Visionary scientist Janos Rukh convinces a group of scientists and supporters to mount an expedition to the African continent to locate and study an ancient meteorite of great significance. He exposes himself to the highly toxic radiation of the meteorite, and while an antidote devised by Dr. Benet saves him from death by radiation poisoning, his naked touch causes instant death to others. Back in London, the benefits of the meteorite's controlled radiation offer Dr. Benet an opportunity to restore eyesight to the blind. The antidote's toxicity excites Prof. Rukh into paranoid rages as he seeks revenge against the members of his expedition, who he accuses of stealing his discovery for their own glory. Written by
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Part of the original SHOCK THEATER package of 52 Universal titles released to television in 1957, followed a year later with SON OF SHOCK, which added 21 more features. See more »
The story is frequently advanced by the old "newspaper headline" gimmick. About 45 minutes in, one newspaper tells of the "Benet expedition," but in the small print the name is misspelled as "Bennet." See more »
At the end: "A Universal Cast is Worth Repeating." This credit appeared on many Universal films of that era, not just "The Invisible Ray". It did not, however, appear on the cast list for the 1936 "Show Boat", which Universal also made. See more »
THE INVISIBLE RAY (1936) Starring Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Frances Drake, Frank Lawton, Walter Kingsford Directed by Lambert Hillyer
Universal's third pairing of Lugosi and Karloff strays in to the realm of science fiction while retaining many of the elements of horror for which the studio was famous.
Janos Rukh (Karloff) is a brilliant, workaholic scientist who lives with his beautiful wife (Drake) and mother in a sprawling gothic castle/laboratory/observatory in the storm-swept Carpathian Mountains (where else?).
Sir Francis Stevens (Kingsford) and wife, accompanied by the skeptical Dr. Felix Benet (Lugosi), arrive to see Rukh's latest discovery. By following a ray of light that left the Andromeda galaxy millions of years ago back to its source, he can see back in time. What he is able to show them is a giant meteor striking the surface of the Earth, on the African continent "thousands of millions" of years ago. With this proof that such a catastrophe occurred, he is able to embark on an expedition to Africa. The meteor is found and Rukh is able to harness a strange power that emanates from it...Radium X. Unfortunately, this mysterious element also causes Rukh to glow in the dark. And, as if that weren't bad enough, everyone who touches him dies. Dr. Benet comes up with a counteractive which will not cure Rukh, but will at least make him tolerable to have around. As with all such things, there is a price...Benet cannot promise what effects the counteractive will have on Rukh's mind.
For a film released in 1936, THE INVISIBLE RAY has some pretty good special effects. The image of the meteor sailing toward the Earth is impressive, though the actual impact is less than spectacular. The scene where Rukh launches his invisible ray at a rock formation and reduces it to nothing is also good, even by today's standards. The scenes at Rukh's home are what give THE INVISIBLE RAY its creepy atmosphere. As in other Universal horror productions, the set is made of almost exclusively vertical elements, casting long shadows. The doorways are so tall the tops of them disappear somewhere beyond the top of the screen. A middle segment that takes place in Africa is less eerie, but it does provide a nice setting for us to first see Rukh's glowing face and hands.
THE INVISIBLE RAY is a fun movie to watch despite (or because of?) a few flaws, like the fact that all of the Paris newspapers seem to be printed in English. Not as fun is the film's racist depiction of the African porters. Even allowing for the attitude of the time in which the film was made, these scenes will still make most modern viewers cringe.
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