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Invisible Ray, The

Entry updated 4 December 2023. Tagged: Film.

Film (1936). Universal Pictures. Directed by Lambert Hillyer. Written by John Colton from an original story by Howard Higgins, and Donald Hodge. Cast includes Frances Drake, Boris Karloff (credited as "Karloff"), Frank Lawton and Bela Lugosi. 80 minutes. Black and white.

The brilliant Dr Janos Rukh (Karloff) has invented a Time Viewer telescope which can literally record events which occurred thousands of years ago; with this instrument, a large meteor is observed impacting in Africa. Putting together a team of Scientists including Dr Ronald Clark (Lawton), Rukh departs for Africa and soon discovers the meteorite's resting place. He descends into the excavated crater, but is exposed to powerful radiation (see Rays) from the Element "Radium X" in the meteorite, which renders his touch instantly deadly and makes him glow at night. Dr Benet (Lugosi) develops an antidote for him, and returns to Europe with a portion of the meteorite, with which he develops several medical cures. Lawton and Janos's wife Diane Rukh (Drake) are in love, however, and this only serves to worsen the insanity which the radiation is gradually causing in Dr Rukh. He follows the pair to Paris where he fakes his own death and then begins killing off the members of the expedition, saving Clark, and his wife for last. In the end he is unable to kill his wife, and burns up from the increasing effects of the radiation after his final bottle of the antidote is broken, leaping out of a window in flames.

This film is one of Universal's rare ventures into more straightforward sf in this period, and features effects which are reasonably good for the mid-1930s. It also offers Lugosi one of his very few non-villainous roles. Some of the footage was re-used in The Phantom Creeps (1939), in which Lugosi reverts to being a Villain. [GSt/DRL]


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