’s been bilked out of a fortune in diamonds by people he considered friends. He vows revenge, which comes when he meets a mad scientist. Actually, he’s quite friendly, as far as mad scientists go. He even has his hair brushed.
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The scientist has created an invisibility formula. It alters the skin pigmentation, changing the way light refracts. Think of the Predator, only thin and with a funny mustache.
Once the good doctor injects our lead with the serum, he goes after his former friends with a see-through vengeance.
The special effects are neat, in the same way that card tricks are neat. You’re not quite sure how they did them, but you’ve got a pretty good idea. There are lots of floating objects and hard-working actors reacting to something attached to fishing line. The scenes where the Invisible Man unwraps the bandages from his head to reveal nothing are still impressive, even if he’s less the Invisible Man and more the Walking Blank Chromakey Weather Map. One expects to see a high-pressure front forming where his forehead should be.
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Jon Hall as the unseeable male is passable. It seems like the filmmakers believed they had the next big star on their hands, and he received top billing. And while stalwart B-movie performers infest this movie like bedbugs in a Mississippi motel room, the real standout is John Carradine as the crazed yet urbane Dr. Drury. He gives this programmer an air of elegance it would have otherwise lacked.
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The main problem with “The Invisible Man’s Revenge” is, when you think about it, there was no need for him to be invisible for him to carry out his evil plan. He could have achieved his ends simply through threats of violence. A man will sign almost any self-incriminating piece of paper when he’s staring down the barrel of a .38. It feels like they took a script that was floating around the studio and adapted it to the Invisible Man series. This practice still continues in Hollywood, which you know if you’ve ever watched a “Die Hard” sequel.
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Set in London, the main characters all sport American accents. The ending feels tacked on, with a short speech at the end to remind the audience of just how evil it is to be evil. I imagine if this movie had been made pre-Code, it would have been far more enjoyable.
As it stands, this is a decent little feature, light as a cloud. You’ll forget you saw it soon after, but again, you’re five movies into the franchise. Anything is bound to get a bit long in the tooth after that long. “The Invisible Man’s Revenge” is for completists only, and even those who insist on seeing them all are better off watching “Abbott and Costello Meet The Invisible Man” first.
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Please call me X. Everyone does. When I was a kid, fourth grade, to be exact, I wrote a horror story for a class assignment. It was so good, they called my mother in to the office for a conference on a day when school was closed for students. The fourth grade teachers and the school principal wanted to have me evaluated by a psychologist. The school staff couldn’t figure out why I would want to write a story that was violent or had frightening images. Why wasn’t it football, puppies and rainbows?I wasn’t that kind of kid. My mother knew that. And she promptly told those teachers, the principal (and that horrible school secretary, the one who looked like a Raggedy Ann doll, possessed by Pazuzu) and anyone else within earshot to go f**k themselves. I still write scary stories. It’s my job. It’s what I do. It’s what I’ve always done.
You can keep in touch with X on his prolific podcast Kiss the Goat and Screen Kings. You can find his work, including his newly minted novel Hunting Witches, on the altar of Amazon by following the link provided here.

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Opus Questions with Jeffery X Martin

Beyond the sunlit world exists a land of shadow and myth. Are you ready to enter? On this episode of Opus Questions we’ll have the unfortunate pleasure of hearing from Jeffery X Martin, a twisted brilliant mind of dark and unpleasant words.  If you’ve been following this chain of segments, Opus Questions is all about traveling that dark and narrow road to discover what horror writers enjoy reading, what books tickle their fancy, what novelizations have terrified them, haunted them, forced them to turn on the light. Opus Questions is also about finding what books have inspired these up and coming wordsmiths of the strange and unusual. For every writer has their favorites, the ones they hold dear. Because part of being a good writer, you have to be a good reader as well. So, to keep things interesting and to be a bit villainess on my part, I’ve asked my guests to tell us what their favorite books are and why. And they can pick only two. You heard me. Just two!!! (laughs manically) So, without further ado, here is…

Jeffery X Martin:

You’re on the bus after a long day at work. It’s a Friday, and you want nothing more than to take off your pants, fix a stiff neat drink and hope to hell your head clears out. Not on the bus. That would be weird. Note to self: Must keep pants on while riding public transit.

