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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
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What would one expect from an invisible man film? Personally, I would
hope to see a tight plot which gives a lot of focus to the invisible
person, his actions, personality, lots of exposure. Just like that
granddaddy of them all, THE INVISIBLE MAN. This German take on the
classic story owes more to the Edgar Wallace adaptations - or indeed
the Dr. Mabuse flicks - that were doing the rounds in Germany at the
time, as it primarily involves the activities of a gang of criminal
robbers and the good-natured hero (plus girlfriend sidekick) out to
stop them, with heavy police involvement. Indeed as the film veers from
crime thriller territory into whodunit, the "invisible man" antics are
pushed into the background with little screen time for our transparent
Unfortunately, THE INVISIBLE TERROR is one of those films which concentrates on dialogue and plot exposition at the expense of any reasonable horror and/or thrills. There's a large cast of mostly interchangeable characters who spend much of the time conversing and/or chasing each other, and none of the actors ever rise above the norm to make you care about them; even the hero is a quiffed square-jawed nobody with little charisma or style. Perhaps the dubbing sapped some of the characterisation from the original German version of this film, but somehow I doubt it; a large, complicated plot is what this film is all about, and it has that in spades.
It's a shame that the film is so dull, because the trappings are nice. The sets and locations are well used, the film complicated by a cool musical score. The special effects - whilst limited - are also a lot of fun in a cheesy way, as we watch people turn into skeletons before disappearing. There are a couple of shoot-outs, fights, and car chases along the way to keep the film moving but these are almost always routine. On the plus side, THE INVISIBLE TERROR has some interesting supporting characters, like the fat harmonica-playing bad guy, a stockinged intruder, and dancing girls, and the "invisible man" murders, with knives in backs, strangulations, telephone cords levitating around necks, you name it, are quite sensational - it's just a shame they occupy so little screen time. The film also contains an invisible guinea pig who becomes rabid and a well-shot battle between two men, one visible and the other not, which is fairly exciting. Otherwise, THE INVISIBLE TERROR is routine stuff only to be watched by real fans of the plot ingredients - or, indeed, nostalgia buffs.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I would have to agree with the gentleman from Germany on most of his
comments. I viewed a dubbed-in-English DVD (probably from TV), and
while the special effects are few and a little dated, the movie is fun
to watch for buffs. The overall plot is relatively familiar, but not
ineffective. There are several red herrings, and the movie is more a
detective story that contains an invisibility aspect than an
invisibility movie, per se. I'm not familiar with the German actors,
but each seemed more or less suited to their roles. The film is a
little hard to follow, and you do need to keep up with all the various
characters for the ending to payoff. I thought that the notion that
even an invisible man would cast a shadow on a photograph was novel,
and the use of a paint sprayer to find him was interesting - though not
The sets are decent; outside scenes are just okay, but do reveal an early 1960's industrial Germany. Black & white lends itself to this film, as it does seem more like a 1940's Universal picture.
The film itself is obscure; the plot is obscure; and the title character a bit obscure. Not for the casual viewer.
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