Also known as: Untitled Universal Monster Project (working title) Release Date: February 24th, 2020 (Hollywood premiere) Directed by: Leigh Whannell Written by: Leigh Whannell Based on: characters and concepts by H. G. Wells for The Invisible Man Music by: Benjamin Wallfisch Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Michael Dorman, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Nash Edgerton
“He said that wherever I went, he would find me, walk right up to me, and I wouldn’t be able to see him.” – Cecilia Kass
As a lifelong fan of the Universal Monsters film series and all its reinventions (good and bad), this one just didn’t resonate with me at first glance. I thought the marketing was pretty dull and then it came out just before COVID shoved movie theaters into a flaming dumpster.
I’m glad to say that I was pleasantly surprised by this, though.
Initially, I wasn’t a big fan of seeing a modernized take on the classic story but honestly, this is just inspired by the original H. G. Wells novel and is very much its own, unique thing.
This takes the Invisible Man formula and brings it in to modern day, showing a psychotic ex-boyfriend using his ability to be invisible to destroy the life of the woman that left him. Since he’s invisible, he obviously does horrible things that only she’s aware of while her friends start to think she’s going insane. As the film rolls on, the scumbag gets more and more ballsy and eventually, people are aware that the woman (now in an asylum) isn’t lying.
Since this takes place in modern times, the Invisible Man in this is a Tony Stark type of inventor that has made a legit stealth camouflage suit. Also, the suit is really f’n cool looking and inventive, being comprised of what appear to be hundreds of small cameras/projectors. The scenes where the suit is partially exposed come off really damn well and the special effects, as a whole, are pretty seamless, believable and impressive.
What I found most impressive about this movie, though, was Elisabeth Moss’ acting. Man, she stepped up to the plate and hit homeruns in just about every scene. What I sincerely appreciate, as a long-time horror fan, is how serious she took the subject matter and put her all into it, giving one of the most believable performances I’ve seen in a horror picture in a really long time.
My only real complaint about the film was the twist ending. I mostly saw it coming and it felt kind of cheap, ending the way it did. At the same time, you really can’t keep the villain alive, as you don’t know what kind of technological tricks he might have up his sleeve.
This doesn’t end in a way that leaves it open for a sequel and I hope there isn’t one, as it would probably diminish the effect of this single, pretty solid picture. Basically, don’t be like Saw.
Now that doesn’t mean that I’d be against other modern takes on the Universal Monsters properties after seeing how well this one was executed. It certainly blew Tom Cruise’s The Mummy out of the water.
Rating: 8/10 Pairs well with: the older adaptations of this story, as well as some of the actually good, modern horror flicks.
Also known as: Meet the Invisible Man (working title) Release Date: March 7th, 1951 Directed by: Charles Lamont Written by: Robert Lees, Frederic I. Rinaldo, John Grant, Hugh Wedlock Jr., Howard Snyder Based on:The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells Music by: Erich Zeisl Cast: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Nancy Guild, Arthur Franz
Universal International Pictures, 82 Minutes
“The evidence says I did. When I stepped out of the shower that night, I found O’Hara beaten to death on the locker room floor. The cop outside the door swore nobody else had come in, so they pinned it on me.” – Tommy Nelson
I love the Abbott & Costello mashups with the Universal Monsters franchise, however one of the film’s has to be the weakest link and this one is it.
That doesn’t mean that it’s bad, as it’s still really enjoyable. It’s just that this one feels like it’s the least horror-y and it also just creates a new Invisible Man character, as opposed to being tied to any previous version, even after they already had the duo come into brief contact with the Vincent Price version of the character at the end of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.
Oddly, this is more of a comedy sports movie. Which is actually achieved pretty cleverly in that the comedic duo use the Invisible Man to help give Lou Costello an edge in the boxing ring. It’s an ingenious and hilarious scheme and even if the joke feels one-note, they stretch it out in this movie and the physical comedy is so good that it works longer than it probably should.
Abbott & Costello are both as great as usual and even if the Invisible Man character felt weak when compared to past versions, he still meshed well with the two leads and everything came together fairly well.
Rating: 6.25/10 Pairs well with: the other Abbot and Costello monster movies.
