Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 29, 2019)
With 1944’s The Invisible Man’s Revenge, we get the fourth and final sequel to 1933’s The Invisible Man. Imprisoned as a murderous psychopath, Robert Griffin (Jon Hall) escapes and becomes a fugitive.
As he flees, Robert encounters Dr. Peter Drury (John Carradine), a scientist who invented an invisibility formula. Robert eagerly takes this to facilitate his ability to elude law enforcement and also to get his revenge on the Herrick family, a clan he believes cheated him.
From the 1933 Invisible Man through 1940’s Invisible Man Returns, 1940’s Invisible Woman and 1942’s Invisible Agent, each movie in the series featured a different transparent character – and a different lead actor.
That changes partially with Revenge, as Agent’s Jon Hall returns to play the see-through main role. However, in an odd choice, Revenge places Hall in a new part.
In Agent, Hall played the heroic Frank Raymond, a civilian who used the invisibility formula to battle Nazis. This makes his turn as the criminally insane Robert a pretty radical change, though the surname creates confusion.
Though his Agent role adopted the last name “Raymond”, we learn that he descends from Jack Griffin, the original Invisible Man, and that “Griffin” is his true surname. The decision to make the Revenge role another Griffin seems perplexing, as Robert is no relative to any of the prior films’ Griffins, and neither he nor anyone in his family created the invisibility formula.
If I ignore these odd casting and character name choices, I can appreciate Revenge as one of the more effective entries in the Invisible Man series. While it doesn’t ever quite excel, it brings us an intriguing enough tale to keep us with it.
Though it can feel like a throwback to Return of the Invisible Man. As I noted when I reviewed Agent, the first three sequels each managed to create its own unique story, but Revenge offers more than a few echoes of Return.
Despite these callbacks, I think Revenge manages to form its own tale to a decent degree, and its execution satisfies. Whereas Hall felt stiff and bland in Agent, he manages a bit more personality here, as he brings reasonable life to his morally questionable role.
It comes as a surprise to find a story with few likable characters. How many movies of this sort posit psychopaths as the leads?
Not many, and hardly anyone else in Revenge earns our admiration. We spend our time with various selfish, nasty folks, a turn that gives Revenge a dark spin.
Nothing about Revenge offers real creative innovation, but it still works most of the time. A fairly taut thriller, it wraps up the franchise pretty well.