Monday, October 9, 2017

The Invisible Man Returns (1940)

In the back of the book, Monster Madness, which I bought when I was around 11, are filmographies that, for the most part, detail the various films in which the featured monsters appear (I say, "For the most part," because they left out all of the Hammer Frankenstein films after The Curse of Frankenstein, save for 1970's The Horror of Frankenstein, and for Edward Scissorhands, they listed Tim Burton's entire filmography up to that point, which was odd), so from an early age, I knew of the varied follow-ups to The Invisible Man, including the comedic Invisible Woman and the wartime espionage thriller, Invisible Agent. Like the original movie, though, I wouldn't see these films until I was well into my teens; more specifically, a couple of years after I first saw the original when I bought the Universal Legacy DVD set (and just a quick heads up: The Invisible Woman and Invisible Agent won't be part of this Halloween marathon since neither of them qualify for it; they will be reviewed eventually, though). Delving into it, I was most excited to see the original again but I was also very interested in this film, which I knew starred Vincent Price and also because I'd seen a snippet of its trailer in the documentary, The Fly Papers: The Buzz on Hollywood's Scariest Insect. As with most of these Legacy sets, the making of documentary on the main film (in this case, Now You See Him: The Invisible Man Revealed) gave me a taste of what was to come when it quickly went through the follow-ups during the last bit, which made me even more interested, and upon watching the film, I decided that it was worth the anticipation. While not as classic or affecting as the original, this is still a very well-made, entertaining flick, benefitting from a good cast, more well-done special effects, and healthy production values that put it on a level above many of the other horror films Universal was producing around this time on B-level budgets, making it one of the better films made during the second half of their classic horror run.

Sir Geoffrey Radcliffe has been sentenced to death for allegedly murdering his brother, Michael, a crime his friends and family are convinced he didn't commit. When the chance for a formal reprieve is lost, Radcliffe's fiancé, Helen Manson, and his friend, Dr. Frank Griffin, put into action an unusual and risky plan to save his life and allow him to find the real killer. Griffin visits his friend a mere hour before he's to be executed, per his last request, but when the time comes for it, Radcliffe has suddenly disappeared from his cell, leaving his clothes behind. News of his escape spreads among the locals and the mention of Griffin's name piques the interest of Scotland Yard's Detective Sampson, who later confronts Griffin at the Radcliffe family colliery, where he works as a physician. Sampson has looked up the file on Griffin's brother, the original Invisible Man, and suspects that he's injected Radcliffe with the same invisibility drug that also eventually drove his brother insane. Griffin denies having any interest in his brother's experiments but Sampson isn't convinced, and rightly so, as Radcliffe has indeed become a new invisible man, thanks to his scientist friend. After finding a box of clothes and bandages that Griffin left for him in the woods, he meets up with Helen at a small cottage in the woods owned by Ben Jenkins, a local gamekeeper. There, Radcliffe rests for a while, knowing that he has little time before the drug drives him mad and asks Helen to help Griffin to keep him from hurting anyone should it come to that point. Meanwhile, Griffin tries to come up with an antidote for the invisibility formula, trying it out on guinea pigs, but it ends up killing the subjects after restoring them. Back at the cottage, a local policeman becomes suspicious of Jenkins' actions and his dog's constant barking and barges his way into the building, coming face-to-face with the disguised Radcliffe. Radcliffe then discards his clothes, bandages, and dark glasses and escapes, as the officer informs Sampson. While they miss Radcliffe and the officer allows Helen to leave, Sampson decides to keep an eye on her, knowing that she'll lead them to him. After listening in on a heated conversation between Griffin and drunken night watchman turned superintendent, Willie Spears, Radcliffe becomes suspicious when Griffin tells him that his cousin, Richard Cobb, who's also next-in-line to inherit the company, gave Spears the promotion after his imprisonment. Following and frightening Spears, Radcliffe forces him to confess that he saw Cobb kill Michael and that he gave him the promotion in exchange for his silence. Now knowing who the killer is, Radcliffe sets out to deal with him, but time is running out, as not only is the very clever Sampson constantly on his trail but he also soon begins to develop the same signs of madness and megalomania as Jack Griffin.

