The Invisible Woman (A. Edward Sutherland, 1940, USA)

The Invisible Woman (1940) is the third film in the Invisible Man series, following The Invisible Man and The Invisible Man Returns. The film marks Universal's first entry into full screwball comedy - it could hardly be argued that this film is a horror movie. It was directed by A. Edward Sutherland, a director with an extensive history in comedy that included playing one of the original Keystone Cops alongside Charlie Chaplin in 1914's Tillie's Punctured Romance. The film tells the story of an old inventor Professor Gibbs (John Barrymore) who has created an invisibility device and finds a former department store model to test it out. She begins to use invisibility to get back at her sadistic former employer. In the meantime, a gangster named Blackie Cole (Oscar Homolka) and his band of thugs (one of them played by a literal member of the Three Stooges - Shemp Howard), are seeking to steal the invisibility device. 

Universal's first foray into comedy has mixed results. Much of the film's humor is predicated on the fact of Virginia Bruce being naked the whole time. Even at the time, the film was considered quite risque due to this fact. Nowadays, this plot device has not aged particularly well. John Barrymore does a good job as the inventor, but most of the other performances are not so great, and much of the heavy lifting here is done by the special effects. Thankfully Margaret Hamilton (the Wicked Witch of the West!) also appears and she does her best to bring up the material. Gone completely is the darkness of the original Invisible Man, to the detriment of the whole film. If you are seeking a gangster comedy with some light humor, this is a fine film, but for fans of Universal monster movies, this does not live up to the standard.



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