The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944, Ford Beebe)

When Leon Errol saves lead Jon Hall from drowning, even though they’ve previously established The Invisible Man’s Revenge takes place in England, I was sure they’d teleported to Australia. Errol is very Australian. Openly Australian. He’s also the closest thing to amusing as Revenge gets.

Despite being the fourth in the series, starring the same lead as the last entry with the same family name, The Invisible Man’s Revenge is unconnected to the previous entries. It opens with Hall getting to England. He’s escaped a South African mental hospital, murdering his way through interns to freedom. We don’t see any of the murdering, it’s just in a newspaper clipping after we get some of Hall behaving peculiarly while buying a new suit. The suit buying sequence, much like the one where Errol tries to shake down English lord Lester Matthews, is just filler; Revenge runs under eighty minutes and it needs lots of filler.

It’s hard to pick on the script too much given the context—Hall’s a terrible lead, no better script is going to help him out. Beebe’s direction is middling. The special effects aren’t great. They have a few better moments and a few worse moments, but the only memorable Invisible Man set piece is Errol playing darts and naked and invisible Hall running them over to the dart board for the bullseye. The other big set piece involves Hall attacking romantic nemesis Alan Curtis in a dark wine cellar; the lights are out so they don’t have to do any Invisible Man effects. It’s a rather lackluster finish.

Curtis isn’t very good either. So Curtis is bad. Hall’s bad. Matthews isn’t good. See, years ago Matthews and wife Gale Sondergaard (who apparently quit the movie halfway through when she decided it got too stupid; she just vanishes, never mentioned again) were on a diamond expedition with Hall. He bumped his head, fell unconscious, they abandoned him, heard he was dead, took his stake in the diamond mine, but now he’s back and they don’t want to pay up. Not only does he want his money, he wants their daughter, Evelyn Ankers, who’s barely in the movie—like she too knew better—but there’s the definite implication Matthews and Sondergaard promised her to him. Even though they’d never met. There’s also the not zero chance Matthews and Sondergaard did try to have him killed. They certainly did the second time around. Or maybe Sondergaard just thought she was in a different movie.

John Carradine is fine as the scientist who makes his pets invisible then convinces Hall to try the serum. The film’s only got the one screenwriter—Bertram Millhauser—credited but between Sondergaard’s disappearance and Carradine’s change of behavior, it really seems like someone else fixed up the second half. Or at least changed it. It’s hard to say if it’s a fix. Because Carradine goes from encouraging Hall to get invisible so he can murder the rich people who pissed him off, but then when Hall wants help in that mission, Carradine has forgotten how he convinced Hall to do the serum in the first place.

Again, not a competent script, but also again… what help would a competent script have been.

Actually impressive photography from Milton R. Krasner—the one scene with day-for-night is excellent—is the only technical standout. The dog’s good? Carradine’s got a dog and it figures big into the plot. Sort of absurdly but whatever. So long as it brings the movie to the end.

Revenge is a bad movie. Worse, it’s a slow bad movie; realistically, Sondergaard’s fate is in a cut scene—Hall doesn’t actually kill anyone for quite a while in the film and the body count is very low—so maybe she was a plot sacrifice, but the idea of there being cut scenes and subplots to Revenge is more a threat than anything else. Less might be incomprehensible but a coherent narrative isn’t worth more minutes on the runtime.

The Invisible Man’s Revenge plays like the movie’s punishing you for watching it.

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