An Invisible Man Goes Through The City/Ein Unsichtbarer Geht Durch die Stadt (1933)

An Invisible Man Goes Through The City:Ein Unsichtbarer Geht Durch die Stadt (1933)‘We’ve never guzzled as posh as in your place.’

A hotshot taxi driver finds a machine finds an invisibility machine in the back of his cab after his fare is chased off by the police. Using his new skill set, he rigs a race at the track so he can clean up with the bookies. But his new-found wealth brings its own problems…

Good-natured invisibility comedy film from writer-director and star Harry Piel. It’s probably no coincidence that this German film was produced at the same time as James Whale’s ‘The Invisible Man’ (1933) and Piel managed to get it into local cinemas ahead of the Universal classic.

The handsome and dashing Harry (Piel, of course) is the fastest cab driver on the streets of Berlin but is still having problems making ends meet. He lives in a small apartment with friend Fritz (Fritz Odemar) and certainly doesn’t have the cash to help prospective love interest Annie (Annemarie Sörensen). He does bring customers to the door of her florists as often as possible, but she is facing eviction along with her mother (Olga Limburg).

One night he picks up a customer on the run from the police and winds up in possession of the man’s left luggage. This contains a machine that can make him invisible, along with any object that he picks up. Sensing the ‘get rich quick’ possibilities, he uses it (with a rattle) to startle horses at the track and ensure a long shot wins. Collecting his ill-gotten gains, he buys a flash motor and a big house, but his offers to help Sörensen are rebuffed. She’s a good girl and doesn’t believe that he’s come by his new wealth honestly. Justifiably miffed by her lack of trust, he takes up with actress, and regular passenger, Lissy Arna instead.

An Invisible Man Goes Through The City:Ein Unsichtbarer Geht Durch die Stadt (1933)

‘You’re not going out dressed like that, are you?’

Although this is an efficient and mildly enjoyable opening, what follows is less satisfactory. Moral lessons about the evils and pitfalls of wealth are always a bit hard to stomach when delivered by successful filmmakers with privileged lifestyles. Piel had been in the film business for about 20 years by this point and had enjoyed a string of hit films, so crying in his beer on-screen about ‘hangers on’ and ‘people taking advantage’ isn’t likely to solicit much sympathy from a more sophisticated, modern-day audience.

In the story, of course, Piel the character sees the error of his ways when the device is stolen. Odemar is sick of being treated as a servant by his former best friend, and lifts the gizmo, carrying out a bank robbery and fleeing in a zeppelin. The twist ending that follows is predictable and tiresome but may have been a surprise to the audience of the time.

An Invisible Man Goes Through The City:Ein Unsichtbarer Geht Durch die Stadt (1933)

The world’s first Selfie camera was a little on the bulky side…

What does sink the movie to some extent at least is its 104-minute length. Trimming of individual scenes would have helped to tighten the picture and improved the pace no end. The invisibility SFX are also basic, to say the least. Piel just stops the camera, walks out of the frame and starts it again, although we do see some banknotes dissolving in front of our eyes. On the other hand, for the early scenes of the cab racing around Berlin, Piel straps the camera low down to the front of his car. This not only effectively conveys the speed of travel, but also provides a semi-documentary glimpse at the streets of the city before the war.

Piel earned the nickname ‘Dynamite Director’ due to the explosive climaxes of some of his films, and enjoyed a reputation for doing all his own stunts in the action sequences. In reality, Piel’s explosions were real-life demolitions carried out by a friend who would invite him to film them, and, much in the manner of Harry Houdini’s screen career, his most dangerous stunts were carried out by a stand-in, at least in his early pictures. However, it’s definitely Piel himself clinging onto the back of a speeding motor car here, and dangling from a rope trailed by the airship at the finish.

An Invisible Man Goes Through The City:Ein Unsichtbarer Geht Durch die Stadt (1933)

‘I’ll take 2-1 on the Allies.’

