Directed by Joe May [Other horror films: Hilde Warren und der Tod (1917)]
The Invisible Man is perhaps my favorite of the Universal classics, and so setting out to watch this sequel, it was hard for me to not expect to be let-down. As it is, The Invisible Man Returns is an okay film, probably around average, but I dare say that it pales in comparison to the first movie.
As far as the strong points go, this movie has more than a few. There are some pretty good sequences (the best of which were police in gas masks trying to smoke out the invisible man, as his outline would be noticeable in the smoke), good performances, and a surprisingly decent conclusion. All of this is good, but once everything else is taken into account, the film still feels around average.
The 1933 classic wasted no time – we began with an iconic scene, and every scene thereafter was worth seeing. That doesn’t strike me as being the case here. Sure, this movie is only ten minutes longer than the first one, but some parts don’t feel as engaging, and though the performances work well, not every part of the story does.
Certainly seeing a young Vincent Prince (in his first horror movie role, second if you count 1939’s Tower of London) is great, even if you only see him in the final scene. Just hearing his voice is good enough for me. Cedric Hardwicke’s character was terrible, but Hardwicke (who just filmed The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and did The Ghost of Frankenstein shortly after this) was as fine as he always is. John Sutton (Return of the Fly) and Nan Grey (Dracula’s Daughter) were both solid, Sutton standing out as a nice willing accomplice to Price’s invisible form.
Even so, the film largely feels more of the same. It’s a decent story, what with a background of an innocent man (Price) attempting to prove his innocence, but it’s also not near as charming as the first film, and despite some good scenes here and there, such as Price tormenting another character by pretending to be a ghost, it’s hard to say this is entirely worth seeing.
Still, The Invisible Man Returns is a fine film. It’s not great, and I’d probably say it’s around average, but it’s not shabby. It’s just not near as memorable or iconic, despite Price’s early role, as the classic 1933 movie.
4 thoughts on “The Invisible Man Returns (1940)”