‘The Invisible Man Appears’ and ‘The Invisible Man vs. The Human Fly’ or — Look Closely?

It could be exceptionally easy to dismiss both ‘The Invisible Man Appears’ (1949) and ‘The Invisible Man vs. The Human Fly’ (1957) as nothing more than dated curios solely of interest for their historical importance (‘The Invisible Man Appears’ was Japans first ever example of tokusatsu which means “special effects movie”) if you weren’t paying close attention.

Indeed, even if you WERE paying close attention then these films could still be easy to dismiss because both are not only products of their time (i.e. not exactly earth-shatteringly exciting) and have very little to do with H. G. Wells’ original except for the condition of invisibility. But keep your attention focused and both these films start to slowly reveal some moments of hidden brilliance. You just have to wait a while for them to appear.

‘The Invisible Man Appears’ involves a scientist who has a plan to make people invisible. A rival scientist has a radically different plan that is “diametrically opposite” to his and that’s to make people invisible. However, their boss informs the two young men that he has already achieved his own plan… which is to turn people invisible. There’s a lot of invisibility on display here.

To cut a long (and quite convoluted) story short the invisibility process is stolen by a gang of thieves who plan to use the formula to steal the priceless jewels called ‘Amur’s Tears’. So follows a story of deception, kidnapping, framing, misdirection, frantic newspaper headlines, police chases and naked invisible men taking off their bandages in public and causing havoc. Sounds exciting? Only to a point because it can also be quite ponderous and silly.

‘The Invisible Man vs. The Human Fly’ (a sequel purely in spirit) is even more ponderous and silly as scientists use the power of cosmic rays to render a human being invisible in order to capture a miniaturized murderer. If it sounds stupid, that’s because it is. It can also be quite a drag as despite some lovely set and art design the pacing is sluggish… until the last thirty minutes when it suddenly kicks into life!

That applies to both movies here as just when I found myself losing interest in them they’d both suddenly pull something out the bag that didn’t just reinvigorate my flagging interest but was often genuinely impressive. For example, there’s a shot in ‘The Invisible Man Appears’ that I assumed was nothing more than some stock footage as a camera cranes over a cinema theatre packed with hundreds of people watching a film. But no! The camera then comes to rest on our main characters and I almost spat out my mint tea when I realised this brief moment was bespoke!

Likewise in ‘The Invisible Man vs. The Human Fly’ there’s an excellent moment where all the camera is focused on is capturing are the rotating blades of a helicopter as they gradually come to rest in almost real time. There’s also quite an exciting and impressive jump-explosion (if there is such a thing) when the human fly goes on the rampage that’s a rather nice piece of miniature and model work. Plus, both films often have sequences of a real noir-esque use of shadows and lighting. As I said, don’t dismiss these films too quickly as there’s quite a bit going on in each of genuine flare.

It’s tempting to say these films are of historical interest only, and I can imagine that the people primarily drawn to these will be those actively curious in the history of Japanese special effects cinema. But there are real charms to these two films. They might not set your world on fire but they’re both, in their own sweet ways, as a cute as a button.



Comedy writer, radio producer and director of large scale audio features.

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Colin Edwards

Comedy writer, radio producer and director of large scale audio features.