The film's director, Austrian-born Joe May, was a significant figure in that he's considered on of the pioneers of German cinema, having directed nearly a dozen films for the Berlin-based production company, Continental Art-Film GmbH, from 1912 to 1914, as well as forming a couple of production companies of his own before having to serve in World War I. Not only did he direct and produce a number of other movies under his own production company, mostly crime thrillers and adventure films, he also often worked with his actor wife, Mia May, and, most significantly, gave Fritz Lang his first major break as screenwriter on his films. After directing more down to Earth films in the late 1920's and musical comedies in the early 30's, May emigrated to America in 1933 and began working in Hollywood, mainly at Universal. Around the time of The Invisible Man Returns, he made movies like Confession, which featured Basil Rathbone; The House of the Seven Gables, which was a remake of a 1930's German film; and two movies with the group of actors known as the "Dead End Kids," although apparently, he didn't get along with them that well. On The Invisible Man Returns, there was a communication problem, as May barely spoke any English, and I think he had to rely on the assistance of the screenwriter, fellow German émigré Curt Siodmak (who'd most famously write The Wolf Man), to help him out. This actually turned out to be one of May's last films, as he only directed four more afterward, with his last being, Johnny Doesn't Live Here Anymore, released in 1944 and starring Simone Simon, who was most well-known for Cat People. After that, he's only credited with writing the original story for 1944's Uncertain Glory, which starred Errol Flynn, and 1950's Buccaneer's Girl, which starred Yvonne De Carlo (Lily Munster). May died in 1954 at the age of 73 after having been sick for a long time.

Is it me or do the bandages look more benevolent on Price's
face than they did on Rains'?
Instead of Jack Griffin somehow returning to life, as the movie's title would make you think, we instead get a new invisible man altogether but it doesn't matter, because he's both a great character and, even better, is played by a young Vincent Price in his first leading role in a horror film (that is, if you don't count 1939's Tower of London, which Price had a small supporting role in, as a horror film). While Griffin was entertaining to watch because of Claude Rains' wonderfully maniacal performance and did have a sympathetic backstory, Price's Sir Geoffrey Radcliffe is a genuinely likable character whom you can root for. We're told of what a great guy he was by those who know him long before we actually meet him, which is why they all feel that he couldn't have murdered his brother, particularly since it's said that they were quite close, and it proves to be true when he meets up with Helen Manson at the cottage in the woods. The moment he walks in, he's making jokes and coming across as a truly nice guy, asking Helen, "How does it feel to have a phantom fiancé?" and telling her stuff like, "I'm lucky. I can see you. After all, I'm not much to look at anyway," and, "But, if the worst comes to the worst, I can always get a job haunting a house." But for all of his joking, Radcliffe is also very unnerved by the notion of having become invisible, telling Helen that he's tried for the past months when he knew they were going to do this to mentally prepare himself for the change but now that it's happened, he's not so sure if he can handle it, and is also on edge, coming close to raving when Ben Jenkins' dog won't stop barking and howling, fearing that he'll attract attention. His biggest fear, though, comes from knowing that the drug will eventually drive him insane, asking Helen to help Frank Griffin in keeping him from hurting anyone should that happen and at one point when he sees the look on her face when she gets a glimpse of the serum's effects, wishing that he hadn't taken it altogether and just let them hang him, saying his life isn't so important that it should threaten hers and Griffin's. And then, seeing that he's upset her with what he said, shows again what a good guy he is by apologizing and wiping away her tears. He also shows that he's really smart when, after being appalled at the indignity in which Willie Spears, a former night watchman, speaks to Griffin, and learning that Richard Cobb made him superintendent after his imprisonment, he realizes that there has to be a connection there and forces Spears to tell him what it is.

Note how much he looks like the original Invisible Man
now that the madness has set in.

Being a naturally more benevolent person than Jack Griffin, Radcliffe's madness comes on much gradually. Instead of becoming a raving lunatic outright, he first becomes overly cocky and mischievous, playing with and teasing Willie Spears by chasing him through the forest and pretending to be a ghost, saying that he died a horrible death, before frightening him into confessing that Richard Cobb was the one who killed his brother, Michael, and tying him up at his own house. He then tries to make Cobb write out a confession while confidently sitting in a nearby rocking chair, telling Helen what he found out, giving Cobb an opportunity to escape. Upon evading Detective Sampson's men, as they try to find him in the house by using smoke, and making his way past the men guarding Griffin's house, it's clear that Radcliffe's overconfidence is growing and growing. That night, as he's having a "celebratory" dinner there with Griffin and Helen, he's loudly laughing about how he easily he was able to escape the police, ignoring the fact that there are a couple of detectives right outside, and then says something alarming: "You know, Frank, I'm beginning to get a new perspective on this crawling little animal known as man. Why, a dog or a cat or a bird is cleverer than any human. They sense me immediately, but these 'shrewd' detectives of yours... Take away one of man's senses and you render him helpless." When he insists that he has proof that Cobb killed Michael and that Spears is mixed up in it, Griffin suggests telling Sampson so he'll be off the hook but Radcliffe is now drunk with power, proclaiming that he's never been freer. He says, "You know, being invisible has distinct advantages. It gives one a sense of power that's exciting. Power for good, if you're so inclined, or should you feel perverse, for evil. You hold the balance and decide which way life should go. No one can stop you. No one touch you. You don't need any infantile little Sampsons to carry out your will. You're much greater than any of them." He goes on to rave about what he can do for, or with, his country: "Control it! Other nations will tremble before it, as this nation will tremble before me... I could sit in on the councils of kings and dictators! It makes me king! It makes me... nemesis." While Price's delivery of these speeches doesn't have the same strength and overwhelming feeling of malice that Rains' did, he's no less a joy to listen to and gets across the notion that, even though he's much jovial and laughing than Jack Griffin was, Radcliffe has lost his mind to the drug, making it clear that he intends to do away with Cobb and possibly Spears. He becomes quite defensive when Frank Griffin suggests that he's going mad, accusing him of being afraid for himself should the police discover that he's involved in this plot, and removes his bandages and puts on a robe to make it easier for him to escape. After he drinks the drugged champagne and temporarily loses consciousness, giving Griffin time to chain him up, he feigns being restored to normalcy in order to overpower Griffin and unlock the chains, escaping the house to deal with Cobb.

