Director: Pennington-Richards, Ralph Smart
Dark Sky Films/MPI

“H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man” (not to be confused with several later shows bearing the same title) was a series produced in England by Incorporated Television Company (ITC) which actually had a run in the U.S. on CBS. Lasting a total of two seasons, it had little to do with H.G. Wells’ novel or the 1930s Claude Rains film, but rather turned the title character into an upright action hero who used his subhuman affliction to help his fellow man. Dark Sky Films has released the first season of this golden boob tube era effort in a nice two-disc set, and here’s a brief rundown on it:

Dr. Peter Brady, a renowned scientist living in England, is working on an invisibility formula. During his experimentations, Brady himself becomes invisible, but doesn’t yet know how to bring himself back to his normal form. While trying to invent a cure, Brady becomes something of a celebrity, and rather than acting like a raving madman, carries out his daily routines (such as shaving and mowing the lawn) and makes himself useful to society, the police and the government. Being invisible has its advantages so Brady is often called when there's a crime at hand or a friend in need. Included in his rescue subjects are a seaman held prisoner on a Russian ship, a little girl whose stepdad plans on killing her crippled mother, an actress who is framed for accidental murder by a con artist, an old buddy sent to prison for a crime he didn't commit, a lady puppeteer who is tangled in a diamond robbery, and many others of the sort. Usually sporting bandages on his face along with black sunglasses when he wants to make himself present, Brady is a confirmed bachelor who lives with his loyal sister Diane (Lisa Daniely) and his freckle-faced niece Sally (Deborah Watling), both who often get tangled up in his exploits.

Each episode runs just under 30 minutes, tightly weaving together science fiction, action, espionage and light comedy. The stories are kind of reminiscent of “The Adventures of Superman” crossed with “The Avengers” if you will. With its archaic special effects, the series carries a nostalgic camp level with it, as various objects (electric shavers, sunglasses, pistols, and Brady’s trademark cigarettes) are suspended in air by easily visible wires. Some of the effects, such as the invisible one manning an automobile, will actually raise a “how did they do that?” factor, but the bulk of them are less than convincing. It’s also fun to see actors pretending to be punched or carried off, and since this is made in England, the thesps do quite an impressive job of it. The show’s built-in ambiguity doesn’t disclose who plays the invisible man in the credits, but we now know that physically he was played by Johnny Scripps for the most part, and voiced by Tim Turner, who gives the character a very hammy American-sounding persona.

The 13 episodes in this two-disc set are “Secret Experiment (Pilot),” “Crisis in the Desert,” “Behind the Mask,” “The Locked Room,” “Picnic With Death,” “Play to Kill,” “Shadow on the Screen,” “The Mink Coat,” “Blind Justice,” “Jailbreak,” “Bank Raid,” “Odds Against Death” and “Strange Partners.” The chapter menus are listed by the episode title and gives the exact date when each originally aired. The full screen black and white transfers on the episodes look very good, with occasional blemishes in the print source. The audio options include two English tracks (5.1. Dolby Digital and 2.0 mono) as well as Spanish and French language tracks. Dark Sky’s cover art sports a clever hologram design which makes the Invisible Man’s facial bandages disappear and reappear as you move it around.

For anyone who follows British fantasy films (especially ones producer by Hammer), the guest stars in the various episodes will be the real treat here. Among the various actors seen within the 13 episodes are Adrienne Corri, Dennis Price, Honor Blackman, Edward Judd, Michael Ripper, Hazel Court, Peter Sallis, Douglas Wilmer, Derek Godfrey, Desmond Llewelyn and others. You’ll have fun spotting them, especially with several in some very odd roles! (George R. Reis)