Invisible Agent Reviews
In this unrated continuation of the Universal series, the Invisible Man's grandson (Jon Hall) uses his secret formula to spy on Nazi Germany.
Here, Peter Lorre gets better material than with The Invisible Woman. Hes joined by Ilona Massey and Cedric Hardwicke in a tale that's more rousing and enjoyable than it deserves to be. Hats off to Kurt Siodmak, a screenwriter who churned out a ridiculous amount of scripts for every Universal horror franchise but The Mummy including Dracula (Son of Dracula), Frankenstein (House of Frankenstein), The Invisible Man (The Invisible Man Returns), and, The Wolf Man (Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man). This espionage thriller-cum-comedy might not approach the quality of his crowning achievement (The Wolf Man) but its funtastic enough to earn him huge respect just for his overall batting average when it comes to quality and output.
Bottom line: Spy Gamey
After getting threatened by German secret agents the grandson of the Invisible Man allows the U.S. military to use his families secret formula to obtain enemy secrets with one condition, that he must be the secret agent that goes in. So he is parachuted into Berlin where he meets up with an attractive young female secret agent. With her help he must avoid being caught and escape Germany alive with the secrets he needs to aid the allied forces.
Despite the novel idea of having the invisible man as a secret agent the problem I have with this film is it reeks too much of a propaganda film, a problem that plagues man war time films that were produced during the time the war they portray was raging. Is the propaganda element as bad as, let's say, John Wayne's "The Green Berets"? No but it still concentrates too much on "America being great" instead of making a solid, interesting plot and characters.
The plot is incredibly clichÃ (C) with the only novel element being the addition of an Invisible spy. We get the predictable capture and escape sequences, predicable scenes of the invisible agent toying with Nazis and a predictable love spark between the invisible agent and his female co-spy.
The special effects are the highlight here (much like the other sequels) as they continue to get better and better with each entry. We even get to see the invisible man soup up his legs and arms which was an amazing effect at the time and even to this very day. We do get to see plenty of monofilament wire shop up in the camera as it carries pieces of food and other items but that is easily forgivable.
"Invisible Agent" is better than the last entry as it tones down the slap stick comedy approach and the espionage element is refreshing but the clichÃ (C) plot and overall propaganda feel hinder this from being as good as the first two entries. For fans this will still provide plenty of invisible entertainment value. Followed by "The Invisible Man's Revenge".
Bonus Rant: The filmmakers conveniently forgot the aspect that in the first two "Invisible Man" films the serum that renders people invisible eventually drives them insane. Also in the first film the invisible man states that after eating food is visible digesting in his stomach whereas here he eats with no worry of being seen. For a Universal sequel these continuity errors are rather small but they still are continuity errors none-the-less.
The story is relatively simple. Axis spies try to get the invisibility formula, and fail. Subsequently, the invisible man offers his services to the United States. He is sent into Germany to discover a plot by the nazis, and by coincidence comes up against the same spies who tried to steal his formula. His invisible state gives him such an edge that his assignment would be simple, but he chooses to abuse his power to amuse himself. Madness or just immaturity, it's for you to decide. Regardless, his hijinks make a simple job difficult, allowing enough time for a feature length picture.
A must for Peter Lorre fans, and Sir Cedric Hardwicke and Ilona Massey are here too. Word has it that the star, Jon Hall, was a big action star of the day, so anyone who has heard of him and enjoys his work might want to give this one a look too, though you won't see much of him.
A piece of pro-America, wartime propaganda, The Invisible Agent has everything you'd expect: a plucky American hero who speaks about freedom whenever he isn't wowing the girl and fooling the enemy, noble allied commanders, evil and bumbling Nazis, and cold, calculating Japanese.
Unlike the third film in the "invisible series," The Invisible Woman, this film is tied to the original, with the grandson of the scientist in the first film acting as keeper of the drug. The serum is supposedly the same, but it no longer causes insanity (you can't have your red, white, and blue champion going nuts when saving the world). Nor does he feel the need to hide for a time after eating to hide undigested, so visible, food.
With an uneasy mix of comedy and espionage, Frank heads to Germany where he should be nearly invulnerable, but instead gives away his location at every opportunity by playing silly pranks. I'm sure his dropping a Nazi's dinner in his lap is supposed to be hilarious, but instead it just makes Frank out to be feebleminded. He puts the girl in danger and risks his mission for a few stunts.
The bumbling Nazi jokes aren't funny, but aren't embarrassing. Bromberg does the silly villain bit well, (he played Don Luis Quintero in The Mark of Zorro) but he feels no more like a German than the very British Hardwicke. Stranger is the casting of Peter Lorre as Baron Ikito. Wearing only small round glasses to imply his Japanese nature, I must assume he comes from the Eastern European part of Japan. As for his character, when did the Japanese have barons as part of their feudal system? I was waiting for the next logical step, when Sultan Hitler would show up.
Although the comedy falls flat, once the film finally becomes a war thriller, it delivers. There's a bit of real tension and some pulp influenced action.
And you have to enjoy any film that has Peter Lorre saying "Occidental decay is nowhere more apparent than in that childish sentimentality of white men for their women." Yup.
However, Invisible Agent is a great addition to the series and genre of horror, despite is not having a real horror storyline. Recommended for every fan of the series. It's unfaithful to the source material, yet it is still able to retrieve itself from the ashes of the file cabinet titled: Flaws.