New (as of 1949) from Daiei; the studio that made YOU believe a turtle can fly comes: The Invisible Man Appears, one of the earliest tokusatsu efforts that would go on to be a huge cornerstone of Japanese cinema and TV!
Ol’ Doc Nakazato has invented himself a way to make living things invisible down Japan way. Well wouldn’t ya just know that a gaggle of no-good jewel thieves get wind of the discovery and put a kidnap on Nakazato lickety-split so they can use his science to make their pockets fatter with zero the risk normally associated with such deviltry.
Soon a real Claude Rains 1933 type (read bandages and sunglasses) shows up in Kobe and goes on a crime spree, but of course once those bandages are off there’s no trace of the criminal responsible for the dirty deeds!
The real question is, will John Q. Law (aided by Ryûko Mizuki; a stylish, highly androgynous nightclub performer played by Takiko Mizunoe with panache to spare) have the stones to put the kibosh on a threat that is damn near undetectable to the ol’ naked eye?!!
Written and directed by Nobuo Adachi, The Invisible Man Appears is an atmospheric take on H. G. Wells’ 1897 yarn The Invisible Man (not to mention the aforementioned 1933 feature directed by the legendary James Whale for Universal).
While definitely a bit of a slow burn, this fright flick is filled to bursting with moody lighting (and oh so many deep shadows), solid performances, and fantastic special effects courtesy of the grand-pappy of the entire tokusatsu genre; Eiji Tsuburaya (who would go on to create the effects for Godzilla, Ultraman and countless more)! There’s also doomed love triangle (involving Ryûko’s brother) element that provides plenty of melodrama… if that’s your beastly bag.
Honestly, that effects work is the main drawing card here cats n’ creeps, but Mizunoe’s character mentioned up yonder makes this flick extremely forward thinking, and produces a narrative that seems contemporary in ways a lot of these classic shockers just can’t muster.
Now in the classic Universal mold, you just can’t keep a good creep down and in 1957 the concept would be revisited with The Invisible Man vs. The Human Fly!
Hot time summer in the city, a fly sized man walkin’ on a tittie…
Yup, that’s right; during a heat wave, the city is plagued with a series of mysterious deaths who’s only connection is a strange buzzing sound heard at the scene of the crime. Imagine the shit-pants level of surprise when folks find out that a man, shrunken to the size of a fly, is buzzing around town causing mayhem six ways to Sunday!
That line above wasn’t just for a cheap laugh either as Yamada (Shizuo Chûjô), our diminutive antagonist (who quickly becomes addicted to the shrinking formula he’s spoon fed from it’s creator), has the hornies for curvy nightclub siren Mieko (Ikuko Môri), and sneaks around on her half naked body unbeknownst to her in one of the film’s creepier sequences.
What in the fuck does all of this have to do with the Invisible Man? Well Dr. Tsukioka (Ryûji Shinagawa) has invented a way to turn people invisible, so obviously what the city needs is a transparent hero to fight this inch-high menace. I don’t know, I think a flyswatter would be easier…
Minus the inclusion of a nightclub performer, The Invisible Man vs. The Human Fly has little to do with it’s predecessor beyond the invisibility plot device. Rather, director Mitsuo Murayama and screenwriter Hajime Takaiwa have delivered a fun, pulpy, stylish film that delivers on the sci-fi thrills in spades in a manner that would befit the first round of Marvel comics a few years later (hell, their own shrinking hero Ant-man would later have a low-level criminal take over the mantle years later).
Also I have to mention the excellent score courtesy of composer Tokujiro Okubo; a true wicked wonder with plenty of Theremin for that good ol’ spooky-phonic sound!
Along with the two flicks mentioned, the fine fiends at Arrow Video (along with MVD Entertainment) have included a few extras as well including: an overview of the “invisible man” sub-genre by author Kim Newman, a trailer for The Invisible Man Appears, and image galleries for both films.
A fascinating view of Universal style sci-fi and horror as seen through Japanese eyes, the two films in this collection are tons of pulpy, fright flick fun through and through!
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