Director: A. Edward Sutherland
Writers: Robert Lees, Fred Rinaldo, and Gertrude Purcell
Cast: Virginia Bruce, John Barrymore, John Howard, Charlie Ruggles, Oscar Homolka, Edward Brophy, Donald MacBride, Margaret Hamilton, Shemp Howard, Anne Nagel, Kathryn Adams, Maria Montez, Charles Lane, Mary Gordon, Thurston Hall, and Eddie Conrad
Composer: Charles Previn
Release Date: 12/27/1940
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Funded by wealthy playboy Richard Russell (John Howard), a kooky old scientist known as Professor Gibbs (John Barrymore) invents an invisibility machine. A young woman named Kitty Carroll (Virginia Bruce) volunteers to act as a guinea pig for the professor’s contraption, but complications arise when gangster Blackie Cole (Oscar Homolka) directs a group of henchmen to steal the device.
The Invisible Woman should be commended for putting a unique spin on H. G. Wells’ then tired concept. An excessively lighthearted approach to Kurt Siodmak’s premise may, however, fail to entertain viewers who prefer serious horror over material of a more farcical nature.
Nominated for an Academy Award, the special effects of John P. Fulton hold up fairly well despite having been filmed over three-quarters of a century ago. The undressing sequences (which, on a side note, were considered somewhat risqué at the time) will perhaps be of interest to classic movie buffs, though it should be noted that Jack Griffin’s initial reveal in The Invisible Man overshadows any parallel scenes featured in The Invisible Woman.
A screwball comedy, The Invisible Woman might appeal to those who enjoy the zany and often slapstick humor employed by the Three Stooges (Shemp Howard himself makes an appearance as one of Blackie Cole’s idiotic goons). That being said, the silly antics of an invisible woman, a nutty professor, and a gang of ridiculously incompetent thugs are overplayed to the point of tediousness. Many of the one-note gags (e.g. a moronic butler tripping over objects, a menacing crime leader speaking in falsetto after failing to turn his neck invisible, etc.) central to narrative progression are made additionally stale by a dated execution, which will likely alienate the youngest of Universal Monster fans.
An inferior sequel, The Invisible Woman forgoes the delightful camp exemplified by James Whale’s The Invisible Man in favor of tiresome, repetitious comedic devices. All but the most passionate of genre enthusiasts would therefore be wise to avoid this embarrassing, albeit decidedly inoffensive, chapter in Universal Studios’ iconic monster series.
Overall Quality: 3/10
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