Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 4, 2018)
Though it took seven years for 1933’s The Invisible Man to spawn a sequel, audiences didn’t wait long for a third chapter. After The Invisible Man Returns debuted in early 1940, The Invisible Woman hit screens at the very end of the year.
Professor Gibbs (John Barrymore) invents an invisibility machine, and he places an advertisement to recruit a test subject. He gets a reply from Kitty Carroll (Virginia Bruce), a fashion model.
Kitty doesn’t agree to go translucent in the interest of science, though. Instead, she wants to settle various scores and figures she can do so more easily in her invisible state.
Technically, I shouldn’t call Woman a “sequel” to the two prior Invisible Man films. Returns shared elements with the original film, but Woman exists in a universe all of its own, with no link to its siblings other than the concept of invisibility.
The movie certainly doesn’t play like a relation to the prior flicks, as from its opening scene of slapstick, it becomes clear that Woman will land firmly on the comedic side of the street. Of course, the original Invisible Man included humorous moments as well, but it mainly provided a dark horror tale.
That doesn’t occur here, as Woman never even vaguely attempts scares. Instead, it becomes much more of a romantic comedy, with a wholly trite – even for its era – connection between Gibbs’ playboy patron Richard Russell (John Howard) thrown into the mix.
Why does it force this “meet cute” relationship down our throats? I guess because Universal assumed the female viewers wanted it – and maybe they did.
The first two movies included romantic subplots as well, but those seemed more organic. In Woman, it feels like we find a relationship between Kitty and Russell solely because that’s what the script dictated.
It doesn’t help that virtually all of the characters seem like terrible people, so they do little to gain our affection or sympathy. Even Professor Gibbs treats his housekeeper rudely, so there’s no one here for the audience to embrace.
Given that Woman eventually wants us to latch onto the romance, that’s an issue, one of many in this misbegotten tale. Silly, sexist and pointless, Woman flops.