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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

The Invisible Man Appears/ The Invisible - The Invisible Man Appears/ The Invisible Man Vs Th [Arrow Video - 2021]

Making their debut on Blur-ray and released for the first time outside of Japan in any format here we have The Invisible Man Appears (1949) and The Invisible Man vs The Human Fly (1957).

Adapted from the 1897 HG Wells novel, that was originally serialized in Pearson’s Weekly before being published in book form later in the same year. The Japanese version of the Invisible Man stands out from the many versions that have graced our screens across the years, as something a little different. As well as James Whale’s classic 1933 adaption, Wells’ character has found his way on to our television screens innumerable time, I really remember enjoying David McCallum’s interpretation of the role. On top of this horror master John Carpenter had a go at a comedy version with Chevy Chase and Daryl Hannah with Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992), and of course, there is last year’s big-screen adaption from Leigh Whannell that is still fresh in the memory.

 

What we have here are two very early examples of Tokusatsu, these are Japanese live-action films that make heavy use of special visual effects. The Invisible Man Appears is the first of its kind, the market would later become flooded as the popularity of such titles exploded through the release of the many and much-loved kaiju movies featuring Godzilla, Mothra, Gamera and co and superhero TV series like Kamen Rider and Ultraman. 

 

The Invisible Man Appears is the better of the two films. Two young scientists, Segi (Daijirô Natsukawa) and Kurokawa (Kanji Koshiba) are competing with one another in order to develop a means of becoming invisible. Both men are competing, not just to impress their teacher Dr Nakazato, but both men crave the hand in marriage of his daughter, Machiko. The story is complex, well-crafted and above all else interesting, I have read reviews that felt it was unnecessarily complicated but were it simplified from the genre-jumping mixed bag that it is, I’m not sure it would have held my attention quite so well. The mix of crime drama with science fiction and aspects of other genres (there’s even a song and dance number) is what makes it unique in my opinion and as I said this all helped to hold my attention. 

 

The special effects when they are used are surprisingly effective for the time, Japanese SFX legend Eiji Tsuburaya whose work would grace the screen of many kaiju including the original Godzilla movie, Mothra, Destroy All Monsters and whose work can be seen in the films of Akira Kurosawa, notably Throne of Blood and Hidden Fortress did a pretty good job. Again, I’ve seen it criticised but to be honest outside of the Hollywood system, the effects are as good as you were going to see in 1949.

 

Our second film in this double bill, The Invisible man vs The Human Fly is a stand-alone film, not a direct sequel to the 1949 film. A police chief who is stumped by several seemingly impossible crimes that have taken place, turns to a renowned scientist, his daughter and his understudy (does this sound somewhat familiar) to establish what’s going on. The second film is more of a police procedural than a science fiction movie and to be wholly honest it works pretty well. It may lack some of the extra quality of the earlier film, but it remains an enjoyable romp. The characters of the title are perhaps underused, neither get a great deal of screen time which is a shame, but overall the film is a pleasant and mostly enjoyable romp.

 

Arrow has done a good job on the Blu-ray, the prints have been cleaned up as well as possible, however, some print damage remains. In films of this age, we will often expect such and in fact, Arrow has included a disclaimer before each film detailing the issues of trying to bring these prints back to life. Personally, I think they’ve done a cracking job, they have preserved the films without overdoing the cleaning process and subsequently robbing them of their soul. The main bonus feature on the disc is an interview with Kim Newman who talks with great passion about the history of the Invisible Man on film, other than that we are treated to an image gallery and theatrical trailers for the first film.

Overall, the package is a good one and it’s rather wonderful to think Arrow have put so much time and effort into two films that have never previously seen the light of day in the West. It is always such a treat to discover a film that has been ignored in our part of the world for this long, so when we get two such films packaged together it really is a treat for us genre fans. Thanks to Arrow for continuing to mine for interesting oddities like this, it really is something we fans appreciate. Whilst I think the films deserve a solid 4 and a 3, I will give the whole package a 4 as I think this represents more of the unearthing of a cultural artefact than a mere Blu-ray release.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Darren Charles
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