*. I mentioned in earlier notes how Claude Rains and Vincent Price were both one-and-done in their roles as the Invisible Man in The Invisible Man and The Invisible Man Returns respectively. Virginia Bruce was good in The Invisible Woman, but Universal only saw the distaff version as a novelty act. Which means that Jon Hall, who played the title role in Invisible Agent, is the first actor to return to the part.
*. But not, curiously enough, the same part. Hall is playing a different character here, though just to confuse things even more he has the same surname (Griffin) as the three previous Invisible Men. Actually, there is no plot continuity whatsoever between this movie and any of the previous films. The formula for invisibility has been independently discovered by John Carradine, whose doorstep Griffin just happens to find himself on one night.
*. I guess Jon Hall was a property Universal was trying to build up at the time. He gets his name in a big splash — “Universal Presents JON HALL in” — before the title screen. Vincent Price didn’t even get top billing in his movie.
*. H. G. Wells is also mentioned in the credits, as this story was apparently “suggested by” his novel. I doubt even that much was true.
*. Hall isn’t bad, but he has the blandness of the typical leading men of the time. He’s hard to distinguish from co-star Alan Curtis, with their matching moustaches, and has none of the personality of Rains or Price or even Bruce. There are less effects than before, and they’re less imaginative and ambitious. Contemporary critics complained of the lack of novelty. Note that there are two scenes where Griffin looks in a mirror while invisible (though wearing a shirt) and in both cases we don’t see his partial reflection. Given how complicated a shot this was to achieve in the first movie I’m not really surprised, but it gives you some idea of how they were scaling things back.
*. The main drawback here is the story. It’s far more complicated than it needs to be, to the point where I actually had trouble following it. Griffin has escaped from an asylum in South Africa after murdering some orderlies. He travels to England where he confronts an old friend with having left him for dead while exploring for a diamond mine. To be honest, I couldn’t figure out the levels of culpability here. Anyway, Griffin wants his share of the money from the diamond mine and when his old friend doesn’t want to pay up he gets Carradine to turn him invisible. Then he has a plan to get all the money and the friend’s daughter too.
*. I don’t see where the movie needed so much of this. Griffin’s obsession with the daughter is a particularly big stretch, as it just serves to introduce the traditional love triangle that Universal seems to have thought essential. As a result, the film only sort of wanders around for a bit before coming to an end.
*. A silly eulogy for Griffin. “He’s to be pitied, really. He probed too deeply in forbidden places. What a man earns, he gets. Nature has a strange way of paying him back in its own coin.” Maybe. But I have no sympathy for Carradine’s scientist after what he does to that magnificent Saint Bernard. He should have been left to burn.
*. This is widely, and I think correctly, viewed as the least of the original run of Invisible Man movies. Not completely without interest, but little better than the usual B-movie fare of the period, which wasn’t that good.