“There is no good or evil in science, but it can be used for good or evil purposes.”
This poignant and thought provoking sentence appears at the start and the end of The Invisible Man Appears a brilliantly tiled take on both H.G. Wells science fiction story and Universal’s iconic film series made in Japan in1949.
It is no wonder that Japanese filmmakers would be drawn to the Invisible Man as a character seeing as it has strong ties not only with the dangers of messing with unknown forces but also the moral obligations attached to the creation of something so spectacular and ground breaking.
As the opening and closing quote states the science itself is not good or bad only its application, something the populace flocking to screenings of this movie would be very aware of seeing as it came out only 4 years after the tragic and terrifying events of Hiroshima.
Blending horror, Sci-Fi and thriller elements the film is actually classed as one of the first examples of tokusatsu or special effects cinema from Daiei Studios, later the home of Gamera and other classic movies. Featuring invisible animals, levitating furniture, unseen attacks and a whole host of other transparent effects The Invisible Man Appears is the perfect showcase for the talents of the legendary Eiji Tsuburaya who, five years later, would use his SFX skills to bring to life the most famous figure in Japanese cinema the one and only King of the Monsters, Godzilla.
The story sees two young scientists working on very different theories in the creation of a invisibility formula, Kyôsuke Segi and Shunji Kurokawa played by Daijirô Natsukawa and Kanji Koshiba. Rivals for the attention and adoration of their teacher Professor Nakazato (Ryûnosuke Tsukigata) and the hand of his daughter Machiko Nakazato (Chizuru Kitagawa) the men are unaware that their sensei is in fact working on his own invisibility serum and has managed to turn several animals see-through.
Hiding this from his students but sharing his success with overly ambitious businessman Ichirô Kawabe (Shôsaku Sugiyama) the Professor is unaware that he has set about a plan in the manipulative money grabbing man’s head which begins when he kidnaps the scientist and steals his greatest creation.
Setting his sights on a priceless jewelled necklace called the Tears of Amour, Kawabe starts playing the people around him like pawns bending them to his every whim and forcing them to follow his sinister plans. Next thing the city of Kobe is beset by sightings of the mysterious Invisible Man who starts a ruthless rampage terrorising citizens and attacking the innocent all in pursuit of the Tears of Amour for Kawabe and his gang of thugs.
As mentioned the movie features a feast of special effects many of which may seem very outdated to modern audiences but still manage to entertain. The practical effects work best showcased in an early scene featuring an invisible cat causing havoc in the Professor’s home. As the film moves forward the stunts become more ambitious with riderless motorbikes, invisible undressing and all out fight scenes all with varying results in believability.
The look of the central character is a straight up copy of Universal’s classic monster however the story and motivation are very different. The film often utilises a point of view shot from the invisible villains perspective to both bypass over using the special effects but also to put us in the mind of a man turned monster.
Featuring a solid story The Invisible Man Appears plays out like a mystery movie with the audience left guessing who is perpetrating the petrifying crimes, throwing a few fair twists and turns along the way. With the corrupt Kawabe playing the professors family and friends off each other it is left to his assistant Kyôsuke Segi to solve the case with the help of club singer Ryuko Mizuki played by Takiko Mizunoe, an actress famous as a male impersonator and for her signature “cross-dressed fair lady” style which she adopts in this movie as well.
When the Invisible Man’s identity is finally confirmed things take a tragic turn especially as we discover the formula not only has no cure but also increases aggressive behaviour meaning the translucent trouble maker’s violent outbursts are uncontrollable. Trapped and alone the misguided man believed he was doing the right thing only to get caught up in Kawabe’s web of deceit ultimately costing him everything he loved.
Available from Arrow on their streaming service the film also comes on a Blu-ray packed with extras including trailers, images and a newly filmed interview with critic and genre scholar Kim Newman on the history of the Invisible Man in cinema. The disc also includes the insanely titled sequel The Invisible Man vs. The Human Fly from 1957 a murder mystery which adds secret shrinking experiments into the mix.
Although not as good as the original Universal classic or the mind blowing 2020 reimagining The Invisible Man Appears is still an interesting adaptation of a classic tale and well worth viewing especially for students of Japanese cinema and Sci-Fi fanatics.
The Invisible Man Appears and The Invisible Man vs. The Human Fly are available now on www.arrow-player.com