Director: Edwin L. Marin
Writer: Curtis Siodmak
Cast: Ilona Massey, Jon Hall, Peter Lorre, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, J. Edward Bromberg, Albert Basserman, John Litel, Holmes Herbert, and Keye Luke
Composer: H.J. Salter
Release Date: 8/7/1942
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Frank Raymond (Jon Hall)—grandson of Dr. Jack Griffin—volunteers to make himself invisible in order to spy on the enemy with ease. After safely parachuting behind German lines, Raymond embarks on a secret mission while making Nazi officials look like bumbling fools.
A clever attempt to breathe new life into a dying franchise, Invisible Agent more closely resembles a World War II super soldier film than a traditional horror production. Universal Monster buffs are nevertheless advised to view this offering, the comedic elements of which provide enough lighthearted fun for the whole family to appreciate.
As opposed to his progenitor from The Invisible Man, Agent Frank Raymond somehow manages to avoid insanity after injecting himself with the invisibility formula—a factor that allows the protagonist to remain likable and good-humored from start to finish. In contrast to the noble qualities exemplified by Raymond, Baron Ikito (Peter Lorre) and Conrad Stauffer (Sir Cedric Hardwicke) embody those contemptible attributes often associated with the Axis Powers; notably, both villains readily torture, betray, and steal from their allies and enemies alike while working to advance the Japanese and German agendas. Though lacking subtlety, Invisible Agent’s conflict between good and evil will appeal to fans of propaganda movies produced by the United States during World War II.
While the mischievous tendencies of Raymond prevent Invisible Agent from assuming an overly dark tone, there are times when the title character’s idiotic shenanigans result in severe pacing issues. The mealtime “mishaps” of Karl Heiser (J. Edward Bromberg), for example, drag on far longer than necessary and thus ruin any suspense that might have ensued from Raymond’s precarious rendezvous with secret agent Maria Sorenson (Ilona Massey).
More effectively than The Invisible Woman, Invisible Agent offers an original take on the premise initially explored by H. G. Wells. Specifically, themes of a horror-related nature (e.g. mad scientists and eerie locational devices) are substituted with patriotic undertones typical of wartime material (superhero fans will undoubtedly draw a number of parallels between Invisible Agent and the first Captain America film). It should be noted that when distinguishing righteous and malevolent forces (i.e. the Allied and Axis Powers respectively) from one another, Invisible Agent presents a cartoonish worldview with little room for the nuance that defined Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, and many similar classics; however, Universal Monster fans may still admire Curt Siodmak’s unique, if somewhat sappy, employment of a then exhausted concept.
Invisible Agent is a worthy installment in Universal Studios’ The Invisible Man series. For those who enjoy espionage films set during World War II, this one will not disappoint.
Overall Quality: 7/10
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