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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 ***
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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