Rixflix A to Z: Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951)

Director: Charles Lamont
Universal, 1:22, b/w
Crew Notables: Bud Westmore (makeup)
Cast Notables: Abbott and Costello, Nancy Guild, Arthur Franz, Adele Jergens, Sheldon Leonard, William Frawley
TC4P Rating: 6/9

My disappointment in this film stems from one fact: that Vincent Price appears, or rather, that his voice appears, at the end of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. The voice is coolly menacing, as the Invisible Man surprises the pair by lighting up a smoke in the end of their boat, just as they believe they have escaped the clutches of Count Dracula and the Frankenstein Monster. "I was hoping to get in on the fun!" he proclaims, and then after some confusion by the pair, he introduces himself. The film ends, but so began my youthful hope that there was another film in the series where they continued the battle with such a foe, and with Mr. Price playing that very part. I swiftly found out in the library (no home computers in those days!) that there was a film where they indeed “meet the Invisible Man,” but it is a far cry from what I believed it would be at the end of their first monstrous meeting.

Not that this film is bad; it just isn't what I wanted when I first saw it. Subsequent viewings left me liking it more and more, and my initial upset over Arthur Franz not being Vincent Price went away (though I still wish that it had happened the way it did in my fantasy world). Franz' boxer Tommy is blamed for a murder, set up by some mobsters who run the fight game in town, and private dicks Bud and Lou set out to help Franz find the evidence to implicate the mobsters. Of course, Franz hiding out at the very laboratory where Dr. Griffin (Claude Rains in James Whale's original Invisible Man film in 1933) created his formula for invisibility all those years ago is both the most unlikely of story plotlines and coincidentally helpful to Bud and Lou's cause. Even if it drives them crazy trying to keep Tommy out of trouble once he is under the insanity-causing influence of the invisibility formula.

The best gags fall around, as do many people and props alike, everyone's efforts to deal with having an Invisible Man in their midst, and the boxing scenes where Tommy helps the inept pugilist Lou are wonderful. Likewise, a memorable bar scene which is capped with an ill-timed visit by William "Fred Mertz" Frawley. But, the problem with the invisibility scenes is that one has to realize that Tommy is buck-ass naked through all of them. You see, the clothes stay visible when the formula is injected, so the receiver then has to strip down to gain the benefit of being invisible. So, basically, you have Bud and Lou hanging out with an invisible guy with his dick flopping all about the place. (I almost said "joint".) You can innocently watch the film and never think about this (hell, I didn't for years), but I defy you to try and do it now that I have pointed it out to you. Who knows, it might even enhance your viewing...

It's just a good thing it's not one of Bud and Lou's wrestling flicks. That might make things a bit more awkward...

RTJ

[This review was edited and updated with new photos on 11/14/2016.]

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