Now dangerously unstable, Radcliffe forces Cobb out of his house at gunpoint, taking him over to Spears' house to make him confess in front of him (the only reason I can think of is to prove to Cobb that he does indeed know the truth) but when Cobb escapes the house, Radcliffe chases him throughout the colliery and fights with him atop a conveyor belt of coal wagons. He tries to make him confess to the murder out loud but almost suffers the same fate as Jack Griffin, as he's shot by Sampson. He wanders away from the site and puts on a scarecrow's clothes in order to make himself visible and turn himself in, bleeding out all the way. Despite Cobb confessing to the murder before his own death and Radcliffe making it back to the colliery to be treated by Griffin, it looks like he's going to die from massive blood-loss and the fact that Griffin can't operate to save him from internal bleeding due to his being invisible. Fortunately, a blood transfusion he receives from the workers at the colliery restores his visibility and makes the operation possible (like Claude Rains, this is the only time you actually see Vincent Price).

I wish I could say that Nan Grey has more to do as Helen Manson than Gloria Stuart did as Flora Cranley in the original film but that's not quite the case. While she's more involved with the story, being part of the plot to give her fiancé the chance to escape prison and find the person who really killed his brother and giving him temporary shelter at Ben Jenkins' cottage in the woods, she doesn't do much else other than support Radcliffe and try to bring him back to reason when he begins to go mad. Like Flora before her, she can't do much to stop her beau once he loses his mind to the drug (she does absolutely nothing but yell at him to stop when he attacks Griffin for the key to his chains late in the film) and she's also more visibly disturbed by the invisibility effect initially, especially when she makes the mistake of turning around and watching Radcliffe undress the first time, a sight that causes her to faint. She also doesn't believe Radcliffe's saying that Richard Cobb killed his brother at first and is only truly convinced later on when he goes into more detail about how he knows, and she gets caught up in Detective Sampson's attempts to find Radcliffe inside Cobb's house, which ends up giving Radcliffe the chance to escape with her. Like Flora, she stays by his side when he's brought to the doctor after being shot but the big difference is that she doesn't lose Radcliffe and will be able to marry him once his health is restored.

A more significant supporting character is Frank Griffin (John Sutton), the brother of the original Invisible Man and Radcliffe's best friend. Although he claims to Detective Sampson early on that he was never interested in his late brother's experiments, he knows enough to have replicated the invisibility serum, which, according to Sampson, he and Radcliffe had apparently been working on even before the murder. It seems he was the one who came up with the plot to make his friend invisible, giving him a chance to continue the experiment, despite the risks involved, but now, Griffin is stuck with the dilemma of trying to find an antidote for it before Radcliffe goes insane. Whatever confidence he may have initially had about being able to come up with the antidote in just a few days is quickly destroyed when the only one he does make kills the guinea pigs he uses it on and he eventually works himself to exhaustion trying to find a nonlethal one, to no avail. Despondent, feeling that he's failed both Radcliffe and Helen, he then sees that Radcliffe is beginning to go mad and slips a drug into his wine, knocking him unconscious, and chains him up, keeping a promise he made to him before he injected him. However, Radcliffe is able to overpower him and grab the key for the chains, leading into the climax where he gets shot while trying to force a confession out of Richard Cobb. When Radcliffe returns, seriously wounded from losing a lot of blood, Griffin has the men at the colliery give him a transfusion but it's not enough, as he's hemorrhaging internally and Griffin can't perform the necessary operation while he's still invisible. With no other alternative, Griffin decides to use the potentially lethal antidote he'd come up with before, since Radcliffe has no chance at all without it. Fortunately, the blood transfusion itself cures him of the invisibility, making the operation possibly after all.