1933 was a pivotal year for Piel. It was the year that he joined the National Socialist Party and became a patron member of the SS. This meant that he avoided active service with Hitler’s shock troops, but contributed financially. Curiously enough, Piel directed ‘Der Herr der Welt/Master of the World’ (1934) soon afterwards. This early science-fiction film depicted the efforts of a mad scientist to take over the world with his army of robots. Whether this was his underhanded way of criticising the Nazi regime is unrecorded, and I can find no information regarding any problems he had with the authorities as a result of its production. He did fall foul of the party later on, though, when his adventure ‘Panik’ (1943) was banned for showing that German cities were vulnerable to attacks from the air. After the war, Piel was arrested by the allies and banned from working until 1949. His career never recovered, and he retired from the business in 1960.

A mildly entertaining comedy with a few points to make about the nobility of the working man that you might find a little hard to swallow. Especially as they come from a rich man who gave money to the Nazis.

Mister Superinvisible/L’inafferrabile invincibile Mr. Invisibile (1970)

Mister Superinvisible (1970)‘Each molecular combination can always be related to the intensity of the various components of its structure.’

Industrial spies target a research laboratory searching for the cure for the common cold, but the blame falls on a top biochemist when an experimental virus goes missing. He’s unable to refute the allegation until he accidentally consumes a potion sent to him by a colleague from Nepal and becomes invisible. With his newfound superpower, he sets out to track down the real culprits…

Is there a lamer science-fiction movie sub-genre than the ‘invisible man’ comedy? The darkly funny moments cooked up by Claude Rains and director James Whale for ‘The Invisible Man’ (1933) really should have been the beginning and the end of it. Unfortunately, many filmmakers have gone back to this (dry) well ever since. Here, our old friend Antonio Margheriti (as usual credited as Anthony M Dawson) tries his hand at the pump and comes up as empty as everyone else.

Work at the Geneva Research Institute is a hoot for Doctor Peter Denwell (Dean Jones). He’s brilliant but eccentric; driving an old 2CV and feeding his shaggy dog a plate of eggs and bacon at the breakfast table. Even wackier is colleague Ignazio Leone, who specialises in creating exploding eggs for some reason (obviously closely related to germ research). But, worse than all this wackiness, our hero is also socially awkward; completely tongue-tied when he tries to confess his feelings for beautiful colleague Irene (Ingeborg Schöner). She’s also in the sights of slimy corporate yes-man Harold (Gastone Moschin), so Jones needs to get a move on, or the rich oaf will beat him to the punch.

Mister Superinvisible (1970)

‘You… you imbecile. You bloated idiot. You stupid fat-head you.’

Things get even worse for our clumsy but loveable hero when Virus D is found to have been stolen during a live television broadcast. This new strain is a combination of all the cold germs known to mankind, and there’s bound to be tears before bedtime if it ‘falls into the wrong hands.’ Jones is blamed for the lax security in his lab and is facing the old heave-ho when his helpful lab monkey adds a little pep to his afternoon coffee.

The concoction turns out to be an invisibility potion sent from a colleague in Nepal. Hilarious hi-jinks follow, including a scene where Jones sabotages a restaurant date between Schöner and Moschin. Later on, he tracks down the missing virus to the Museum of Magic run by Mamma Spot (Amalia de Isaura). She happens to be Moschin’s mother, and he was the thief all the time! Well, you could have knocked me down with a feather!

It’s quite obvious what the production was going for here: a family-friendly Disneyesque comedy. They even imported Dean Jones to star; as he’d done similar duty for the House of Mouse in ‘That Darn Cat!’ (1965), ‘The Ugly Dachshund’ (1966) and ‘Monkeys, Go Home!’ (1967). Most famously, he’d co-starred with Herbie the Volkswagen Beetle in ‘The Love Bug’ (1968). To drive the point home, they even partner him with scene-stealing shaggy dog sidekick Dylan. And, to be fair, Jones’ likability is the film’s main asset, although there’s no denying that Schöner makes for an appealing heroine. Veteran character player Luciano Pigozzi also delivers his best silly Peter Lorre impression as one of the villains, and that’s mildly amusing. Once or twice.