An old woman has decided to sit next to you, of all places. There are easily fifteen empty seats on the bus, but she plants herself right beside you. She smells faintly of denture adhesive and knee sweat. On her purse is a giant white button, which reads in bright red letters, “ASK ME ABOUT MY GRANDCHILDREN!” You catch her maneuvering her bag on her lap, making sure you can’t help but see the button. The sweet message is now a challenge. Her matriarchal pride looms over the two of you like a hot cloud.

You know asking her is a terrible idea. There is never just one grandchild. She is the Mother of Nations. She will have to tell you about each and every dismount, in alphabetical order, stating their latest developmental milestones like new commandments, cooing their names like she can wish them into her presence. Her anticipation and nervousness are getting to you now, and you can feel a fine film of sweat forming on your forearms.

You don’t want to ask.
You need to ask.

THAT is precisely what Thomas S Flowers has done by asking what my two favorite books are. He has put himself in that situation. He has done it to you, also, Reader. I am shifting in my seat, a small smile on my face.

Come here.
Let me tell you about my two favorite books.

There’s nothing more punk rock than a good short story. Get in, make your point, and get out. Leave an impact. Make someone feel something without having to wrap them up in a blanket of flowery prose. Do that, and you have done something amazing not only for your reader, but for yourself as a human being. You’ve communicated effectively. Not even politicians understand how to do that.

Dark Forces, Kirby McCauley, 1980

Dark Forces, Kirby McCauley, 1980

But legendary editor Kirby McCauley understood. He got it. When he put together the anthology, Dark Forces, he created the perfect snapshot of horror at that time. I was eleven years old when I read that book and it changed my life. That’s not hyperbole.

Each story by itself is a prime example of fierce writing, even Stephen King’s novella The Mist, which sets itself up with comic-book like quickness and delivers on every level. It introduced me to the lonely highways of Dennis Etchison and the poetic dread of Lisa Tuttle. Robert Bloch’s tale, “The Night before Christmas,” was a direct influence on one of the stories in my book, Black Friday. It was a crazy collection, a gonzo mixture of old and new. It was also the first time I thought of short stories as something other than homework. They were viable vessels of fear.

The more I became involved in horror, the more I wanted to read. New stuff, old stuff, whatever. The Arbor House Treasury of Horror and the Supernatural read like a full college course in horror fiction. It was even divided up into a “Classics” section and a “Modern Masters” section. Eclectic? You bet. This book has horror stories from Truman Capote, William Faulkner and Winston Churchill. The modern stories are equally as fantastic, featuring Ramsey Campbell, Charles L. Grant, and one of Karl Edward Wagner’s best stories, “Sticks.”

The Arbor House Treasury of Horror and the Supernatural

The Arbor House Treasury of Horror and the Supernatural

I credit these two books for helping me pass English classes. If the Arbor House book with the crazy long name was my college education, Dark Forces was my extra-curricular reading. I absorbed them. I learned structure by osmosis. I figured out character development through repeated reading. It’s like that anti-drug PSA from the Eighties.

I learned it by watching them.

Thanks to Mr. Flowers for allowing me to bogart his blog. I’m sure you’ve already bought his new book, Reinheit, and are looking forward to his story in The Black Room Manuscripts. I’m going to go back to the beginning of this blog entry and finish that story I started.

Blame Arbor House and Kirby McCauley.

 

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I want to thank Jeffery X Martin for taking the time and telling us a bit about the books and collections that have helped shaped his darkly twisted mind. You can find Jeffery X Martin lurking somewhere in the Great American Southland, where his name is whispered in fear around dying campfires on humid nights at the edge of summer. He enjoys Italian horror movies, professional wrestling and a nice sunset. He can be heard on several podcasts, including Kiss the Goat, a show about Devil movies he co-hosts with his wife, Hannah. His latest book, Short Stories about You, is available on Amazon. You can also follow him on Twitter: @JefferyXMartin.