Detective Sampson is one of my personal favorite roles of Cecil Kellaway, as it's a departure from the usual jolly, happy-go-lucky sort of performances he typically gave. Instead, he plays Sampson as a very quick-witted, intelligent detective, one who knows he's heard the name "Griffin" before and, when he looks up the file on the original Invisible Man, is convinced that Frank Griffin has followed in his brother's footsteps and made Radcliffe invisible. He's not at all fooled by Griffin's insistence to the contrary, saying, "I had hoped you might cooperate. You must realize that if the monster murders... the scientist hangs." He gives Griffin a cigar and makes reference to the fact that smoke or rain hampers the invisibility effect, further showing that he knows he's involved with Radcliffe's disappearance and how. His intelligence is shown again when, after missing a chance to capture Radcliffe at Bill Jenkins' cottage, he decides to follow Helen as a means of finding him again, saying, "We can't expect to catch the quarry if we shut up the bait," which leads him to Richard Cobb's house, where Radcliffe tries to force him to write a confession of guilt. Being smart, he has all doors and windows covered from outside and has men with nets spray the house with smoke to try to find Radcliffe, as well as keeping Cobb there in order to use him as bait while having him guarded, although Radcliffe manages to outsmart them and escape. Like the detective in the original film, Sampson is the one who puts a stop to the Invisible Man by getting lucky and shooting him when he's fighting with Cobb on a conveyor belt full of coal wagons. Soon afterward, he becomes aware of Radcliffe's innocence when Cobb confesses to the murder before dying and has his men try to find him, although they don't have to search long before the seriously wounded Invisible Man appears at the site and is helped inside. Sampson expresses horror when Griffin says that Radcliffe will probably die and gives him permission to use the potentially deadly antidote, only to be relieved, like everyone else, when Radcliffe is cured of the invisibility by the blood transfusion.

Sir Michael's real killer, his and Radcliffe's cousin, Richard Cobb (Sir Cedric Hardwicke), initially comes across as benevolent and helpful towards Radcliffe's cause and especially towards Helen, who stays with him and whom he seems to have eyes for. In the last hours leading up to Radcliffe's execution, Cobb attempts to call the home secretary to request a postponement and when Radcliffe disappears from the prison, he asks Frank Griffin, whom he knows is aware of where Radcliffe and Helen are, to allow him to assist them in any way he can, but to no avail. Cobb's good nature, however, is cast into doubt when Radcliffe over hears superintendent Willie Spears tell Griffin that Cobb has decided the colliery no longer needs a doctor or a laboratory and when Griffin tells Radcliffe that he promoted Spears to superintendent, before which he was an incompetent night watchman, following the murder and his imprisonment. Sure enough, Radcliffe frightens Spears into telling him that Cobb killed Sir Michael and gave him the promotion to keep him quiet. Now knowing that he let him take the blame for it in order to get them both out of the way so he could take over the company, Radcliffe confronts Cobb with this confession and, in front of Helen, tries to make him write a confession. After denying the accusation at first, Cobb shows his true colors when he manages to hit Radcliffe while he's sitting in a nearby rocking chair and fires several shots at him, all of which miss. Cobb tries to escape to London but Detective Sampson keeps him at the house, both to protect him and to ensure Radcliffe remains there. Cobb almost rouses Sampson's suspicions when he asks why Radcliffe would want to kill him specifically but he's able to deflect it by accusing him of simply being insane. In any case, as Radcliffe himself later says, Sampson ends up unintentionally keeping Cobb prisoner for him until he's ready to deal with him. Radcliffe sneaks into the house and forces Cobb to walk out at gunpoint, taking him to Spears' house, who's been kept prisoner there, and makes him confess what he knows in front of Cobb. Once Cobb hears it, though, he manages to kill Spears and is chased by Radcliffe out of the house and into the colliery. On that conveyor belt of coal wagons, Radcliffe tries to choke the truth out of Cobb in front of everyone, only to be shot by Sampson. Despite his excitement at the prospect of Radcliffe being shot, Cobb doesn't fare much better, as he's dumped over the side of the belt by the coal wagon, falling to his death. Before he dies from his injuries, though, Cobb decides to confess to Helen that he killed Michael, though why he had such a change of heart at the very end, except possibly to try to repent his sins at the last minute, is beyond me.

