Frank Raymond, grandson of the original Invisible Man, still has the old formula but considers it too dangerous to use, even when Axis agents try to get it. But Pearl Harbor brings him to volunteer his own services as an invisible agent in Germany. Though a bit cold (clothes aren't invisible), his adventures are more comedy than thriller (with occasional grim reminders) as he makes fools of Nazi officials and romances a luscious double agent, in search of Hitler's secret plan... Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In the opening scene, a newsboy shouts the headline, "Extra! Oregon State Invites Duke to Rose Bowl." The 1942 movie audience would recognize the opening scenes in the movie as taking place in the previous year, just *before* the Pearl Harbor attack. The 1942 Rose Bowl was especially memorable to movie audiences because it was the only game in Rose Bowl history that was not played in Pasadena, California. Following the U.S. entry into the war, it was feared that the Pasadena game would be an ideal target for the Japanese, so the game was played at Duke University in North Carolina. On January 1, 1942, Oregon State defeated Duke University, by a score of 20-16. See more »
To make himself somewhat more "visible" to Maria in her bedroom, Frank puts on a robe and covers his face and hands with cold cream. When he speaks, his teeth and the inside of his mouth are plainly visible. See more »
Extra! "Oregon State Invites Duke to Rose Bowl." Extra! Late edition! "Oregon State Invites Duke to Rose Bowl."
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INVISIBLE AGENT (Universal, 1942), directed by Edwin L. Marin, is Universal's attempt in keeping H.G. Wells' "Invisible Man" stories in circulation by bringing them up to date, this time through the use of an original screenplay by Curtis Siodmak. Jon Hall, best known for his South Seas adventure tales with Maria Montez, might have become an unlikely candidate for the title role, but succeeds on his own merits. Though not exactly in the same league as its predecessors, especially the original 1933 classic starring Claude Rains, it's more of a propaganda film than horror, in the tradition of earlier outings as ESPIONAGE AGENT (1939) and Alfred Hitchcock's FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (1940), both starring Joel McCrea.
The story opens in New York where foreign agents, Conrad Stauffer (Sir Cedric Hardwicke), a Nazi leader, and Baron Ikito (Peter Lorre), a Japanese, break into a printing shop run by Frank Raymond (Jon Hall), who's secretly the grandson of scientist Frank Griffin, inventor of an invisibility formula. (Is this in reference to Frank Griffin from THE INVISIBLE MAN RETURNS (1940), overlooking the fact that it was Jack Griffin from THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933), being the true inventor of that formula?) Knowing his true identity, the agents demand the formula from him. After going through the torture test that nearly causes him the loss of his fingers in a cutting machine, Frank manages to make his getaway and report the incident to John Gardiner (John Litel) of the American Embassy. When asked to relay the formula to the government, he refuses, but gives in after the bombing of Pearl Harbor that leads America into war, on the condition that he act as an invisible agent for America by spying on the Germans instead of their trained agents. Once he parachutes on enemy lines, Griffin, now invisible, follows his instructions by meeting with Arnold Schmidt (Albert Basserman), his contact, owner of a coffin shop, who secretly relays the information to England. Griffin's next assignment is to contact Maria Sorenson (Ilona Massey), Stauffer's mistress and counterspy who's under watch from Karl Heiser (J. Edward Bromberg), a Nazi officer. After finding himself trapped inside a fishing net full of hooks that leaves him helpless, Griffin accuses Maria, whom he now loves, to be his betrayer, and must somehow break free in order to acquire the secret plans revealing the Adolph Hitler's attack on New York.
Although related to the previous Invisible Man sequels, INVISIBLE AGENT is often treated as an outsider mainly because it's more of a spy vs. spy story than the science fiction/mad scientist formula. Regardless of a fine supporting cast consisting of Hardwicke as the central villain and Lorre, even more menacing, coming close to resembling the Oriental sleuth, Mr. Moto, a character he portrayed in eight film mysteries during the late 1930s, through the use of his thick glasses, the somewhat unbalanced script appears to be geared more for the juvenile audiences out to cheer for their unseen hero. Humor takes precedence over the seriousness nature of the wartime story during its 81 minutes. Top-billed Ilona Massey, who arrives late in the story, plays a Mata Hari-type mystery woman leaving audiences wondering whose side she is on. That's one of the fun parts of the movie. Her key scenes include her encounter with the invisible agent and placing cold cream on him to see his face; and her attempt in having dinner with Nazi Heiser with the unseen Griffin having the time of his life disturbing them by moving things around and driving Heisler to the point of distraction. And speaking of driving, the plot is highlighted by a well staged car chase between Griffin and the Nazis. The scene where the invisible agent, giving himself a bath, covered with soap suds, is realistically done, thanks to John P. Fulton's first-rate contribution to the special effects department that equals the credibility to his earlier technique for THE INVISIBLE MAN and THE INVISIBLE MAN RETURNS.
Formerly distributed on video cassette around the 1990s, and rarely visible on the television markets in recent years, INVISIBLE AGENT's current availability happens to be on DVD as part of its "Invisible Man" movie package. Next in the series, THE INVISIBLE MAN'S REVENGE (1944) also starring Jon Hall. (**1/2)
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