The Invisible Woman

invisiblewoman01When Halloween was released back in 1978, its success made a sequel inevitable.  The success of Halloween II, which was almost guaranteed, practically demanded there be a second sequel.  So, there was released Halloween III: Season of the Witch.  It did not have Michael Myers stalking and killing suburbanites and their teens.  Instead, it was about an evil mask maker and his killer Halloween masks.  The movie suffered, drastically, at the box office and a few years later Michael Myers returned for part four.

So what happened, why was Myers absent from the Halloween III? John Carpenter and Debra Hill wanted to do something different, they wanted to make the Halloween franchise into a type of anthology series, each film would be different than the last. Sounds good on paper, but once the receipts came in and the grosses diminished, the higher-ups tired of the anthology angle and eventually brought Michael Myers back from the bench.

When considering the Universal Monsters, a lot of the sequels are installments instead of continuations. Bride of Frankenstein is a direct sequel; its other sequels feel less sequel-like. The Wolf Man, mind-boggling enough, never had a direct sequel, the character of Larry Talbot just showed up in the rally films and so forth. The Wolf Man was sandwiched between two other lycanthropic-themed films. I think the basic idea back in the day was that if you had a good enough gimmick (such as werewolves, mummies, monster mashes), run with it, even if you run it into the ground. Nothing was off the table.

The Invisible films have the “variation on a theme” feel. The Invisible Man Returns felt similar to the first film. The second sequel, The Invisible Woman, is in a completely different genre altogether. All the films in this franchise have some chuckles, or attempted chuckles, to exploit the invisibility gag. With The Invisible Woman, the producers decided to make a full-blown comedy.

An absent-minded inventor, Professor Gibbs (John Barrymore of all people) creates a machine to turn people invisible. His benefactor, playboy lawyer Richard Russell (John Howard), wants to see it work. Gibbs puts an ad in the newspaper requesting anyone who wants to be turned invisible to contact him. Put-upon, and downright tormented, department store model Kitty Carroll (Virginia Bruce) answers the ad. Gibbs turns her invisible and she sneaks away, before Richard can witness the miracle of science, to wreak havoc on her misogynist boss.

When Kitty returns to the professor’s basement lab, she meets three gangsters (the great Shemp Howard among them) who have come to take the invisibility machine for their boss, Blackie Cole (Oscar Homolka). Blackie wants it so he can safely cross the border from Mexico back into the United States.

With that set-up, with a Stooge mixed into the ingredients, hilarity should ensue. The problem is the film is not very funny. The invisibility jokes could be amusing if they had not already been used in the first two Invisible films (by the second one the bits were beginning to go stale anyway). Abbott and Costello’s Invisible entry is better. I would suggest The Invisible Woman as required viewing for completists only.