*. The Invisible Man Returns was a bit of an exception to the original run of Universal monster features for a couple of reasons. In the first place there was a gap of seven years between the original film and this, the first sequel. Second: the star had left the building. Lugosi, Karloff, and Lon Chaney Jr. would come back many times to play Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolf Man. But Claude Rains was one-and-done as the Invisible Man.
*. Without Rains the studio went about looking for another unknown to take the lead. They struck gold, again, with Vincent Price (who would be one-and-done in the role as well, unless you count the cameo voice at the end of Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein). As far as great voices go, they hit two home runs. And with John Fulton still doing the effects work the pieces were in place for a worthy sequel.
*. But there were problems. The script went through many drafts, director Joe May spoke no English, and for some reason a lot of money was sunk into turning the Universal back lot into a mining town, complete with escalator. Cedric Hardwicke, who got star billing, didn’t like working on the film. They were behind schedule and over budget, leading to a lot of long days (and nights).
*. They were probably lucky to end up with a movie as good as they did. There’s a somewhat interesting plot, with Price beginning the movie on death row after being falsely convicted of killing his brother. He enlists the help of the brother of the original Invisible Man to turn him invisible so he can get out of prison and clear his name. Or at least take vengeance on the real killer (Hadrwicke), who has his eye on Price’s mining company. And his woman too, naturally. This all comes with the usual invisible shenanigans, all capably supervised by Fulton.
*. Not a special movie in any way, or particularly memorable aside from being (arguably) Price’s first horror film, but it’s better than average B fare with a decent climax on the escalator they built. At least that part was worth the expense.
I guess this was one franchise that didn’t depend on the star returning; the attraction is the trick work, although Price is no bad substitution. Are you working your way through a boxed set?
I’m going through all the original run, then a couple of more recent versions. You’re right that the gimmick is the draw here, not the character, who is always changing and not often that interesting.