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 again.
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.