Mister Superinvisible (1970)

The costume party was not a success…

The real problem here is the script: a lazy, lifeless tramp through all the usual ‘invisible man’ comedy beats. Margheriti tries hard to inject some energy into some of the later scenes, but it amounts to little more than the cast turning up the volume on their line delivery and running about frantically.

The restaurant scene has some possibilities at tickling the funny bone but goes on way too long, and the SFX when Jones is partly visible are atrocious. Of course, the implications of Jones’ work being utilised as a superweapon aren’t addressed in any serious way, and neither is the animal experimentation going on in the labs. Just where is Leone getting hundreds and hundreds of eggs? A battery farm? I think we need to know.

Margheriti didn’t have much experience with comedy (at least not intentionally!), being more at home with serious, if sometimes outlandish, material. 1960s science-fiction epics like batshit crazy ‘The Wild, Wild Planet’ (1966) and more conventional ‘War Between The Planets’ (1966) were followed by Giallo thrillers and ‘Killer Fish’ (1978) with Lee Majors, before he peaked with ‘Yor, The Hunter From The Future’ (1983). Pigozzi appeared in many of his films, and together the two carved out long careers in the twilit world of cult cinema.

All told, not a very entertaining experience. Jones and the cast do their best with what they have, but it’s precious little.

The Body Disappears (1941)

The Body Disappears (1941)‘You’ve given me a great idea, William. We’ve got to go out and get ourselves a dead body.’

A young man about town sleeping off a drunk after his bachelor party is left in a college dissecting room by his prankster friends. Assuming that he is a corpse, a notorious faculty professor kidnaps him for use in his strange experiments in resurrecting the dead. Unfortunately, the injection of the scientist’s special serum turns the unlucky bridegroom invisible instead, somewhat interfering with his impending nuptials. Further complications ensue when test subject Charlie the monkey also begins to vanish…

Half-baked and half-hearted response to Universal Studio’s ‘Invisible Woman’ (1941) from the crew over at Warner Brothers, focusing on the activities of scatter-brained Professor Shotesbury (Edward Everett Horton) and their (allegedly) hilarious consequences. His attempts to raise the dead may be a resounding failure, but he manages to invent invisibility instead after treating the passed-out Peter DeHaven (Jeffrey Lynn) on the eve of his wedding to socialite Christine Lunceford (Marguerite Chapman). Predictable shenanigans ensure; comic ones involving Horton, his test subject monkey and black chauffeur Willie (Willie Best), and romantic ones involving Lynn and Horton’s pretty daughter Joan (Jane Wyman).

The Body Disappears (1941)

‘With a hat like that, I’d want to be invisible too…’

Unfortunately, the film is the very essence of a standard comedy product of its time, with events, gags and pratfalls developing upon completely obvious lines. Director D Ross Lederman keeps things moving at a decent clip, and Horton is always a pleasure to watch, but the whole project has ‘second rate’ stamped all the way through it. Even the SFX are a bit tatty by the standards of the time. lt’s also not particularly nice to see black actor Best wheeled out to do his usual ‘pop-eyed, fear-ridden, comedy servant’ routine. It does grate somewhat in these more enlightened times.

Matters aren’t really helped by Lynn’s rather bland performance, either. He had the looks of a leading man but little of the charisma and, by this point, his career was already fading. White-knight supporting roles in pictures like ‘Four Daughters’ (1938) and ‘The Roaring Twenties (1939) had seen him effortlessly eclipsed by such wonderful performers as John Garfield, Humphrey Bogart, Claude Rains and Jimmy Cagney. Obviously, it would take a strong screen presence to go up against those guys, but even in the lead of a picture like bizarre gangster-comedy-musical ‘It All Came True’ (1940) with a pre-stardom Bogart in support, he failed to make much of an impression. Mind you, probably the greatest actor in the world would have struggled to save a picture that featured featuring singing old grannies.

