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The Invisible Man

Review: The Invisible Man / Cert: 12 / Director: Various / Screenplay: Various / Starring: David McCallum, Melinda Fee, Craig Stevens, Jackie Cooper, Henry Darrow / Release Date: July 8th

Ah, 1970s American fantasy television. Simple, charming and naïve times. Story arcs and deep and meaningful character development were still decades away and the only real consideration for any larger-than-life adventure series was to set up its high concept in an extended-length pilot episode before sending its characters spinning off into a (hopefully long-running) series of near-identical adventure stories with little or nothing linking the episodes beyond the core cast, enabling the episodes to be shown in any random order, especially if the show survived long enough to move into syndication and thus earn its studio the really big bucks.

1975’s The Invisible Man is a prime example of this TV ethos – although the show was to run for just one twelve-episode season before NBC pulled the plug. Former Man from U.N.C.L.E. David McCallum (giving the show a gravitas the material often doesn’t require) plays Dr Daniel Westin, a scientist working for the Klae Corporation and researching molecular disintegration. Daniel inadvertently discovers the secret of invisibility but, when he learns that his boss Walter Carlson (Cooper) plans to exploit the discovery for military purposes, Daniel destroys his research and his equipment and goes on the run, having turned himself invisible and discovered that his condition appears to be permanent. He enlists a friend to craft an unbelievably lifelike face-mask to restore his ‘visibility’ and, when his bosses discover that the invisibility technique is irreversible, they lose interest in its potential military capabilities and re-employ Daniel to carry on his experiments, with the help of his boffin wife Kate (Fee), in exchange for his assistance as a sort of handy ‘invisible spy’.

The Invisible Man is bog standard 1970s American TV fare and its finest hour-and-a-bit is its darker, grittier pilot. The series, screening four months after its pilot in the US, was retooled and ‘softened’; Craig Stevens replaced Cooper as a more affable version of Daniel’s boss and there’s a more comedic, lighthearted tone to the series with Daniel not unduly bothered about curing his invisibility. It’s a breezy, enjoyable series, even if the plots are mundane espionage/kidnapping/murder fodder and the rudimentary invisibility effects, never better than in the pilot, get the job done and generally serve to make the audience believe a man is invisible.

But audiences just didn’t see anything in The Invisible Man and despite some success in the UK, it quickly vanished for good. NBC tried again the following year with the better remembered Gemini Man starring Ben Murphy which fared even worse, canned after just five of its eleven episodes had been broadcast in the US. An interesting, if unexceptional, curio, The Invisible Man is worth looking at [Here we go - Ed] even though you’ll be able to see right through its paper-thin storylines [Oh for God’s sake… - Ed].

Extras: Filmographies /Galleries

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