The first series of The Invisible Man
contains thirteen episodes telling the story of Dr. Brady, a British
Government scientist researching refraction, who accidentally renders
himself completely invisible. The show is quite remniscent of the 1950s
sci-fi cinema boom and in keeping with this tone, the Brady character
is treated as a pure hero and is not the reluctant or anti-hero of some
modern adaptations of the story. To add a family-feel to the film,
Brady gets a "wife" and "daughter", although curiously they are
actually his widowed sister and niece (presumably to allow Dr. Brady
himself to get up to some guilt free romantic ventures during the
series, although he never actually does). Fortunately young Sally is
kept in the background and only plays a key role in a couple of the episodes -
avoiding the pitfalls of becoming a kid-centric show that has affected
many good sci-fi films and series, while Brady's sister Diane appears
when necessary, and we are not treated to the banal details of her
Much of this is probably down the 25 minute
run-time of each episode, that acts as both a blessing and a curse.
While keeping the stories moving quickly without any need for padding
it also prevents too much real character development, especially for
any of the guest star roles, and often leads to some rushed endings -
this also means that interesting plot points raised in some of the
episodes are left unanswered (Brady's actions get at least one man
killed, but he doesn't seem to bat an eyelid). The episodes are
stand-alone with minimal continuity - this does mean that it is easy to
watch individual episodes on their own, but does miss out on some
potential plot strands that could have run through the series (for
example, rumours about the existance of an invisible man spreading
before his official release to the press or the idea that Brady begins
to think of himself as a super-hero and starts to ignore his scientific
works and his friends/family).
series begins with an interesting mix of storylines, from Brady being
used by the military, to being tricked by a group of killers, and even
sneaking into the Russian embassy in London, to rescue a friend. By the
middle of the season however, it became clear that the writers were
struggling to come with original storylines that they could focus
around their Invisible Man, and four of the episodes (Picnic with Death, Play to Kill, The Mink Coat and Jailbreak)
seem to be conventional detective stories, with Brady often awkwardly
written in and doing little that a regular sleuth might not be able to
achieve. Fortunately the other episodes in the series use him more
effectively, and in the two entries where he is forced onto the other
side of the law (Bank Raid and Strange Partners) and a third where he cheats a casino to help a friend (Odds Against Death) we get to see what Brady might have done were he not such a heroic figure.
trio of experienced British television directors take on this quite
difficult series and do a good job of mixing the special effects with
the flow of the episodes. The effects themselves are very well done,
with some quite complex puppetry on show, as well as some very daring
stunt work from unseen drivers. Although not as effective as modern
computer aided effects, it does appear all the more impressive for it,
and is obviously the result of a lot of hard work.
series regulars are Deborah Watling as young Sally, and Lisa Daniely as
Diane - they both do some very good work, often opposite nothing but
empty air or a floating cigarette. Dr. Brady himself was voiced by the
uncredited actor Tim Turner who has a very Transatlantic accent,
helping the show's sale to American broadcasters. A variety of guest
stars appear in the show, including a few big names at the time (Dennis
Price and Hazel Court notably receiving special guest star
billing) while there are dozens of characters actors on display who
would later become better known; including Douglas Wilmer, Peter
Sallis, Desmond Llewelyn and Patrick Troughton [see the episode pages for a complete list].
There are also plenty of extras on display, who give some good
performances alongside the empty air that often represents Dr. Brady.
The Invisible Man is certainly a product of its era, and it has not garnered the cult following of many of its contemporaries (such as the Quatermass
serials) and has remained all but forgotten. Although suffering from
some rather poorly conceived episodes it is generally entertaining,
with some superb special effects and a great cast of recognisable
British character actors. Recommended to all fans of 1950s
Anyone famous in it?
none of the series regulars are well known, a selection of
well known and soon-to-be well known character actors appear throughout
the series. The episodes page has a full listing.
Directed by anyone interesting?
A trio of relatively little known British directors worked on the series: C.M. Pennington-Richards - the man behind Hammer's A Challenge for Robin Hood (1967). Peter Maxwell - an otherwise unknown director Quentin Lawrence - director of the British sci-fi The Trollenberg Terror (1958) and some early Hammer films.
A few people are killed, and there are some guns and fistfights, but nothing by modern standards.
Who is it for?
Fans of 1950s sci-fi, and the early sci-fi TV series should certainly enjoy this.
Original Aspect Ratio - 1.33:1. Black and White. The
picture quality is generally good (the series was shot on 35mm film)
with minimal grain and good detail. There is some lighting
speckling throughout and occasional jumps in brightness in a couple of the episodes. Always watchable.
Original English Dolby mono - sounds fine.
The discs include:
The original pilot episode - The Invisible Man. Previously unreleased, this abandoned pilot episode mixes the storyline of Secret Experiment with that of the later Bank Raid
into one storyline, with a predictably rushed feel. A very interesting
viewing, if only to see how much better the first episode of the series
was shortly remade. Footage from the pilot was used extensively in Bank Raid, and some shots appear in other episodes.
Newly recorded audio commentaries from Lisa Daniely and Deborah Watling (Diane and Sally) for the episodes Secret Experiment and Picnic of Death.
Full of interesting stories and recallections, it is a pity that they
are not moderated as many questions about the series still remain
Italian language title sequence. A brief curio.
More bonus features are included on the Season 2 discs.
Only available in a limited edition 4-disc boxset, along with Season 2.
Region 2 - PAL
Also available in the USA from Dark Sky Films, includes a lower print quality and without the bonus features.
The episodes are believed to be fully uncut and are the original UK television prints.
A generally enjoyable, if
sometimes poorly thought out series, boasting some good effects and
guest stars. Recommended to all fans of 1950s sci-fi.
Generally good looking and
sounding prints with a fine selection of bonus features exclusive to
this edition. To those who already own the previous barebones editions,
this new release may well tempt an upgrade.