The Body Disappears (1941)

‘Look me in the eye and tell me that…’

Co-star Wyman was heading in the opposite direction, slowly but surely breaking out of b-movie hell via roles opposite Edward G Robinson – ‘Larceny Inc.’ (1942) and Jack Carson – ‘Make Your Own Bed’ (1944). A year later, Jack Warner loaned her out for a role rejected by Jean Arthur in a movie that even home-studio Paramount confidently expected to be a box-office flop. The film? Billy Wilder’s multiple-Oscar-winning ‘The Lost Weekend’ (1946).

It wasn’t a million miles from that classic to Wyman’s own Academy Award for best leading actress in ‘Johnny Belinda’ (1949). Of course, she’s probably just as famous these days for being the first wife of future U.S. President Ronald Reagan, although an almost decade long stint as matriarch Angela Channing on TV soap opera ‘Falcon Crest’ brought her back to the notice of audiences in the 1980s.

Director Lederman was a typical journeyman of the studio era; working on entries in popular film series programmers like ‘The Lone Wolf’, ‘Boston Blackie’ and ‘The Whistler.’ Other projects included ‘Racketeers of The Range’ (1939), ‘Moonlight On The Prairie’ (1935) and ‘Rusty Rides Alone’ (1933). He was also behind the megaphone for the failed attempt to pit Olympic athlete Glen Morris against Johnny Weismuller at the box office with ‘Tarzan’s Revenge’ (1938). Scriptwriter Scott Darling went on to work on Universal’s slightly disappointing ‘The Ghost of Frankenstein’ (1942) and some of the Monogram Studios’ ‘Charlie Chan’ pictures that starred Sidney Toler.

Horton and Wyman try their best to get something out of a limp and woefully predictable script, but this one’s pretty much dead on arrival.

Invisible Avenger/Tômei Ningen (1954)

Invisible Avenger (1954)‘Yes it seems he was studying these things, experimenting with protein collision using the Cyclot Theory.’

A motorist runs over an invisible man in the street. The authorities reveal that he was one of two survivors of a wartime experiment. Panic grips the country as a gang of criminals take advantage of the situation, blaming their crime spree on the surviving soldier…

Five years after Japanese science fiction got a kick start with ‘The Invisible Man Appears’ (1949), the box office went ballistic for ‘Godzilla, King of the Monsters’ (1954). Tucked away in the Big G’s mighty shadow was another production from Toho Studios; a return to the H. G. Wells story of scientific misadventure and ‘things that man must leave alone.’

As with the first Japanese ‘Invisible Man’, our unseen hero foregoes the usual ‘mad scientist and his reign of terror’ for reluctant involvement in criminal activity, as he is forced out of hiding to prove his innocence of a string of robberies. The gang recruit an elderly watchman to assist in their latest caper, promising him the money he needs for his blind granddaughter’s eye operation. Of course, they dispose of him instead, leaving the girl to rely on her neighbours; a kindly clown and a nightclub singer who spends most of her time resisting the advances of her boss, who might just have some skeletons in his closet.

As per usual in a Japanese film, the drama is played totally straight and the cast take the more outlandish twists and turns in the script in their stride. Principals Seizaburo Kawazu (the clown) and Yoshio Tsuchiya (the reporter) both later appeared in Akira Kurosawa’s ‘Yojimbo’ (1962) and Tsuchiya had already worked with the great director on ‘The Seven Samurai’ (1954). It’s a brisk and efficient production all round, with decent direction and black and white photography. The story does threaten to get a little mawkish at times but stops short of getting too sentimental, although there are few surprises for the audience along the way.

