Ford Beebe, 1944
Starring: Jon Hall, John Carradine, Evelyn Ankers
While the first two Invisible Man films were distinctly in the horror/suspense genre, the third was a slapstick comedy, and the fourth was a spy/WWII propaganda film, the fifth and fortunately final entry in the series is a revenge thriller. For some insane reason, a scientists tests his invisibility formula on a criminal who has recently escaped a mental institution. The newly invisible Robert Griffin (no relation to the first invisible man) quickly runs off to get revenge on the Herrick family, who he believes betrayed him many years ago. The clearly insane Griffin accuses Sir Jasper Herrick and his wife, Irene, of abandoning him in Africa long ago and leaving him to die. He demands a share of the diamond fortune they found in Africa, which has since been squandered, or a piece of their estate and the hand of their daughter in marriage. After much harassment and abuse, the desperate Sir Herrick agrees that Griffin can marry his daughter — if he can return to visibility.
The rest of the overly complicated plot involves attempted blackmail, Griffin’s growing insanity and paranoia, invisibility testing on animals, and the Herricks' desperation to get their lives back to normal. Robert actually only becomes invisible part-way through the film, so the impetus for his revenge is established early on. Despite this, the plot is an absolute mess, if often hard to follow, and is littered with half-developed characters and no clear main character we are supposed to identify with.
There are many problems with the protagonist, who should be able to carry the film, but really makes it fall apart. Griffin is totally unsympathetic and lacks direction. Is he the protagonist or a villain? Or both as in The Invisible Man? Is his revenge justified? Or is he simply paranoid and crazed? The film never resolves these issue and fails to make him as charismatic and compelling and the first three invisible protagonists. One of the strongest elements of The Invisible Man is that Claude Rains’ character, Dr. Griffin, is utterly insane and yet we root for him anyway. That falls flat with The Invisible Man’s Revenge and the film follows the deplorably low standards of the some of the other Universal sequels (Kharis Mummy films, here’s looking at you).
Despite the fact that it includes a number of recognizable faces from throughout Universal horror, this is easily the worst entry in the series. The supporting cast is made up of lovely Universal regular Evelyn Ankers (Captive Wild Woman), the delightful John Carradine (House of Dracula), who chews less scenery here than normal, Leyland Hodgson (The Ghost of Frankenstein also with Carradine), Lester Matthews (The Raven), among others. Though they all give decent enough performances, the script is simply too confused to take things very far. It is especially frustrating that protagonist Jon Hall played the invisible man in the previous installment, Invisible Agent, though this film is not connected to that one. He also bears the name, Griffin, of the protagonist in the first Invisible Man, though they are completely unrelated in Invisible Man’s Revenge. Cheap move, Universal.
Speaking of cheap, this is clearly the lowest budget film in the series. Though effects were still carried out by John Fulton, most of the invisibility special effects pale in comparison to the first two, possibly three, films in the series. The use of water to reveal Griffin's invisibility is decent, though I think the best invisibility effects go to the German Shepherd. And as The Mummy’s Ghost has taught us, when the dog is more interesting than the protagonist, you know you’re in trouble. The Invisible Man’s Revenge doesn’t come recommended, but if you need to watch this for some reason, it is included in The Invisible Man: The Legacy Collection set.