Sci-Fi television doesn’t come more 1970s than in The Invisible Man, released this week for the first time on DVD.
At its heart is actor David McCallum, following on from roles in television series like The Man From U.N.C.L.E and Colditz. McCallum signed on to star in this US imagining of the HG Wells novel which see’s him play Daniel Weston, a scientist who through molecular disintegration discovers how to makes himself invisible. With the threat of misuse heavy in the air, Weston destroys his equipment rendering him permanently invisible (one might say a plan not entirely well thought through in the long-term…). Whilst he seeks to work out how to reverse his condition with the help of his wife Kate ( Melinda Fee), he is assigned the code name Klae Resource by his work and sent on secret missions…
And these secret missions are terrific. There’s corruption in a small town that needs to be stopped, scientists defecting to Soviet countries that need to come home, kidnap victims that need to be freed, fake mediums that need to be uncovered, even crime at the Klae Corporation trying to steal Weston’s research! Nothing is too heavy in the show, but the investigations are enjoyable in a kitsch 70s way and make for easy watching on a welcome level.
If the lighthearted tone of the missions don’t make you giggle, the special effects most certainly will. The pilot see’s Weston have a visit from a skilled plastic surgeon who, through his creation called ‘Dermaplex’, makes a set of masks and gloves so Weston can appear in public (and so David McCallum can appear on-screen, obviously…)! For 1975, the green screen technology used is quite impressive, even if its surroundings make it look a little dated now. The only real noticeable complaint are how bad McCallum’s masks look, almost 99p-Shop-Halloween-mask bad. Still, given the decade, they’re forgivable.
One of the things that does make it enjoyable to watch is the chemistry between the leads McCallum and Fee. His relationship with Fee is as believable as it could be if your husband was invisible and your entire marriage and work was based around the research into this. Both are very comical together, with some funny scenes (puppeteering unconscious bad guys) and one liners that come quite naturally (‘I’ve never spent the night with an invisible man’, ‘Don’t worry, it’s exactly like if the lights were off’). Both carry off each episode between them, overshadowing a lot of the supporting cast and special guests in lesser roles, really emphasizing that the show is about them. Had the show had another series or two, I can imagine the dynamic between the two would have developed rather well.
That said, the show, which launched with a feature-length pilot and followed on with twelve shorter episodes, only lasted one series. Sadly it was cancelled before the underlying plot of Weston solving his invisibility could be resolved. It might not be the best television series in the world, but the impression one gets is that had it continued at the pace it went, this part of the story may have been quite interesting to watch conclude.
It’s not the most thrilling watch but that doesn’t mean that The Invisible Man isn’t worth watching. One of those older shows that feels more at home on a Saturday afternoon, it does follow a formula that makes it feel very similar, very quickly (the Weston’s get given a case, they investigate it, they close the case). That said McCallum and Fee are great opposite each other and a bit of 70’s nostalgia is always a little fun.