Willie Spears (Alan Napier) is a pretty loathsome character: an obnoxious, often drunk, loudmouth of a superintendent who does not deserve the job at all because, as Griffin tells Radcliffe, his idea of superintending is ignoring the safety rules Radcliffe himself put into effect, often forcing the men to work in an unsafe mine shaft. Before his promotion by Richard Cobb, he was a night watchman, and not a very good one either, according to Radcliffe. He really likes to throw his weight around, particularly in the scene where he drunkenly tells Griffin that he doesn't care for his interfering in his business and tries to enforce Cobb's decision to get rid of both him and the laboratory, only for Griffin to say that he takes orders from Radcliffe and threatens to bash his head in if he doesn't leave. Spears hurls one last threat at him before leaving but soon, he isn't in the condition to threaten anyone, as the invisible Radcliffe confronts him. After having fun at his expense, Radcliffe frightens him into confessing everything, breaking down into tears when he says he saw Cobb murder Radcliffe's brother and says that Cobb threatened to kill him if he said anything. You have to wonder if he's just saying that to appeal to Radcliffe's sympathetic nature, since why would Cobb promote him to ensure his silence? Wouldn't the death threat have been enough? Maybe Cobb decided to doubly ensure he wouldn't tell regardless by making it worth his while. Whatever the case is, Spears, who'd been mocking Radcliffe as a murderer and a dead man walking before, now grovels to him, asking him to have pity on him. Once he stops hearing Radcliffe's voice, though, Spears beats a hasty retreat to his house near the colliery and tries to pack in order to escape, only for Radcliffe to knock him out and tie him up. Later, when Radcliffe brings Cobb there, you see that he gagged him and tied him up to where he has a noose around his neck, a small stepstool being his only means of support. Radcliffe sees it as a kind of a poetic justice, since he was condemned to be hanged due to their conspiracy. Spears confesses the truth again, this time in front of Cobb, who kicks the stool out from under him, killing him, despite an apparent attempt by Radcliffe to keep him from choking.

One last noteworthy character is Ben Jenkins, the gamekeeper whose cottage Helen uses to give her fiancé temporary shelter after his escape. He's most notable in that he's played by Forrester Harvey, who appeared in the original Invisible Man as Hall, the innkeeper who really suffered from Jack Griffin's wrath early on. Here, he plays Jenkins as a sort of lonely, silly old gamekeeper who never has any company save for his faithful dog. While he's creeped out by Radcliffe's appearance when he arrives at the cottage, telling his dog that he can't blame him for barking and howling the way he does as he takes him away from the place, and gets a brief glimpse at Radcliffe's invisibility, he still tries to keep his promise to Helen and keep anyone from knowing that they're there. When a policeman brings his dog back to the cottage and becomes suspicious of his insistence that nobody's there, even though he said the dog had been keeping the whole place awake, Jenkins does what he can to keep him from barging into the place but fails. Fortunately, though, he is able to stall him long enough for Radcliffe to escape, although he's shocked as the officer when he sees that he took his clothes off in front of Mary.

Universal, either through faulty memory or simply not caring, had a habit in the 1940's of creating continuity errors between individual entries in series of films and this one has a few minor ones in its connection to the original Invisible Man, although they're not nearly as egregious as those that plagued their series of "Kharis" Mummy movies (check those reviews out if you haven't in order to see what I mean). The one that caught my attention when I first watched it is that the name of the drug in the invisibility serum that causes madness is now "duocane" rather than "monocane" as it was before, although its background is kept the same. Another one is that the name of the original Invisible Man is written as "John Griffin" in the file that Sampson looks up rather than Jack but, in order to maintain clarity, I've still called him Jack up to now (plus, the names Jack and John have a connection anyway, so I didn't think it was that big of a deal regardless). Also, the timeline seems to be not what you'd expect, since Sampson says that it's been nine years since the events of the original film, meaning that, if the original did take place in 1933, then this is 1942 rather than 1940. These little mistakes aren't that much of an issue; I just decided to bring them up since my brain is so thorough and has to discuss everything it can think of.

Most of the films that Universal made during the second half of their classic horror run were low-budget, B movies, enjoyable but, nevertheless cheap and with very little thought thrown into them; not so The Invisible Man Returns. Not only did this film have a bigger budget than the majority of its peers, mainly for its special effects, which are still top notch for the times, but it also feels much classier and sophisticated thanks to the performances by distinguished actors like Vincent Price, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, John Sutton, and Cecil Kellaway. That, plus the way the material is treated and the quality of the filmmaking, makes it feel more like an A-picture like the aforementioned Kharis Mummy movies or the latter Frankenstein films that were being produced around this time. Like James Whale's film, there's a large emphasis on humor here but the tone overall is much more lighthearted. That's mainly because this Invisible Man is much more likable and heroic than the original one and because he never does anything truly malicious, pulling harmless pranks and playing with people more than anything else. Price's performance as Radcliffe is so likable, funny, and campy that, even when he has a gun on someone, it's impossible to believe that he'd actually kill them, which you most definitely could with Claude Rains. Even when the madness takes hold of him, there's no intimidation factor to him, even when he's raving about controlling his country, because of his more lighthearted characterization. The comedy itself is more overtly silly too, particularly when Radcliffe is messing with Willie Spears by opening his car's hood while he's driving, taking the engine apart, and confusing him as to where his voice is coming from and telling him that he's a ghost. And you can't forget the way Helen keels over when she sees her fiancé undressing his invisible form, which is very much meant for laughs.

