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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Another Invisible Venture From Universal

Laff Till You Hurt at The Invisible Woman (1940)

Line Up, Guys and Ghouls --- The Invisible Woman Can Be Yours To Home-View

Way goofy comedy that Realart sold as a straight thriller when they reissued it, The Invisible Woman was obscure to horror-watchers for being kept out of Screen Gems' TV "Shock" packages. My awareness was restricted to an 8mm highlight reel sold by Castle Films and available on back pages of monster magazines. Art had the transparent woman, visible only in outline, kicking someone in the backside, not promising for chill shoppers, let alone where shipping/handling ran the tab past $6. Query to then-Screen Gems: Why put Chinatown Squad in your Shock group and leave The Invisible Woman off? Maybe they thought we'd resent comedy, but then The Boogie Man Will Get You went in, plus others more foolish than scary. Now there is all of what was Invisible for Universal in a "Legacy" box, from which I sampled Woman and a wartime offshoot, Invisible Agent, another that wasn't, but should have been, included with the syndicated "Shocks." Missing these when they would have made a best impression is rankling still, as catch-up after too many years leaves the pair wanting, no matter the curiosity value in each.

Realart Sells The Invisible Woman For Scares In A 50's Reissue

Universal Gave Barrymore A Straight Portrait Sitting To Publicize The Invisible Woman
Injustice is made plain by credits for The Invisible Woman: Virginia Bruce (titular character) billed over John Barrymore, him in admitted career doldrums, but with a bigger part and more presence here than for occasions where he was top name. Jawn is a dotty professor, not "mad" by Karloff definition, but not unlike BK as benign inventor of 1937's Night Key. A mainstream wanted chills leavened with comedy, and wasn't it time we got more fun out of invisibility? James Whale had seen humorous possibility from the start, and a first sequel even let see-through Vincent Price survive the fade and unmask a killer (not himself) besides. What was left but to burlesque a property wrung out otherwise? Universal truly got money's worth for whatever was spent on rights from H.G. Wells. Besides Woman, then Agent, there was that Man in again for Revenge, then fire sale of a meet with Abbott and Costello. We forget how prolific Universal was with these because of gaps in later years exposure. "Exposure" is tickler of The Invisible Woman, where question is how much we'll see of Virginia Bruce, her understood to be nude while invisible, titillation flogged over much of run time. 1940 audiences had to grab for what eroticism they could get.

Invisible Is Support Feature For a Universal "A"
Opening shot has Charlie Ruggles' stunt double taking headlong spill down a flight of stairs to launch seventy-two minute frenzy.  Foundation for Universal had always been lowbrow comedy, either starring, or in prominent support. The brand had been renewed at fresh vigor with 1939's Destry Rides Again, so was not confined to B's and program pictures U did with chain-driven efficiency. A sameness of funny faces gave unity to product that lent all from them the warmth of family reunions. As U's Plexiglas logo turned, so surely would Shemp Howard or thereabouts be along to spread fun. Even horrors were made less horrible by jesters there for the spook ride. Trick was to embrace comedy relief, for at Universal, it was that relief that often made up bulk of interest in their shows. The Invisible Woman has Shemp plus lamebrains he plays off of, and then Ruggles, a master hand for Lubitsch before, but congenial to dropping trays and falling over furniture here. Witchy Margaret Hamilton is welcome for those old enough to remember when The Wizard Of Oz was a meaningful TV event (seems now like a long time ago, doesn't it?). Braying and pain-in-rear Ed Brophy shows up for slapshoeing, while an immortal part, one of his best, is limned by Charles Lane. Point of this recital is to say that The Invisible Woman is rich dish for ones who treasure comedians as they applied themselves to whatever utility job needed doing. These combined make The Invisible Woman play like a charm, especially with old pro director A. Edward Sutherland for guidance. Get it and have a nostalgic laugh.


Blogger Kevin K. said...

Saw this on the late show circa 1970, around the same time it ran another Barrymore B, "World Premiere". Kind of sad that he looks better in crazy professor get-up than in that straight headshot. But I'd probably enjoy his performance more now than I did then. Another one to keep an eye out for when it next runs on TCM.

9:00 AM  
Blogger Dave K said...

Yup, INVISIBLE WOMAN along with INVISIBLE AGENT, THE CLIMAX, the '41 BLACK CAT, the '39 TOWER OF LONDON, all stuff we were still looking for outside of SHOCK and SON OF SHOCK venues. Wonderful observation that catching up with these things in adulthood is a little bittersweet considering how much more they would have meant to our 13 year old selves. Today, the biggest shock in the original SHOCK package is how much filler it contained... about 20% at least! SON OF SHOCK at only 20 titles was leaner AND meaner, the few softer items featuring Karloff or Lorre to compensate.

