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Special effects and story are ridiculous: a must-see
German tries at horror and science fiction other than in silents have been rare and usually exceedingly flat - here's a fine example for this category.
Scripted by one Vladimir Semijow (spelling according to the credits), the story is vastly purloined from Universal's "The Invisible Man Returns" (1940) and would basically be a crime drama, were it not meant to be sci-fi horror and thus something different from the successful Edgar Wallace and Dr. Mabuse series of the days.
The formula works, though, as far as invisibility goes, with a guinea-pig first, then with the young scientist (Hannes Schmidhauser, also assistant director) himself. As luck will have it, there's a burglary into the factory he works for at the same minute, and, worst of all, a slaying, so that his brother (Hans von Borsody, with a greased quiff like Jack Lord in "Hawaii Five-0") has to prove the innocence of the disappeared. Elusiveness of Schmidhauser and of the story's sense go hand in hand.
For complexity's sake, but rather to the filmgoers' confusion, a whole bunch of characters is introduced. Together with Swiss Schmidhauser, there are more players from the country of producer Leo Höger, namely Charles Regnier (as the leader of the burglars) and Heinrich Gretler (as the inspector, often overplaying). Of the women, blonde Nielsen is there to provide the mysterious sex-appeal while dark Schwiers is responsible for the more trustful erotic as Borsody's g.f. But it's Regnier's henchmen trio who almost steal the show: Raoul Retzer in probably his only gangster rôle, Herbert Fux just spiteful as ever, and fat Jean Thomé plays a doomsome harmonica to it all (though somewhat contrasted to Bronson's in "C'erà una volta il West" five years later). Ilse Steppat, Herbert Stass and Ivan-Desny (hyphenated in the credits) walk a fine line as major suspects.
If you like a whodunit touch, an early sixties b/w flair and a laugh every now and then at things that are meant to be completely serious, "Der Unsichtbare" is a must-see. Don't expect too much from special effects.
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