Invisible Avenger (1954)

🎵Don’t you love farce?
My fault, I fear
I thought that you’d want what I want
Sorry, my dear 🎵

In a way, the film foreshadows the development of the character as a secret agent in the 1970s on US television. The NBC Network launched former ‘Man From U.N.C.L.E.’ David MacCallum as ‘The Invisible Man’ in their 1975 season, who tried to cure his invisibility while working as an operative for the Klae Corporation. When that didn’t take, the network tried again with the unintentionally hilarious ‘Gemini Man’ featuring Ben Murphy working for INTERSECT and turning himself invisible with a digital watch. Unsurprisingly, it was cancelled after only 5 episodes had been broadcast.

The SFX here are courtesy of Eiji Tsuburaya, who provided the same service to ‘The Invisible Man Appears’ (1949) and was head monster-wrangler for Toho until his death at the end of the 1960s. It appears there hadn’t been a huge amount of technical progress in the five years since the first film, but still the usual motifs are efficiently delivered. After all, where would we be without the floating cigarette and the sinking seat cushions? By this point, Tsuburaya was able to use his own name, having been forced to hide behind a corporate identity in the post-war years, due to his work for the defeated regime during the conflict.

Although no great shakes, this is pleasing production, assisted by its relative brief running time of 70 minutes. Further adventures for the Japanese version of the character followed in ‘Invisible Man Vs. Human Fly’ (1957).

The Invisible Man Appears/Tômei ningen arawaru (1949)

The Invisible Man Appears (1949)‘Gadzooks, it’s the cops! Let’s go!’

An elderly scientist has been working to perfect an invisibility formula for over ten years. His two best students are also tackling the problem, albeit from different angles, whilst they compete for the hand of his eldest daughter. Unfortunately, the naive professor makes the mistake of showing his research to a slimy businessman…

Apparently, Japan’s first science fiction movie, this serious-minded excursion into H. G. Wells territory is modelled after the Universal ‘Invisible Man’ series of the 1930s and early 1940s. One of the ‘unmasking’ scenes even bares a close resemblance to Claude Rains ‘unwrapping’ in the guest room of the pub in ‘The Invisible Man’ (1933) itself. We also get the usual round of floating cigarettes, sinking seat cushions and naked footprints appearing out of nowhere.

However, instead of the usual ‘mad scientist on the run’ plot, this story focuses more on the criminal possibilities afforded by invisibility, specifically the efforts of a gang of crooks to heist a priceless diamond necklace called ‘Amour Tears.’ Actually, with its skilful use of light and shadow and impressive black and white cinematography, the film often looks more like an American Film Noir than anything else. There’s also an element of mystery about the identity of the Invisible Man, which is unusual, even if the solution is not that hard to guess.

One of the notable facts about this production is the participation of Eiji Tsuburaya, who was in charge of the SFX. These are fairly slick, given the vintage of the film,  but still not quite as good as those delivered by Hollywood in previous years. Tsuburaya was actually blacklisted at the time, having worked with the governing regime during World War II, but he sidestepped the ban by forming his own company, which was credited rather than him. Five years later, he was instrumental in bringing ‘Godzilla, King of the Monsters’ (1954) to life and a long career followed as head of FX with Toho Studios and their stable of monsters. The only other familiar name is that of actor Shosaku Sugiyama, who appeared in ‘Daimajin’ (1966) for rival studio Daei. This folk tale featured a giant statue on the rampage in a coastal community and spawned two sequels.

The Invisible Man Appears (1949)

‘No one will recognise me with these sunglasses on…’

The film was quite a domestic hit and Japanese cinema returned to the character, if not this incarnation, on several occasions. Whether it can be successfully argued that this project paved the way for Japan’s science fiction bonanza of the 1950s is doubtful. This often plays far more like a crime picture with some fantastic trimmings than science fiction and it’s more likely that Japanese filmmakers were still taking their main inspiration from Hollywood rather than from their own recent cinematic history.

A sober and sometimes thoughtful thriller, which puts a slightly different slant on what is now an all-too familiar tale to modern audiences. It may not bring a whole lot of original ideas to the table but presents what it has in a cool, professional manner and provides a decent level of entertainment.