Actually I'd have to congratulate the guy who was the TV station programmer when I was a kid. He would slip in old dark house stuff like SECRET OF THE CHATEAU and some of SHOCK items that at least sounded like horror movies (NIGHTMARE, THE MAN WHO CRIED WOLF, etc.) But I don't remember seeing any of the total ringers like ENEMY AGENT in our Monster-Horror-Chiller Saturday night slot.

Which brings us to the really perverse angle; now in my twilight years, I find myself dragging around my bucket list, looking for those very duds, the fill titles I never saw, the ones that seemed to have vanished off the face of the earth. I finally did catch CHINATOWN SQUAD last year on Youtube. Instantly forgettable but, as you would say John, not 75 minutes I begrudge.

10:40 AM  
Blogger Tommie Hicks said...

Can anyone identify the dark haired man in the still with the tied up Barrymore? I checked the imdb (yeah, I know) and didn't see him. He looks like Josh Binney to me.

10:42 AM  
Blogger Mike T. said...

I'll bet the Rialto made a lot of lettuce off Romane of the Rio Grande!

11:24 AM  
Blogger stinky fitzwizzle said...

Tommie- Stinky believes that is Oscar Homolka.

Stinky used to watch this ages ago when he was a l'il nipper, and he vaguely remembers an invisible Virginia Bruce removing a pair of stockings. And, of course, Shemp Howard.

12:15 PM  
Blogger Dave K said...

Oskar Homolka is with Barrymore. Gad, this thing had a cast!

12:19 PM  
Blogger lmshah said...

This was always in our local Television package, the one I waited to see in later adulthood was INVISIBLE AGENT. I always loved John Barrymore in this, he seems to be channeling Brother Lionel and having a grand old time. The whole cast is solid, and Eddie Sutherland keeps the thing moving briskly. Not being one of those classic monsterkids allergic to comedy or any lightening of the horror element, I never turned my nose up at it. Come to think of it, ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE INVISIBLE MAN is one of that teams better horror spoofs as well as being one of their best 50's films.


1:44 PM  
Blogger DBenson said...

Shemp Howard and William Demarest were both Value for Money performers. Imagine a movie or short as a live show. Shemp was the one who sensed the light romantic leads were bombing and began throwing himself into pratfalls to wake up the house.

He's not so much an upstager as a guy trying to save a sinking ship. With Moe and Larry he's one of the team. In the Joe Palooka shorts and others, he knows darn well the bland costars aren't getting the laughs and he has to DO something.

6:06 PM  
Blogger DBenson said...

One more comedic outlet for Universal's Invisible Man tricks: "The Time of Their Lives", an Abbott and Costello film of 1946. Lou and Majorie Reynolds are ghosts, up to the usual ghostly hijinks. At one point Reynolds tries on some 20th century fashions and we see empty clothing running around.

11:50 PM  
Blogger Tommie Hicks said...

I checked out Captain Company in the internets. An interesting company to be sure. I wonder if they had their own lab or was serviced by Castle or Ken.

3:12 PM  
Blogger lmshah said...

For films, Captain Company was serviced by Castle, Ken, Entertainment, and occasionally Regent, they didn't do any of their own film product, and with all of their product, they had a not-so-great efficiency-rate in actually sending you any product you bought, certainly in a timely manner. As I recall, I ordered my first print of THE CABINET OF DR CALIGARI from them, and it took something like a year to get it, I was wary of ordering anything else from them, but did from time to time.


6:06 PM  
Blogger Randy said...

When Universal finally got its library back from Screen Gems, MCA bundled the company's horror/sci-fi oldies into a 70-odd film package titled HORROR GREATS, which did include both INVISIBLE WOMAN and INVISIBLE AGENT. HORROR GREATS was the way I saw these films, growing up in the '70s. Honestly, I think HORROR GREATS was a better package than Screen Gems' legendary SHOCK and SON OF SHOCK in that it didn't have the filler that weighed down the two earlier packages.

8:55 PM  
Blogger Randy Jepsen said...

I saw all the INVISIBLE pictures on our local creature feature starting in 1967. Even with Shemp I find WOMAN a tough row to hoe. Saw it again late last year on Svengoolie.

12:34 AM  
Blogger antoniod said...

I first saw INVISIBLE WOMAN in the 60s when I was around 7, recognized Shemp, and mistook Ed Brophy for Curly! So I took the movie for a kind of Stooges film, but was puzzled when I didn't see "Shemp Stooge" or "Curly Stooge" in the end credits. Hey, I was only 7!

11:38 PM  
Blogger Tbone Mankini said...

Good ole Captain Company... every comic book and horror mag had an ad in there somewhere... Johnson Smith of Detroit for purely magic and joke items by that time....

5:34 AM  

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