Invisible Agent (1942)

I suppose it was inevitable.

You are trying to find ways to spin off sequels to your successful horror films, you’ve made a movie an invisible man, a war is on…

So naturally we get a movie about an invisible spy.

What is strange, though, is that it is played strictly for laughs.

Now, those of you who are familiar with H.G. Wells’ original novel — or Universal’s classic movie version of it — know that using the invisibility formula leads to madness. Here, however, this is shrugged off with a bland and reassuring comment about how, yes that happened before but it won’t cause those problems if it is used right.

Exactly how our hero, Frank Griffin (Jon Hall) who seems to have inherited a few vials of the stuff from his grandfather (although apparently without the instructions on how to make it) could conceivably know this is beyond me.

After all, it drove Grandpa crazy…

It seems to me that there was a pretty good drama waiting here, about the young hero risking his sanity for a cause he believes in — or, as in the last sequel, showing more and more symptoms of madness as he gets closer to his goal. Instead, we get a light-hearted comedy with silly Nazis and a hero who is having far too much fun. Invisibility is just a gimmick with no serious drawbacks or liabilities — with just enough back story to explain its presence and tie it in to the last three films.

Well, sort of. More or less. A little.

Still, it’s fun to see Peter Lorre playing a suave, sinister and oh, so clever Japanese spy (who is more than a little like Peter’s more famous role as Mr. Moto) and Sir Cedric Hardwicke as a sadistic and potentially quite scary Nazi officer (if, that is, he hadn’t ended up being played for comedy).

Invisible Agent isn’t much, it could have been more, but it is reasonably well made and moderately amusing.

Which is more or less what one expects from one of Universal’s Horror films from the Forties.

And yes, very particularly what we expect from all those sequels they made.

(Jon Hall also starred in the final film in the series, The Invisible Man’s Revenge, although Robert Griffin in that story seems to have no ties to Frank in this film! To be fair, the rest of the film doesn’t either, nor does it connect to any of the other films)

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