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Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Study in Classic Horror- THE INVISIBLE MAN RETURNS (1940)

As far as sequels go, The Invisible Man Returns is fairly satisfying. It may not be as a strong a film as Bride of Frankenstein, but it certainly has more going for it than Revenge of the Creature. It also does a nice job of revisiting the elements of its predecessor without being too repetitive.

This time around the invisible man in question is the victim rather than the aggressor.  Geoffrey Radcliffe (Vincent Price) has been wrongly imprisoned for the murder of his brother. His friend Frank Griffin (John Sutton) injects him with the invisibility serum invented by his brother Jack (the title character of the first movie) allowing him to escape, thus giving him the opportunity to track down the real murderer and clear his name. Things get complicated as the maddening side effects of the formula begin to manifest in Geoffrey.  The story becomes a race as Frank tries to discover a cure, while Geoffrey’s fiancée Helen (Nan Grey) tries to keep him from going over the edge as he attempts to confront the man he believes to be the real killer, Richard Cobb (Cedric Hardwicke). Hot on his heels is savvy Scotland Yard Inspector Sampson (Cecil Kellaway) who remembers the events of the original Griffin case all too well.

Though the storyline has some freshness, it still appears the filmmakers couldn’t resist bringing back some familiar plot elements of the original. Hardwicke and Grey’s characters seem like echoes of those played by William Harrigan and Gloria Stuart previously. But this is a minor quibble and easily overlooked in light of the new special effects tricks learned between movies.

I was a little curious about Vincent Price’s voice in this film. Price had one of the most recognizable voices in movie history, but here, in what is essentially a vocal performance, he doesn’t quite sound like himself. Granted this is one of his earlier performances, but he’s not that much younger than he was in some of his other notable roles. I suspect it was a conscious choice either on his part or the director’s; I just wonder what the motivation was. Only in a scene where Geoffrey seems to really be going off the deep in does Price’s familiar cackle sneak in.

Supporting features:

The Merrie Melodies cartoon Russian Rhapsody (1944)

The Our Gang short Fish Hooky (1933)

Next time:
The Man Who Laughs (1928) starring Conrad Veidt and Mary Philbin