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Invisible Man Appears, The

Entry updated 1 August 2022. Tagged: Film.

Japanese film (1949). Original title Tōmei Ningen Arawaru. Daiei Film. Directed and written by Nobuo Adachi, based on a story by Akimitsu Takagi. Special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya. Cast includes Chizuru Kitagawa, Kanji Koshiba, Takiko Mizunoe, Daijirō Natsukawa, Shosaku Sugiyama and Ryūnosuke Tsukigata. 82 minutes, Black and white.

At the Nakazato Chemical Laboratory, Dr Kenzo Nakazato's (Tsukigata) two proteges both claim to be close to achieving Invisibility: Dr Kyosuke Segi (Natsukawa) says he is developing a paint so black that it will not reflect light; Dr Shunji Kurokawa (Koshiba) points out a shadow would still be cast, then explains his method will enable light to pass through objects – so they would not only be invisible but also, he adds, have no shadow! Both have proposed to Machiko (Kitagawa), Dr Nakazato's daughter, who cannot decide which to accept. Unknown to the young Scientists, Dr Nakazato has already developed a potion that renders the drinker invisible: however, there is no antidote and it has a side effect – the subject becomes increasingly violent. A businessman, Ichiro Kawabe (Sugiyama), offers to buy the formula, but is turned down.

Kawabe, who wants the invisibility formula, Machiko and a valuable diamond necklace known as the Amour Tears, now hatches a convoluted plan to get all three. This involves kidnapping Nakazato and stealing the formula: Kurokawa is persuaded to drink it, then told he will only get the (non-existent) antidote if he steals the Amour Tears. His attempts fail, but cause panic in the town. Coincidentally, the necklace ends up being looked after by his sister, Ryuko Mizuki (Mizunoe): one of Kawabe's henchmen tries to steal it, passing himself off as the invisible man by wearing bandages and gloves, but she tricks him into taking a cheap copy.

Matters come to a head at Kawabe's villa, where Nakazato is being held. A bandaged, gloved individual appears: mistaken for the aforementioned henchman by the guards, they are actually Ryuko in disguise – who tries to rescue Nakazato. Kurokawa now arrives, pursued by the police: the former kills Kuwabe, then is shot by the police; as he dies Kurokawa becomes visible.

Kawabe's plan would have been more impressive if not so reliant on idiot plotting. This is particularly so with Kurokawa's behaviour. His credulity when being persuaded to drink the formula is implausible; nor does he impress as a thief – instead of using his invisibility to steal the necklace he wears bandages and gloves, walks into the jewellers and rudely demands to see it: disrobing is used as a shock tactic, which certainly scares the manager, but does not get the necklace. The film's budget was clearly small, with the success of the special effects being mixed: they are sometimes effective, but at other times – usually where the actors have to interact with them – the overall effect can be poor.

As it is, the film is moderately good, with Ryuko being the best character: she is smart and – as an otokoyaku, an actress who plays men's roles in revues – able to pass herself off as the fake invisible man (the interesting Mizunoe was an otokoyaku herself). The influence of H G Wells's The Invisible Man (1897) seems to be indirect, via the film versions (see The Invisible Man). The film is bookended by the statement "There is no good or evil in science, but it can be used for good or evil purposes."

The Invisible Man Appears is probably the first Japanese science fiction film (see Tokusatsu). Two other Japanese "invisible man" films were made over the next decade: The Invisible Man vs. The Human Fly (1957) was also produced by Daiei Film, but was not a sequel. The other is The Invisible Avenger (1954; original title Tomei Ningen; vt The Invisible Man). The latter does not appear to have been released in the west; The Invisible Man Appears and The Invisible Man vs. The Human Fly had to wait until 2021, when they were released together on Blu-ray. [SP]


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