Invisible Agent

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(5/10) In a nutshell: The fourth of Universal’s invisible man films, made in 1942, has a Griffin descendant fight Nazis in Germany. The special effects are impressive, as is much of the cast, incliding Cedric Hardwicke and Peter Lorre. But the comedy is lame and the script by Curt Siodmak falls far from his best efforts. Still, it is fairly entertaining as bit of a jumbled spy thriller.

Invisible Agent. 1942, USA. Directed by Edwin L. Marin. Written by Curt Siodmak. Inspired by the novel The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells. Starring: Jon Hall, Ilona Massey, Cedric Hardwicke, Peter Lorre, J. Edgar Bromberg, Albert Bassermann. Produced by Frank Lloyd for Universal. IMDb score: 6.0

Maria Sorenson (Ilona Massey) and the invisible agent (Jon Hall), covered in cold cream.

Maria Sorenson (Ilona Massey) and the invisible agent (Jon Hall), covered in cold cream.

I almost feel like I’ve got to apologise for posting yet another bland five-star review. But that’s just the thing with a lot of the sci-fi in the late thirties and early forties. The momentum that drove especially the mad scientist subgenre in the first half of the thirties was gone, and many of the directors that created such visionary films had been replaced by studio hacks. But on the other hand: even when relegated to Povery Row studios and bigger studios’ B units, there was still a lot of talent surrounding the genre, who were often able to elevate the films above their slight budgets. Such was the case with Invisible Agent. Continue reading

Black Oxen

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(6/10) In a nutshell: This 1923 film about a woman who undergoes medical treatment to become thirty years younger is a steadily paced and calmly directed mystery drama as well as a poignant, but subtle, social commentary on the Roaring Twenties, sexual liberation and feminism. Not necessarily a favourite among sci-fi fans, but is worth checking out because of the presence of flapper legend Clara Bow.

Black Oxen. 1923, USA. Directed by Frank Lloyd. Written by Frank Lloyd and Mary O’Hara, based on Gertrude Atherton’s novel of the same name. Starring: Corinne Griffith, Conway Tearle, Clara Bow, Alan Hale. Produced by Frank Lloyd for AFIP. IMDb score: 6.4

Publicity for Black Oxen, a much talked about film in 1923.

Publicity for Black Oxen, a much talked about film in 1923.

More a melodrama than a sci-fi film, this 1923 entry into the film canon is nonetheless worthy of mention, since it is probably the first full length feature to describe rejuvenation by way of science. It is also a beautiful time capsule from the Roaring Twenties – not only a display window for the liberal, sexual and optimistic atmosphere, but also a critical look on it. This film is not entirely complete, one reel is missing, but I still feel confident enough to rate it. Continue reading