Invisible Man Vs Human Fly (1958)

Invisible Man Vs Human Fly (1958)‘Professor Hayokawa Murdered — Insatiable Rampage of Bloodlust’.

An unhinged scientist has perfected a method of shrinking himself to the size of a fly, and uses his invention to revenge himself on former colleagues. An invisible laboratory assistant helps the police to track him down and foil his nefarious schemes.

Daei Studios were Toho’s main competition in the Japan’s Science Fiction arena during the 1950s and 1960s, and here they deliver an unusual mash-up of a mad scientist and a standard police procedural. So, on the one hand, we get familiar crime picture clichés such as tepid gunplay and a shady nightclub, but we’re also offered a floating head and a villain whose miniature size apparently allows him to fly!

Despite the outlandish elements, the script and cast play it completely straight. Things start off impressively with some inexplicable murders, which are slickly edited and quite unsettling. However, it doesn’t take too long before we know what’s going on, and any sense of mystery has been surrendered to some obvious, and pretty goofy, plot developments. Our young hero owes his invisibility to the side effects of a professor’s experiments into the effects of cosmic rays but his presence is a godsend to the local forces of law and order who find themselves up against it when dealing with our microscopic villain. There are some pretty huge gaps of logic if you look at things too closely, but it’s all acceptable enough if you’re prepared to go along for the ride.

Invisible_Man_Vs_Human_Fly_(1958)

(Human Fly not pictured) Probably…

The SFX are predictably variable, given the era when the film was made, although the invisibility is realised in the acceptable manner first pioneered by SFX technician John P Fulton in the golden era of Hollywood. Indeed, the production is professional in every department, and it’s no easy matter to point out any obvious flaws, but proceedings are simply never very creative or inspired. And exactly why the Human Fly makes a buzzing noise is a bit of a puzzle…

The Daei Studio never played more than second fiddle to Toho, despite plugging away for more than a decade. Probably their biggest success came with the ‘Majin’ series, which featured a giant statue come to life, but even that was a pale comparison to the global recognition enjoyed by Mothra, King Ghidorah and the Big G.

Invisible Man In Mexico (1958)

Invisible Man In Mexico (1958)Vibrates you with the most strange and violent emotion!

A scientist is wrongly convicted of murdering his partner and sentenced to life in prison. Luckily, his brother has been working on a formula for invisibility and, after a prison visit, the innocent man escapes and sets about uncovering the conspiracy and finding the real killer.

Mexican cinema of the 1950s and 1960s always tends to get noticed for some of its more outrageous output, particularly those films involving silver-masked wrestler Santo, or the wonderful Aztec Mummy. This is mainly due to the efforts of legendary film distributor K Gordon Murray, who dubbed the films into English and released them north of the border. But that wasn’t the whole story, and the proof is here with this well-mounted, professional take on the H.G.Wells’ tale of the ‘things that man must leave alone.’

Simply, it’s a remake of Universal’s ‘The Invisible Man Returns’ (1940), where a young Vincent Price found himself in a similar predicament to our hero here, played by well-respected Mexican actor Arturo de Cordova. It’s a serious drama that respects its source material (both literary and cinematic), throwing in the same creeping madness that derailed Claude Rains in the original ‘The Invisible Man’ (1933).

Invisible Man In Mexico (1958)

He’d had better days…

The names in front and behind the camera were top flight in the local industry at the time and the talent is evident throughout. The SFX are decent for the time too; footprints appear, cigarettes are smoked, cushions sink and test animals fade to skeletons in the best Hollywood time lapse tradition. De Cordova making himself visible by slathering his face in makeup reminded me of the 1970s TV show with David McCallum.

The film is well acted, with some effort made to display credible emotional crises, as well as the more outlandish details of the tale. The real problem here is that it’s nothing new and, without a fresh take on the idea, it remains a resolutely average way to spend 90 minutes, even though it’s efficiently delivered by director Alfredo B Crevenna.

A reasonable entry in the Invisible Man’s long catalogue.