Also known as: The Brain of Frankenstein (working title) Release Date: June 15th, 1948 Directed by: Charles Barton Written by: John Grant, Robert Lees, Frederic I. Rinaldo Based on: characters by Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Curt Siodmak, H.G. Wells Music by: Frank Skinner Cast: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Lon Chaney Jr., Bela Lugosi, Glenn Strange, Lenore Aubert, Jane Randolph, Frank Ferguson, Charles Bradstreet, Vincent Price (voice, uncredited cameo)
Universal International Pictures, 83 Minutes
“Young people making the most of life – while it lasts.” – Dr. Lejos/Dracula
I’m actually surprised that I hadn’t yet reviewed any of the Universal Monsters pictures with Abbot and Costello in them. I have an immense love of both things and having them come together, which they did a handful of times, was really cool.
Overall, this one was always my favorite but I like all of them.
In this one, we don’t just get Frankenstein’s Monster, we also get Dracula, the Wolf Man and a little cameo by the Invisible Man. With that, we also got Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr. and a voice cameo by the legendary Vincent Price.
Unfortunately, Boris Karloff didn’t come back to play Frankenstein’s Monster but we did get Glenn Strange, who had already played the monster twice before this and who is really underappreciated in that role.
The only problem with this is one that doesn’t actually effect the film itself but instead, effects the ones that followed. You see, they blew their nut really early by cramming a ton of monsters into this one, so the following movies felt a bit underwhelming after the precedent this one set. But honestly, it’s why this particular one is the best of the lot.
Abbot and Costello are both hilarious per usual and their camaraderie was so solid by this point that they could’ve entertained in their sleep.
All in all, this was a really good horror comedy that took the best parts of two very different things and merged them together very well, not diminishing the performances of the two comedic legends or the coolness of the classic monsters and the legends who played them.
Rating: 7.75/10 Pairs well with: the other Abbot and Costello monster movies.
The next branch of the Universal Monsters tree that I have rewatched is the Invisible Man series of films.
This character and the other invisible characters in this series, were like the Mummy in that they never really got to crossover with the other monsters of their era. I would’ve loved to have seen how Claude Rains’ Dr. Jack Griffin a.k.a. the original Invisible Man would have fared against Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster and the Wolf Man.
Like other characters in the Universal Monsters mythos, this one was milked to death. It also spawned a total of five films.
The Invisible Man (1933):
Release Date: November 13th, 1933 Directed by: James Whale Written by: R.C. Sherriff Based on:The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells Music by: Heinz Roemheld Cast: Claude Rains, Gloria Stuart
Universal Pictures, 71 Minutes
Directed by James Whale, who gave us Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, this film is another classic gem in the catalog of his stellar work. Whale, once again, gave us some amazing cinematography even though this was an insanely difficult film to shoot for its time. The tone, the humor, the dread, all of it worked to a tee and came together like a perfectly woven tapestry.
Claude Rains is one of those actors that I cannot praise enough. He was a genius and between this film and his Phantom of the Opera adaptation, he proved that he was not just a master of horror but a master thespian able to perform at a level far exceeding many of the well-known dramatic actors of his era. There are few things in life that I prefer watching to Rains playing Dr. Jack Griffin in this film. His voice work, his body work, all of it was perfection.
This is the best film in the series and a solid, if not still the best, interpretation of H.G. Wells’ classic novel, The Invisible Man. This is a great example of James Whale’s supremacy as a director, especially in the horror genre, as well as one of the very best films put out by Universal – not just in their classic monster series and not just in that time period but of all-time.
The Invisible Man Returns (1940):
Release Date: January 12th, 1940 Directed by: Joe May Written by: Joe May, Kurt Siodmak, Lester Cole Based on:The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells Music by: Hans J. Salter, Frank Skinner Cast: Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Vincent Price, Nan Grey, Alan Napier
Universal Pictures, 81 Minutes
The title is somewhat misleading, as this is a different character entirely. Although Dr. Jack Griffin’s brother Frank is a new character in this film and weirdly, Jack is referred to as “John” in this movie.
The film stars Vincent Price, a legendary horror icon in his first ever horror role. Price would gain more fame and legendary status several years later after starring in House of Wax. Regardless of that, Price played a likable and not so horrific character as this film’s incarnation of the Invisible Man. His character, Sir Geoffrey Radcliffe is sentenced to death for a murder he didn’t commit. Knowing that he is innocent, the brother of the original Invisible Man injects himself with the invisible serum so that he can escape and clear his name.