Like I said, the invisibility effects, the creation of which was once again headed by John P. Fulton, still hold up well given the times and were nominated for an Oscar, although I found them to be a bit more noticeable here than they were in the original. The effects were done basically in the same manner as they were before, with wires and special props used to simulate Sir Geoffrey Radcliffe's presence when he's completely invisible, which are very well done, I might add, and Vincent Price wearing a black velvet bodysuit under his clothes for the scenes where is undressing or only partly clothed. As in the original film, the matting and compositing of those latter effects isn't always perfect, as you can often see the vague image of Price's outline in the effect, and they use them more often here, such as when Radcliffe picks up a newspaper when he first enters Frank Griffin's laboratory or, most ambitiously, when he takes the clothes off a scarecrow near the end (which Price said took hours to get right) and walks back to the colliery wearing them. During those latter shots, the outline of the compositing is very apparent. However, there are others that are amazing, such as when Radcliffe looks at himself in the cottage's mirror and sees nothing behind the eyeholes in the bandages, when Griffin takes a blood sample from his invisible arm, when you see his silhouette in smoke and in the rain, effects that were only hinted at previously, and when he uses the telephone in Griffin's house, which is so well-done that it's hard to tell whether they used wires or the matting process. Fulton and his effects team also had to create invisible guinea pigs and then show one of them being restored to visibility. The shots of the invisible ones, which are portrayed by having them wear small harnesses which appear to be crawling around on their own, are very realistic and the movements make them feel as if there really are little invisible animals there. The visibility restoration of the one, which shows its skeleton reappearing before its flesh and hair do, is also pretty good, but it's nothing compared to the final effect when Radcliffe regains his visibility after the blood transfusion. It's a much more gradual restoration than Jack Griffin's at the end of the original film, as you first see the appearance of only a few of his veins and then, slowly but surely, you see the reappearance of all of his veins, his musculature, and finally his outer flesh. That alone, I think, was worth the Oscar nomination.

While not the same extent as its predecessor, another thing that's commendable about this movie is that it treats the issue of invisibility rather well, particularly when it comes to the police's side of the matter. Like the chief detective in the original, Sampson comes up with some very clever and practical ways to try to find and catch Radcliffe, warning the officer at Ben Jenkins' cottage to not allow him to take off his clothes and especially when he deals with the situation at Richard Cobb's house. He has the outside doors and windows covered while groups of men roam through the place, spraying smoke everywhere to make him visible and with fishnets on hand to capture him. And while he keeps Cobb there partly as a means of bait, he also has him closely-guarded, with four men standing around him so Radcliffe can't get to him. Biologically, there's little added to the nature of it all that wasn't brought up originally, save for Griffin's inability to come up with an antidote that isn't lethal to the subject (at least he was able to come up with an antidote period, which is more than can be said of his brother) and the curious revelation that a blood transfusion is somehow the cure for the invisibility. I couldn't possibly begin to explain how that worked. Incidentally, this correlation between new blood and visibility would be made a plot point in the later film, The Invisible Man's Revenge.

There aren't as many noteworthy sequences in this film as there were in the original but there are three, the first of which is when Radcliffe screws around with Willie Spears. After Spears acts like a massive dickhead towards Griffin in his laboratory, Radcliffe follows him out to his car as he drunkenly drives out of the colliery and gets in it with him. Spears drives down a road through the nearby woods when the right side of his hood suddenly comes open. As he stops the car, Radcliffe unhooks a big piece of the engine, and when Spears steps out, not sure what's going on in his drunken state, he closes the side of the hood confusing him even more. Spears opens it back up and reaches for the disassembled part of the engine, only for it close back down on his hands. After groaning and wincing from it, Spears opens the side of the hood all the way and then checks the engine, reattaching the piece of it. He then smugly smiles at it, only to become more bewildered when one of the wires plugged into it unhooks itself. Momentarily fazed, he then hooks it back in again... only for another wire to unhook itself. Weirded out by this, Spears hears Radcliffe tell him that he can't repair it. Looking around but seeing no one nearby, Spears then says to himself, "I had but one glass of whiskey," to which Radcliffe asks, "Only one?" Spears then says, "Well, two," before gasping in horror and screaming, "Satan!", thinking the devil is paying him a visit. Panicked, he runs into the woods a short distance but is grabbed by the scarf by Radcliffe, forcing him down to the ground. Radcliffe tells him that he can't escape and then plays with him a little bit, saying, "Here I am, Mr. Spears," and the camera follows Spears' confused eye-line as he looks up into the trees before Radcliffe says, "Not over there! Here!", drawing Spears' attention to his left, whereas he'd been looking to the right before. Again, the camera pans up into the trees as Spears tries to find the source of the voice, and when Radcliffe starts laughing at his confusion, Spears grabs a large stick, demanding the person show himself. Radcliffe takes the stick and snaps it in half in front of Spears, frightening him into running off into the woods, yelling for help, while Radcliffe taunts him, "Faster, Mr. Spears! Faster! Why don't you fly, Mr. Spears?" After running a short distance, Spears collapses to the ground in exhaustion and Radcliffe speaks to him again. Radcliffe then tells Spears that he's a ghost and when he sneezes, Spears asks if a ghost can sneeze, to which he says, "It's cold in the afterworld, Mr. Spears. So cold. Lend me your handkerchief." He takes the handkerchief out of the breast pocket of Spears' coat, blows his nose, and tosses it away. Spears asks the "ghost" who he is and Radcliffe tells him that he's Sir Geoffrey, that he escaped the prison but stumbled into the marshes and died a slow, horrible death as he was pulled down into the muck, saying, "I can't find peace in the other world," in an overly mournful voice. That causes Spears to faint.

