The Invisible Man, 1975
Starring David McCallum, Melinda O. Fee and Craig Stevens
The weekly adventures of Dr. Daniel Westin, an invisible scientist working as an agent for a private thinktank.
Since H.G Well’s tale of a scientist who manages to find a way to turn himself invisible was written in 1897, there have been many incarnations of The Invisible Man. Most famously of course was Claude Rain’s sublime performance in the 1933 Universal Monster classic and more (semi) recently, the character saw a redux in Paul Verhoven’s mostly average Hollow Man (and it’s naff sequel starring Christian Slater). However there is one version of this character that often gets overlooked – the 1975 TV series starring David McCallum, now available on DVD.
However the closest TV show to compare it to would actually be the Bill Bixby The Incredible Hulk series. And while this pre-dates it by 2 years, there are a lot of similarities to be made in terms of set-up, chatacter and series progression. Through a breakthrough in science, our hero Daniel Westin has become The Invisible Man and is now used as an agent to investigate crimes using his skills – not unlike Bruce Banner solving the problems he had to on a weekly basis by turning into The Hulk. In theory this could make The Invisible Man pretty repetitive, but it manages to hold its own with each episode bringing its own flavour.
One of the key things to getting an Invisible Man right is the character’s voice. The reason why Claude Rains is remembered so well for the role is because of his distinct tone that resonated through the effects. Whether it was his cackling laugh, shouting at Kemp for not doing what he asks or singing ‘here we go gathering nuts in May’, his voice made the character. While McCallum is a good actor and is very good in this role, he doesn’t quite have the voice to really pull off an Invisible Man. For the complete forgetfulness of Hollow Man, Kevin Bacon at least made you remember his performance.
He is however the best thing about the show. His supporting cast do fine, but McCallum carries the weight of the show squarely on his shoulders and he never struggles. Which is helped, ironically, by the fact he’s on screen for 80% of each episode.
The Invisible Man is often portrayed by a certain look – the bandages wrapped around the face with sunglasses. In this series however, they use the all too convenient ‘face mould’ that is so lifelike, that you wouldn’t know that a person is wearing a mask. Quite simply put – McCallum is often on screen without a mask on, but they all pretend like he’s wearing one. While clearly necessary for a lot of the plots used, it does come off as a bit lazy and you could be forgiven for forgetting exactly what his gift is.
But of course, once he takes off the “mask” we’re treated to some really decent practical effects to ‘show off’ the invisibility. While not exactly ground-breaking (they’re no better than the 1933 movie), they are well executed and hold up extremely well. It says a lot when a lot of them time they look better than 2000’s Hollow Man. It also leads to all of the show’s best moments.
This DVD collection of The Invisible Man could be quite welcoming to potential new fans. The opening pilot eases you in with a mini-movie that sets up the basic plot and there is rarely a boring episode among the series. Fans of the show will of course lap up this collection, while those who might have distant fond memories of it might enjoy this trip down memory lane. McCallum may not be up there with the The Invisible Man greats, but this show is definitely worth checking out.