Invisible Man Returns, The (1940)

Invisible Man Returns, The (1940)

“I don’t want friends; I shall have worshipers, followers!”

A man (Vincent Price) falsely accused of fratricide eludes execution by ingesting an invisibility serum created by a doctor (John Sutton) whose brother was the original “Invisible Man”. While Sutton works frantically on an antidote to the serum’s side-effect of toxic grandiosity, Price — supported by his loyal fiancee (Nan Grey) — tries to elude capture by a Scotland Yard detective (Cecil Kellaway) and convince his co-worker (Cedric Hardwicke) to confess to the murder.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Falsely Accused
  • Horror
  • Science Fiction
  • Vincent Price Films

Universal’s follow-up to The Invisible Man (1933) was this “sequel”, which actually simply retells the original story with a weak narrative connection that Sutton’s brother was the original ill-fated “Invisible Man” (thus adding to his sense of guilt and urgency). As Frank Nugent wrote in his review for the New York Times, “Somehow we were not as astonished as once we were when a man unrolled a bandage from his head and revealed no head, or when he shucked off his clothes and became nothing but a nothing, or when he went for a stroll in the woods and all we could see were twigs snapping back and underbrush being trampled.” It’s fun to hear Price’s distinctive voice, though one wishes to see him live for more than the final minute. This was Price’s third film of note after supporting roles in Tower of London (1939) and The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939); he would go on to play many more unhinged “villains” (though in this case, his megalomaniacal behavior is beyond his control).

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • John P. Fulton’s clever special effects

Must See?
No; you can skip this one unless you’re a fan of the series.


One thought on “Invisible Man Returns, The (1940)

  1. First viewing. A once-must for fans of the 1933 original who are likely to find it a satisfying sequel. As per my post in ‘The ’40s-’50s in Film’ (fb):

    “Drink to me! Drink to my invincible power! To a new era! To a changed world – with me as its guiding genius!”

    ‘The Invisible Man Returns’ (1940): As chronicled in the film ‘Gods and Monsters’ and the James Curtis biography of him, director James Whale was not a particularly modest artist; he was apparently rather proud of his talent. In ‘Gods and Monsters’, there’s a scene in which someone asks him if he directed *all* of the Frankenstein films and he replies with something like, “Only the first two; the others were done by hacks.” Whale, of course, also directed ‘The Invisible Man’ – but its sequel (seven years later) doesn’t feel like the work of a hack. In fact, Joe May does a rather nifty job – as the story takes a different direction, even though the basics of the experimental drug (which brings on invisibility) remain the same. Vincent Price takes over for Claude Rains and he gets fine support from Cedric Hardwicke, Cecil Kellaway, John Sutton… and Nan Grey (as Price’s girlfriend), whose work I’m not that familiar with but who shows marvelous understated restraint. (She appeared with Price the same year in ‘The House of the Seven Gables’.) True, the Whale touches may not be here but something of his spirit remains in the tone nevertheless – and the special effects here may even be better than those of the original.

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