31 Weeks to Halloween: Invisible Agent (1942)
Out of the sky... drops an invisible invader... to terrorize an entire nation!
Soulless Cult's countdown to Halloween continues this week with another fantastic sequel film, this time in the form of INVISIBLE AGENT from 1942! The film is the fourth film in the Invisible Man series, but is certainly different from any of the other films we've seen so far in our countdown. While the basis of the film is familiar, there's some very unique elements about this film that honestly "wow'd" me a few times: the film is a wartime propaganda film that was used to help boost morale here in the United States and the political tone was definitely there. The movie makes sure to make the Nazis appear as complete doofuses and incompetent idiots as the main character leaves America to help be a spy on the enemy to help aid the US - all while invisible, of course! The movie has no shortage of silliness, over-the-top buffoonery and dumb decisions, and audiences in the '40s loved it! Honestly, the film is a part-monster movie, part war movie, part comedy trifecta, combining plenty of each element to create an overall entertaining movie! The cleverly written tie-in to the original film, the tie-in to the war and the end result makes this movie a very unique film in the Universal Monsters lineup, but it's absolutely enjoyable watching the film nearly 80 years later and seeing how they tied current events and good ol' Universal magic into a great story. While Invisible Agent may not be my favorite of the Invisible Man series, it's far from bad!
Invisible Agent follows the story of Frank Griffin Jr (Jon Hall) who is the grandson of the original Invisible Man, Jack Griffin. Working in his print shop, he is held at gunpoint by Nazis in an attempt to extort the drug/recipe that his grandfather created, in hopes they can utilize it during the war to give them an advantage over the Americans. Griffin manages to fight his way out of the awful situation, and follows up the attack on Pearl Harbor by approaching the U.S. military about handing over the invisibility drug to them, but under one condition: he is the one who uses it. The military agrees and brief Griffin on the assignment: he is to fly into Germany and use the drug to go undercover and find out when the Nazis planned on attacking the United States. So as he parachutes down, he injects himself with the drug and poof, he's invisible and free to roam the countryside without anyone even knowing he's there. What follows is his meeting of various allies including the beautiful Maria (Ilona Massey) who is also undercover. Will the Invisible Agent be able to infiltrate Nazi Intelligence and save America from being bombed, or will the Nazis land an attack on American soil?! Find out in... INVISIBLE AGENT!
As with all of the previous Invisible Man films, the best part of these movies are obviously the special effects scenes where items float, get thrown, fly, open, close, and whatever else they could come up with... all on their own! The original Invisible Man movie absolutely blew me away with their use of creative film making to have so many amazing scenes with various items moving across the screen, and the use of this engaging filmmaking is just as relevant in this film; Invisible Agent has no shortage of creative invisible scenes as cups move and empty, cigarettes get lit and smoked, soap-covered body parts appear and disappear right before your eyes, tables flip, bodies get carried... all by the Invisible Agent himself! Movies today would have some really over the top, over-produced ways to make this happen but in this great 1942 movie, it just looks and feels so authentic - especially for its time! These little movements are still what makes the Invisible Man series so damn good, and Invisible Agent absolutely delivers. But what this movie has that the other three films don't have is the war-theme, and you know what that means: explosions, explosions, explosions! And there is an outstanding amount of explosions for a Universal Monsters movie; more than I was honestly ever expecting. I'm admittedly not the biggest war movie fan, but the tie-in to the then-recent events is pretty fantastic and the mix of sci-fi and war film totally go hand-in-hand and make for a great watch.
The story is pretty fun and plays out really well; it introduces what feels like a lot more characters than many other Universal Monsters movies do, but it's an easy story to follow and it's easy to remember who's a good guy and who's a bad guy as the Nazis have their uniforms and even display their armbands like they did in real life. Honestly, none of the characters really stood out to me as anyone super memorable or significant - including the lead Frank Griffin - but that might just be me. The female lead - Frank's love interest Maria - actually has a major significance to the plot and she's isn't just a pretty face thrown in the film (like in many other Universal films), but after the movies over her character isn't really anything too exciting. The main draw (for me, at least) is the invisibility scenes and that the film does significantly well. It's a fun and unique addition to the Universal series that I wasn't expecting or even expecting to like, but like with all of the Invisible Man films, the creativity is flowing and the movie magic is bountiful, so it makes for a great hour and a half and some good ol' prideful American filmography. I don't necessarily see myself rewatching the movie anytime soon, but it's a good one-time watch, for sure. Check it out!!!