Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Last Invisible Man

Read/Watch ‘em in Order: #9

The previous movie in this series—The Invisible Man’s Revenge—was too different from the other films to be considered a part of the same continuity, but that’s not the case with this film.

Despite a heavy dose of both verbal and slapstick humor, Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951) ties squarely in with the original film. Bud and Lou are newly licensed private eyes. When boxer Tommy Nelson is accused of murder, he hires the boys to help him catch the real killers.

But Tommy has another advantage. His girlfriend’s dad has inherited Jack Griffith’s original formula (heck, there’s a picture of Claude Rains hanging in his lab) and Tommy injects himself with it. But there’s still the danger of the formula driving Tommy insane and there’s no guarantee he can be cured even if he does clear his name.

Of course, that last bit does represent a continuity glitch---it had already been established in the second film that a complete blood transfusion would work as a cure. Also, Tommy is able to eat without the undigested food being visible inside him. But we can forgive this last one, since it helps set up a great visual gag later in the film when Lou and Tommy are sharing a plate of spaghetti.

The film was one of several that followed up on the commercial success of 1948’s Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.  The boys had shown us that it was possible to incorporate great comedy with a serious and respectful treatment of Universal’s classic monsters, so that formula was repeated several times. In this case, the plot involved Tommy and the boys getting evidence against mobsters who framed the boxer and arranged for fights to be thrown. This part of the film is played relatively straight and progresses in a logical manner as they identify the chief mobster and set him up for a fall.

But the gags mixed in with this are hilarious without distracting from the “rational” part of the plot. The dialogue highlights Bud and Lou’s verbal wit, while several bits of physical comedy are amongst the best in any of their films. The funniest moment, I think, might possibly be the punch line (or rather the punch sight gag) involving Lou accidently putting a number of people to sleep via hypnotism.

And an extended sequence with Lou in a boxing ring, being secretly helped by Tommy during a fight, is truly classic. In fact, the entire film was consciously built around this routine.

Even the short throwaway gags (such as Lou trying to pick up a gun while wearing boxing gloves) are funny. The special effects are great and the supporting cast holds up their end of the film nicely. Sheldon Leonard plays the head mobster—a standard role for him but one he always did well both in serious films and in comedies. William Frawley gets several terrific scenes as the long-suffering police detective trying to catch Tommy.

It’s a worthwhile finale for a classic and enjoyable series of horror films.

And that does indeed bring us to the end of the Invisible Man films. We’ve still one more Shadow novel in “The Hand” series to cover, then we’ll be ready to move on to something else. Right now, I’m leaning towards examining Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Pellicidar novels—if only because I haven’t revisited them in awhile. But we’ll see. It’s my blog and I’ll cry if I want to… um, I mean I’ll read what I want to. 

Actually, I’m open to suggestions. Any film or book series you all would like me to cover?


  1. My brother and I watched this film and 2 other A&C Meets... films the other day on TCM. It was a fun night. I hadn't seen these films in ages, and forgot now funny they were.

  2. I'm still waiting for you to cover the Marx Brothers movies.

  3. That's not a bad idea. I may get to them eventually.


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