Sequels are nothing new. Hollywood has been cranking them out nearly since the birth of motion pictures (I’m sure a good number of theatrical plays had sequels, too, before the flickers came along). Some sequels (and prequels) don’t add anything new, a lot of them are more of the same of what was popular in the original film. There’s a good many that are of middling quality. As wiser people than me (Alan Thicke among them) once said: “You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the facts of life.”
Other than the original 1933 production, I had not seen any of the films in the Invisible Man series. Unless you count when Abbott and Costello met him, then I’ve seen two. After watching all the sequels, the special effects remain impressive. The production values, likewise, are of consistent quality (the Universal Monsters always had the coolest looking film sets). It’s the plots and stories that would become hit or miss.
The first sequel, The Invisible Man Returns, opens on the evening of Sir Geoffrey Radcliffe’s execution. He’s been tried and condemned for the murder of his brother, Michael. A lot of his family cannot believe he killed Michael. Others think he was more than capable. Geoffrey, himself, insists that he is innocent— but don’t they all say that?
Following his family’s failed attempts to delay the execution, and a visit from his friend Frank Griffin, the prison officials come to take Geoffrey to meet his fate. What they find are the inmate’s clothes: Geoffrey is gone, his cell empty. A massive manhunt ensues, but one Scotland Yard detective thinks something more is amiss.
Here’s the thing: Frank Griffin, the brother of the original invisible man, John “Jack” Griffin, is a scientist funded by Geoffrey Radcliffe. Frank believes Geoffrey is an innocent man, so he gives him the invisibility cocktail which allows Geoffrey to escape prison. The search for his brother’s real killer becomes a race against time– remember from the first film, a side effect of the invisibility serum is insanity.
Geoffrey’s race with the devil of mental instability…yeah, it’s pretty darn close.
As far as sequels go, The Invisible Man Returns is good. From here the series would take a turn into some interesting areas which, sometimes, would not always work. Much like the first film, there are some invisible pranks; unlike the first one, the pranks do not feel as original or fresh. What works best in this movie is the mental slip and slide of Geoffrey Radcliffe (Vincent Price). Whereas Claude Rains started The Invisible Man ready for the Mad Scientist Hall of Fame, Price gets to work towards the loony bin.
All around, despite the fact of anything new, this is a solid entry.