Saturday, June 24, 1978: The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944)

Synopsis: Robert Griffin (Jon Hall) has stowed away on a freighter from Cape Town after escaping from a mental hospital in South Africa. Arriving in England, he immediately goes to the estate of Sir Jasper Herrick (Lester Matthews) and his wife Irene (Gale Sondegaard). The Herricks are greatly surprised to see Griffin, whom they had left for dead in Africa during an expedition to locate a diamond mine five years earlier.

Griffin believes that the two had tried to murder him, and he demands that they give him his share of the fortune, as promised in a letter of agreement they signed, which he still carries with him.

The Herricks deny having anything to do with Griffin’s misfortune. But eager to be rid of him, they slip him a mickey and dump him some distance from their estate, making sure to relieve him of the incriminating letter in the process.

An embittered Griffin wanders around the countryside until he happens upon the house of eccentric inventor Dr. Drury (John Carradine), who has perfected a formula that can make animals turn invisible. He has never tested the formula on a human, but Griffin eagerly volunteers to be the first test subject.

Once invisible, Griffin goes back to the estate and terrorizes the Herricks, now demanding not only a share of their fortune but the right to marry their beautiful daughter Julie (Evelyn Ankers). Sir Jasper pretends to agree to to this, but points out that Julie wouldn’t be interested in a man she can’t see.

Returning to Drury’s lab, Griffin demands a way to be returned to his visible state. But Drury says visibility can only be temporarily restored through an infusion of large quantities of blood. Griffin decides to use Drury’s blood to restore himself to visibility, killing the inventor in the process.

Now Griffin has found a way to make himself visible whenever he chooses — but in order to do so, he needs a steady supply of fresh victims….

Comments: Aside from the invisibility gimmick itself, there’s no connection between The Invisible Man’s Revenge and earlier films in the series. The protagonist is named Griffin, but he’s not the inventor of the serum, nor (as in The Invisible Man Returns and Invisible Agent) is he a member of the family that did.

The idea of using invisibility to seek revenge has great dramatic possibilities, and in fact 1933’s The Invisible Man used this device to great effect, with Griffin’s vendetta against Kemp being a major story element. Similarly, the brilliant 2020 reworking of The Invisible Man constructed an even more sinister revenge plot, as Adrian Griffin first fakes his own death, then begins a campaign of (invisible) terror against his estranged wife, knowing that no one will believe her.

But The Invisible Man’s Revenge struggles to build much narrative tension at all. Griffin doesn’t use his invisibility to play a cat-and-mouse game with the Herricks, making them wonder when he might appear in their midst or what he might do next. Bertram Millhauser’s screenplay is too impatient for that. Instead, the invisible Griffin barges into their house and makes demands, throwing things around and yelling a lot.

One of his demands is for Julie’s hand in marriage, an improbable and clumsy plot device that never really works. In the end the Herricks agree to give Griffin what he wants, but the concessions are made under duress, and aren’t any more legally binding than if he’d shown up waving a gun at them.

Jon Hall returns to the lead role here, though he’s playing a different character than he did in Invisible Agent. He’s barely adequate for the task, even though the script demands little from him. Similarly, Evelyn Ankers plays the same sort of love interest role she usually plays, and is quite forgettable. The only standouts here are Gale Sondegaard, who is deliciously evil as always (telling Griffin smoothly, “You’ll get everything that’s coming to you” with just the right hint of malice) and John Carradine, ordinarily a dreadful ham who puts just the right amount of humor in his portrayal of the wiggy, ill-fated Dr. Drury.

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