One thing leads to another and we get the happy ending.
Alan Napier who played Alfred in the 1960s Batman TV series has a big role in this film. Vincent Price would later go on to star as the villain Egghead in that same series.
This was a solid sequel and I really enjoyed it. It wasn’t a rehash of the original film, it was a pretty original idea and it was executed greatly.
The Invisible Woman (1940):
Release Date: December 27th, 1940 Directed by: A. Edward Sutherland Written by: Kurt Siodmak, Joe May Based on:The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells Music by: Frank Skinner Cast: Virginia Bruce, John Barrymore, John Howard, Charlie Ruggles, Oscar Homolka
Universal Pictures, 72 Minutes
With Universal pumping out an insane amount of sequels to their horror franchises, they wasted no time in releasing The Invisible Woman the same year they released The Invisible Man Returns. Sequel-mania was running rampant at Universal!
This was the first film in the series to really take a plunge. There was nothing really “horror” about it and in fact, it was a comedy.
The plot sees a recently fired department store model get revenge on her boss after she is made invisible by a loony scientist. It was basically like the plot from 9-to-5 starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton. Except it was about one woman and she was invisible.
This is a pretty forgettable film and had it not been wedged into this series – ending up in box sets like the one I own, it would’ve been lost in the sands of time.
The Invisible Agent(1942):
Release Date: July 31st, 1942 Directed by: Edwin L. Marin Written by: Curtis Siodmak Based on:The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells Music by: Hans J. Salter Cast: Ilona Massey, Jon Hall, Peter Lorre
Universal Pictures, 81 Minutes
This film takes The Invisible Man formula and gives us something pretty awesome: an invisible agent fighting the Nazis and a Japanese associate during World War II. Additionally, Peter Lorre is in this as the Japanese villain, which is intriguing, bizarre and just totally awesome! Sir Cedric Hardwicke plays the villainous Nazi, making his second appearance in this series, as he also played the villain in The Invisible Man Returns.
This is my favorite sequel in the series, as the plot is awesome and it was well-executed.
Coming out at the height of World War II, this must have been an exciting film to watch. The special effects are once again top notch and the acting was good from all parties involved.
The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944):
Release Date: June 9th, 1944 Directed by: Ford Beebe Written by: Bertram Millhauser Based on:The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells Music by: Hans J. Salter Cast: Jon Hall, John Carradine, Evelyn Ankers
Universal Pictures, 78 Minutes
The final film in the series gives us John Carradine as a scientist who is another new character with the power of invisibility.
New character wants to harness the power, new character gets the power, new character seeks revenge against those who wronged him. Sound familiar?
Well, at this point the traditional formula of this series has run its course and unfortunately, we didn’t get something as original and new as the previous film in the series.
This film isn’t a complete waste and it is okay but you’ll watch it swearing that you’ve seen it already. Plus, I really love John Carradine.
More Universal Monsters reviews are coming as soon as I rewatch them. Next up will be the Wolf Man series.
I recently watched all of the Universal Monsters films in each infamous monster’s own franchise. In fact, I own the box set for each monster, so it made it much easier. I also reviewed every film, which will be released here over time.
In regards to the list, I also added in the two Phantom of the Opera films: the 1925 one with Lon Chaney Sr. and the 1943 one with Claude Rains. The Hunchback of Notre Dame from 1923, also starring Lon Chaney Sr. is also included, as it is considered a part of Universal’s canon and led the way for the hunchback staple in their films.
After watching and reviewing them all, I wanted to rank them.
Here is my list:
1. Bride of Frankenstein
2. The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
3. The Invisible Man
6. Creature From the Black Lagoon
7. The Wolf Man
8. Dracula – Spanish Version
9. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
10. Werewolf of London
11. The Phantom of the Opera (1943)
12. The Creature Walks Among Us
13. Son of Frankenstein
14. The Invisible Agent
15. The Mummy
16. Son of Dracula
17. The Invisible Man Returns
18. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man
19. Revenge of the Creature
20. The Mummy’s Tomb
21. The Ghost of Frankenstein
22. House of Frankenstein
23. House of Dracula
24. She-Wolf of London
25. Dracula’s Daughter
26. The Mummy’s Ghost
27. The Invisible Man’s Revenge
28. The Mummy’s Curse
29. The Mummy’s Hand
30. The Invisible Woman