With the popularity of TV on DVD, not only are current hit shows and
old time favorites turning up, but some fairly obscure niche TV programs
are being released too. Dark Sky Films, a new DVD publisher who have
put out some very good discs so far (including Henry:
Portrait of a Serial Killer and Without
Warning) have released an obscure British TV show that's pretty interesting.
The Invisible Man was a half hour show that ran for two seasons
starting in 1958. Though the plots are a bit simplistic and there
are more elements of crime drama than science fiction, the show is entertaining
and worth watching.
Dr. Peter Brady is a scientist working in a government lab on problems
of light diffraction when he stumbles across a form of radiation that allows
him to make small animals invisible. While writing up the results
of his experiments a door to the radiation chamber accidently opens and
Dr. Brady is bathed in the mysterious rays, causing him to become invisible.
Now he works day and night to try to discover a way to turn himself visible
He doesn't get as much time to work on a solution as he'd like though.
Between government officials sending him on top secret assignments and
crooks trying to blackmail or trick him into doing nefarious deeds for
them, Peter Brady is a very busy man.
This episodic show really is more of a crime drama/spy show than a SF
adventure. In every episode someone wants to use Brady's invisibility
for their own ends. Peter has to parachute into a Middle Eastern
country to rescue a captured spy or is forced to kill a man in front of
witnesses so it looks like a heart attack. (He doesn't do the latter
of course.) Since each episode runs for only half an hour, there
isn't a lot of time for intricate plots or double crosses, and they play
out pretty much as you would expect them too. While the plots are fairly
standard fare for the time, the invisible man aspect does make them a little
more interesting than you average crime show.
When watching these shows all at once over a small span of time, it's
interesting to note how Dr. Brady's role as the invisible man changes over
the course of the show. In the first episode the government want
to keep him locked up as a state secret, something that he convinces them
not to do. They still don't want anyone to know about him though,
as it could "cause a panic." As the show goes on they forget about
this. In the final episode someone he's never met calls him "the
famous invisible man!' Apparently there was no panic.
One thing that does standout are the special effects. Though they
would be laughable today, they did a very good job for the time.
In addition to the standard invisibility effects, doors opening by them
selves and objects on strings floating across rooms, they threw in a few
new ideas. While working on his cure, Brady would wrap his face in
bandages and wear a hat. There are a couple of times when Peter takes
off his hat and allows someone to see that not only is the top of his head
invisible, but they can see the there is nothing inside the bandages.
A simple effect, but it works very well.
While this isn't the greatest show to have come out of Great Britain,
it has a certain charm and the stories are fun even if they are a tad predictable.
Be sure to keep an eye out for Patrick Troughton in the final episode in
this set. He would later go on to play in the BBC's most famous SF
show. He was the second incarnation of the Doctor in Doctor Who.
The thirteen episodes that make up the first season of The Invisible
Man are presented on a pair of DVDs that come in a single width keepcase.
This set comes with the original mono soundtrack, split into two channels,
a new 5.1 mix as well as mono French and Spanish tracks. I have to
admit that I like the two channel mono soundtrack a bit more than the 5.1
mix. The dialog is more crisp in the original. There is a bit
of hiss in the background but the level is low and it's not bothersome.
The 5.1 mix is just a bit more muddled than the mono track, and the major
difference is that the incidental music uses the full soundstage and is
much more forceful. The music is a bit too loud in some places, obscuring
the dialog, though this only happens rarely. Both audio tracks sound
very good for the age of this show though.
The full frame black and white picture has been restored and looks very
good. There is a good amount of detail and the lines are tight.
The one area that the image does fall down a bit is the contrast, it isn't
as great as it should be. Dark areas and night scenes are too dark,
and black areas come across as flat planes with no contours or details.
It's not a huge problem thankfully. The prints used are very good,
with very little in the way of damage. There are occasional spots,
but these are fairly rare. Overall a very nice looking set, especially
for a British show from the 50's.
There are no extras.
This show was fun, but I was hoping for a bit more SF. Instead
it plays out like a spy show, which isn't bad at all. The plots are
fairly straight forward and there really aren't any surprises in store,
but the show has a certain amount of charm that makes it fun to watch.
The audio and video quality is very good for a show of this age, especially
one that doesn't have a large following. This set is recommended,
and here's hoping that Dark Sky puts out the second season soon.