Now That’s What I Call Quite Good: Abbott And Costello Meet The Invisible Man

abbott costello meet invisible manTechnically this 1951 film was the last in the series that began with James Whale’s 1933 adaptation of The Invisible Man, as early on there’s a reference to the serum being created by John Griffin, who was “gunned down like a mad dog”, along with a framed photograph of Claude Rains. It’s a high note to end the series on as well, it doesn’t reach the heights of the first film, or The Invisible Woman, but it takes the third slot very easily.

It has got a stronger plot than a good few of the “Abbott and Costello Meet…” a well known monster or figure, some of those movies while a fair amount of fun are all but a series of sketches bunged together and while Bud and Lou are good value for the majority of their career, their films are definitely more entertaining when they have a strong plot to string the daftness to.

At the beginning we’re introduced to our invisible man, boxer Tommy Nelson (Arthur Franz), who has been accused of the murder of his manager and is heading straight to the electric chair, but thanks to his girlfriend’s Uncle who has inherited Griffin’s serum he’s able to turn invisible. Then while dressed in the bandages and sunglasses every invisible type acquires, he hires newly graduated private eyes Lou Francis (Costello) and Bud Alexander (Abbott ) to prove it was a dodgy gangster who was behind the killing.

This makes decent use of its concept and there’s lots of fun invisible silliness, the best being a very long boxing match where Lou has to pretend he’s fighting when it’s really the good old invisible bloke, it goes on for a long while but surprisingly doesn’t get old. Also quite the lark is a drinking session where the invisible man overdoes it and then some, while throughout Costello is involved in a selection of scenes which allows him to show off his talent for physical comedy and clever wordplay.

As per usual with Abbott and Costello films poor old Bud gets to play the straight man and here isn’t responsible for many of the laughs, but he’s a decent straight guy even if I’m not quite as enamoured with him as Groucho Marx was, who famously claimed he was the greatest he’d ever seen. It’s not an issue thankfully and this is a very amiable film, the effects are impressive for the time, the script is filled with strong gags, some very funny running ones at that, and it ends on a great note too.

★★★1/2

Alex Finch.
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