Radcliffe lifts Spears up by the back of his coat collar, drags him over to a nearby puddle, and dunks his head into the water three times, waking him up. Spears at first thinks he had a nightmare but Radcliffe shows him it's real when he starts choking him with both sides of his tie. Spears asks him for pity, to which Radcliffe says, "Did you have any pity on me? Had you one thought for me, lying day after day in that prison of despair, feeling the rope around my throat, choking the very breath of life out of me? What was it to you? Nothing. You were promoted. You were made superintendent. There's an account to be settled, Mr. Spears!" Frightened and sniveling, Spears makes a full confession, telling him that Richard Cobb murdered Sir Michael Radcliffe in a mineshaft at the colliery. Pleading for mercy, Spears panics when he doesn't hear Radcliffe's voice anymore and runs off, eventually making it back to his own house, locking the door behind him. Radcliffe, however, enters through a nearby window, which Spears, completely unaware, closes the shutters on. He lights a candle in the completely dark room, grabs his case out of the closet, and begins packing his clothes, although he's unable to latch the case (whether the latch is broken or it's Radcliffe messing with him again is left ambiguous). Desperate, Spears grabs a nearby rope to tie it shut, when he hears Radcliffe say, "That's exactly what I've been looking for." He knocks Spears out with a couple of hits and begins tying him up, starting with his feet, a visual that's accomplished with the use of stop-motion animation.

Following that scene, Radcliffe makes his presence known at Richard Cobb's house when he and Helen are talking in the drawing room. Just as Helen is about to tell Cobb the whole thing, Radcliffe insists that he'll do the talking, the sound of his voice surprising both of them, particularly Cobb. He tries to get him to come out of hiding, assuring that he's among friends and it's completely safe, only for Radcliffe to slap him on the chin so he gets the idea. He makes Cobb sit down and plants a piece of paper and a pen on the desk in front of him, insisting he write a confession for Sir Michael's murder. Cobb says he doesn't know what he's talking about and Radcliffe, rocking in the nearby rocking chair, tells both him and Helen that he now knows the truth. Cobb grabs something off the desk and throws at the chair, managing to hit Radcliffe, and pulls out a gun and fires three shots as he runs out of the room, although Radcliffe is able to dodge them. Running downstairs, Cobb fires some more shots back up the stairs, knocking over a vase behind him in his panic, and runs into Detective Sampson, who'd tailed Helen to the house, by the front door. Cobb, frightened by Radcliffe's invisibility, talks with Sampson for a bit, the detective telling him that he must stay at the house. Sampson then blows some smoke from his cigar off to the side, revealing Radcliffe's silhouette, and he tries to grab him but with no luck. A big squad of policemen move into the house from outside and Sampson puts his plan to catch Radcliffe into action, while keeping Cobb closely guarded in a nearby room. Outside, Radcliffe is fired upon when he steps out into the rain, which makes his outline visible, and is forced to duck back in. Upstairs, a squadron of men are sweeping the hallways and rooms, spraying smoke to make him visible, when one of them is grabbed from behind by Radcliffe and pulled into a nearby room. A cut shows Helen putting her coat on in her room, when a group of the gas-masked officers walk into the room and force her out as they begin smoking it. Annoyed, Helen walks out, followed by one particular officer, whom she asks to leave her alone, to which he says, "I'll never leave you alone, darling," revealing that he's Radcliffe in disguise. He asks her to pretend as though as she's fainted so he can carry her in his arms and escape. Downstairs, Sampson is giving further instructions to some men when one's smoke tank goes haywire and sprays it everywhere, giving Radcliffe and Helen an even more ample opportunity to escape, which they take, walking right by them. Upstairs, two men are attempting to break down a locked door, thinking Radcliffe is inside, and Sampson and the others rush up their to help. However, when they break the door down, they find only the bound and gagged officer whose uniform Radcliffe stole. One officer says, "It isn't him, sir!", to which Sampson responds, "A profound observation."

