In 1940 Universal Pictures bookended the calendar year starting with The Invisible Man Returns and then ending with The Invisible Woman.
While the former took on the tone of a crime thriller, the latter took the series in an entirely different direction, comedy.
This would also be an indication of Universal Classic Monsters future, leaning away from the macabre and into humour.
With The Invisible Woman it is indicative of its time when it comes to the bawdy comedy at hand with a little bit of screwball rom com in the mix ala Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday, also released in the same year.
Here the two leads that are at odds with one another are wealthy lawyer Richard Russell (John Howard) and Kitty Carroll (Virginia Bruce), a feisty, smart and determined department store model.
When we meet Kitty, she gets fired from her job for basically speaking her mind and with the promise of money learns of a wild scheme by local scientist, Professor Gibbs (an ageing and always excellent, John Barrymore) who claims that he has invented an invisibility device.
Gibbs in need of a guinea pig gets one in Kitty, who is surprised to see that the mad professor’s invention actually works and what’s more, she can turn it to her advantage and seek revenge on her misogynistic former boss.
Before long, we’re headlong into a crime caper with a mob boss, Blackie Cole (Oscar Homolka) seeking to use the invisibility device for his own gain. Kitty must use her guile and new-found abilities to stop Cole in his devious plans.
The Invisible Woman is definitely a film for its time and even though some of its subject still resonates today, the style and mode of its delivery may be stifling for some.
I for one welcome this old-school, nostalgic road trip that the 40s delivered to the silver screen enjoying it all the way and for a third instalment, I personally connected with this one more than The Invisible Man Returns.
It would be interesting to see how it would have been handled as a dark comedy. At the time of writing, Elizabeth Banks is set to direct a new version of The Invisible Woman and being a veteran of the comedy and horror scene, it will be interesting to see if she plans to marry these two genres for a modern audience and continue the trend set by Whannell… and it does bode the question, Will we see the return of Elizabeth Moss as Cecilia Kass?
- Saul Muerte