The Invisible Woman (1940)

*. The opening pratfall, which will be far from the last, with the butler slipping and falling down the stairs, effectively sets the tone for what’s to come. This isn’t a scary or thrilling movie, or even one that wants you to invest much in its drama. It’s a romantic comedy with a lot of slapstick elements. As you might expect in a movie from a director who was one of the original Keystone Kops and starring Shemp Howard as one of a trio of bumbling gangsters.
*. Along with the change in tone comes a complete dismissal of the original plot. The story has nothing at all to do with either The Invisible Man or The Invisible Man Returns. The professor here has no connection to Griffin or his brother, and his method of turning people invisible isn’t some elixir but a combination of an injection and the usual room full of lab equipment that had become standard in such movies ever since Frankenstein.
*. An invisible woman, but is she a feminist? There is a subplot involving sisterhood among the models at the fashion house where Kitty works, and we’re on her side when she turns the table on her mean boss. It’s also neat how Kitty proves that a woman can do a man’s job (as guinea pig), and that she’s adventurous enough to be excited at the thought of turning invisible. Hell, she’s even a free drinker too. She’s also very much the driver of the action, with the professor and the playboy being a scatterbrain and a fop respectively. Even the professor’s assistant (Margaret Hamilton, the Wicked Witch of the West) is far more capable than the fainting butler who is always threatening to quit. In all these ways I think it can be viewed as quite progressive, even as it’s a tease.
*. It’s a slight movie, but hard not to enjoy for its quick 70 minutes. There’s a lot of nodding and winking at Kitty’s invisible state of nudity, and the framing of the shot where Dick (Dick and Kitty, groan) grabs her hand (so she says) is downright bold. But none of it is leering or lewd.
*. Virginia Bruce filling in for a reluctant Margaret Sullavan. John Barrymore, apparently in rough shape, playing a character so distracted it doesn’t matter. Effects by John Fulton that play all the same stunts, with the addition of the aforementioned risqué humour of Kitty’s stripteases down to nothing. But it’s good clean fun.

4 thoughts on “The Invisible Woman (1940)

    1. Alex Good Post author

      It’s definitely the lightest of the first series. Invisible Man (or Woman) movies are all over the map. They can be horror movies, or comedies, or whatever. The next up, Invisible Agent, is a spy story with the Invisible Man heading off to Germany to fight Nazis.

      Reply

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