Lastly, there's the climax, which begins after the now unhinged Radcliffe escapes Frank Griffin's house and makes his way back to Cobb's. He wakes him up at gunpoint and, after warning him not to try anything, he forces him to get up. He tells him that they're going out for some fresh air and, hiding the gun underneath Cobb's arm, tells him to act natural towards the guards. But, when Cobb opens his bedroom door and is faced with the guard outside, he grows too nervous to speak, forcing Radcliffe to knock the man out. He then marches Cobb downstairs, growling, "Surely, you can still lie. I recall you're being an expert." When faced with the guard at the front door, he tries to bluff his way out for some fresh air, but the guard refuses. He then calls upstairs to Bill, the guard Radcliffe knocked out, and when he doesn't get answer, he thinks Bill's in the kitchen, stuffing himself, and goes to phone Sampson about it, telling Cobb to wait. Of course, once he's gone, Radcliffe forces Cobb out the door. They drive to Willie Spears' house and Radcliffe forces Cobb inside the dark house, telling him to light a candle, which illuminates the tied up and gagged Spears. Per Radcliffe's demands, Cobb ungags Spears, who then confesses what he knows about the murder again, this time in front of Cobb. Seeing an opportunity, Cobb kicks over the stool supporting Spears, causing him to be hanged. Radcliffe drops the gun and appears to try to support Spears' body himself, only for Cobb to turn the lights out, boasting that he's now invisible too. The two of them get into a brawl in the dark, with a crowd gathering outside as they think Spears is tearing his own house apart in a drunken fit. Even in the dark, Radcliffe manages to grab an advantage over Cobb, knocking him out the window and only momentarily slowed down when he throws a piece of firewood at him. Radcliffe chases him into the colliery, knocking hoards of people out of the way as he goes, including two guards at the front gate, and is able to get around another gate that Cobb tries to close on him. Cobb climbs up the nearby conveyor belt of coal wagons as the guards fire blindly at the gate down below, only for Radcliffe to be heard laughing as he pushes through a nearby crowd. This throws the guards off-track, enabling him to climb onto conveyor belt and grab Cobb by the throat, choking him down onto one of the coal wagons. As he tries to choke Cobb into confessing, Sampson and Helen arrive, the former telling them to stop the machine. Despite Helen's protest, Sampson takes aim and fires, hitting Radcliffe. No longer feeling the pressure on his throat, Cobb excitedly asks if them got him, only for him to be dumped over the side of the tall conveyor with a bunch of coal to his death. This leads into the end of the film, with Cobb confessing the truth to Helen before he dies and the seriously injured Radcliffe appearing at the colliery wearing some clothes he took from a scarecrow, eventually regaining his visibility due to a transfusion of blood he received from the men there.

Something else that makes this film a breed apart from many of Universal's other horror flicks made around the same time is the fact that the music score, composed by H.J. Salter and Frank Skinner, is completely original rather than recycled from previous films. The music is fairly generic but there are some pieces that stand out, such as the great, bombastic opening theme as the title materializes, a memorable, creeping leitmotif for Sir Geoffrey Radcliffe's invisibility that leads into a more subtly humorous-sounding section and is often used to signify his presence, and a really speedy, string piece that covers the climactic chase between Radcliffe and Richard Cobb. In fact, those are the only parts of the score that I can remember period, as the others, which aren't many and are used to cover the more overtly silly parts of the movie, are very forgettable. However, this movie is well made enough to where the music score's less than memorable quality doesn't hurt it at all.

The Invisible Man Returns may not quite be on the level of the original but it's a very enjoyable film, nevertheless, and one of the best that Universal made during the second half of their classic horror cycle, with a lot of good ingredients like a nice cast, especially Vincent Price, John Sutton, and Cecil Kellaway, funny bits of humor, memorable sequences, special effects that, despite some moments of obvious datedness, are quite amazing for the time and sometimes build on what was done before, and a fast pace through the short, entertaining story that it tells. It is much more lighthearted than its predecessor and Price's performance as Sir Geoffrey Radcliffe, while likable and a joy to watch, never reaches the level of menace that Claude Rains did but I'm able to ignore that and enjoy the film for what it is; really, the only true quibbles I can up with are the character of Helen not given much to do (at least she never becomes a damsel in distress, though) and the music score being okay but hardly memorable. On the whole, though, it's a fun flick and one I do recommend for fans of the original and classic horror in general.

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